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Housing and Homelessness

LA City Council Officially Bans Sidewalk Bike Repairs 

A man and a woman ride bicycles past tents and tarps of a homeless encampment
People ride bicycles past tents and tarps of a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River bicycle path near Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, January 25, 2018.
(ROBYN BECK
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles City Council has officially banned sidewalk bike repairs and bike sales.

The proposed ordinance — which was given final approval on Tuesday — would bar the assembly, disassembly, sale and distribution of bicycles and bike parts on public property.

Theo Henderson of Street Watch L.A., which held a bike repair clinic outside City Hall to protest the ban on Tuesday, says the ordinance criminalizes unhoused people who often use bikes to get around, or repair them to make a living.

"Let's say, for example, if someone, a NIMBY (not in my backyard), or a cop sees you fixing or putting air in a tire, that you are creating a chop shop," Henderson said. "It's very open-ended and it's very heavy handed and it's most certainly directed at unhoused people that are creating an economy."

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Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who introduced the motion, says the measure will crack down on "bicycle chop shops" where stolen bikes and parts are sold.

The ordinance was modeled after a similar Long Beach ordinance that criminalized bike chop shops in public areas.

"Operating a for-profit enterprise on public streets intended for transportation and access is not an unavoidable consequence of being homeless," Buscaino said. "Every other business in the city is subjected to numerous restrictions and regulations that business owners must comply with, and this ordinance is no different."

But Councilmember Nithya Raman says other measures could curb bike thefts.

"Metro stations should have good places where you can lock up your bike and feel safe about it," Raman said. "You can provide additional and better storage opportunities that will allow you to keep your bike in pristine condition, and we can do that across the entire city in a thoughtful way. That would be a good investment in addressing bike theft."

Back in February, Raman acknowledged that bike theft is a problem in L.A., but the ordinance was not the way to stop it.

"This ordinance the way it's envisioned could also capture innocent conduct," she said. "The ordinance in Long Beach makes it illegal to assemble or disassemble two or more bicycles on the sidewalk that could be missing parts."

She added the only way to prove the bike is yours is by producing a video or photo evidence, a bill of sale, a serial number or bike registration.

"How many people actually have those things? How many of us have those things? For our bikes on hand all the time? I certainly don't," she said.

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