The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday, June 21, that prohibits people from assembling or disassembling bicycles on public right-of-ways such as sidewalks – targeting street businesses that critics say have let illegal bicycle “chop shops” proliferate.
The measure introduced by Councilman Joe Buscaino did not get unanimous approval on first reading, but in the second vote was approved 9-3, with councilmembers Mike Bonin, Nithya Raman, and Marqueece Harris-Dawson opposed.
Overriding criticism from bicycling advocates, the vote was a measure of how the powerful Los Angeles city councilmembers are reacting to public concern over sidewalk encampments – a key topic in elections in early June. The ordinance is aimed at locations where people allegedly disassemble stolen bikes and sell the parts.
In early February, the motion to draft the ordinance was introduced by Buscaino and passed the City Council 10-4, with city council members Bonin, Harris-Dawson, Raman and Curren Price opposed. Harris-Dawson said at the time that such a law could have gotten him arrested as a child.
Buscaino, a former LAPD sergeant, said the ordinance gives the Los Angeles Police Department a necessary tool to reduce bicycle thefts. He said his district, which includes San Pedro, “has seen a proliferation of bicycle chop shops.”
Under the new ordinance, a chop shop is defined as: – three or more bicycles; – a bicycle frame with the gear cables or brake cables cut; – two or more bicycles with missing parts; – five or more bicycle parts.
Critics and bicycling enthusiasts gathered outside City Hall today to oppose approval of the new ordinance.
Bike collector and bicycling enthusiast Eddie Ibarra of Chatsworth helped his brother start a bike chapter at their local car club, and he’s concerned about the restriction on having five or more bicycle parts in a public area.
“Some people have more than one bike,” he said. “I like collecting them, fixing them, modifying them.”
Ibarra questions how often the bikes people see getting fixed in public areas such as sidewalks were stolen. More bikes are probably getting abandoned on public streets an alley, where they are “rotting away,” he claimed.
When he sees a tossed-aside bike, he says, he wants to restore them to their old glory – or at least to working condition.
“They’re throwing them away, they’re throwing them away,” he said. “Why not fix them?” He said. ” Refurbish them? ”
Musician Rahn Phillips said that about two years ago a friend was showing off his bicycle and Phillips started learning to fix them. He says it gave him “the same level of peace as when I was playing my guitar.”
Phillips said he wished city leaders would spend less time pointing to problems, and more time finding solutions. Like Ibarra, Phillips believes bike theft won’t be solved by the ordinance. “Just because there are a lot of stolen bikes, doesn’t mean all of them are stolen,” he said.
“Bicycles have become a subculture in itself, with being unhoused,” according to Kevin Hill, who lives in Canoga Park and is known in the community for building custom bikes.
“These laws taint that,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s wrong. The way they come at us is abrasive, it’s plain wrong, it’s vindictive, it’s spiteful. ”
The new ordinance also drew concern from ACLU staff attorney Kath Rogers, who submitted a public comment Tuesday, stating that the law “raises serious legal concerns” that could target bike riders of color and those in lower-income areas.
Rogers also said the law would harm unhoused Angelenos who “rely on biking as a primary mode of transportation around the city,” adding, “This law will give police yet another tool to target vulnerable community members.”
She called the ordinance broadly worded, stating that it “bans otherwise innocent activities unrelated to bike theft.”
“Any ambiguities in the law will be left to the judgment of officers on the beat – which will no doubt result in biased and arbitrary enforcement,” she said.
Buscaino stood by his ordinance, saying today that it would prevent bicycle chop shops in which people disassemble stolen bikes and sell the parts on sidewalks.
The city’s vast neighborhood council system also reflected the split feelings about the new ordinance.
The motion was opposed by neighborhood councils in Los Feliz, Atwater Village, North Westwood and Palms. But it was supported by neighborhood councils in Northwest San Pedro, Sunland-Tujunga and South Robertson.