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Housing and Homelessness

LA City Council To Vote On Banning Bike Sales Or Repairs On Public Property

Bicycle parts are scattered around a homeless encampment that's surrounded by silver trees
Bicycles are scattered around a homeless encampment in a public park in Van Nuys in 2019
(ROBYN BECK
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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L.A. City Council members will vote Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the assembly, disassembly, sale, distribution, or storage of bicycles and bicycle parts on public property.

The ordinance says the reasons are, in part, because bicycle theft is a “pervasive and continuing problem” across the city, and the existence of bike “chop shops” on public property, where people dismantle stolen bikes, sell the parts or reassemble them.

Those exempt from the proposed ordinance would only be people who have a valid permit or business license, or people in possession of a single bike being repaired with the express purpose of allowing them to ride it again.

Councilmember Nithya Raman plans to vote against the ordinance. She said in a phone interview that bicycle theft and blocking the right of way is already illegal in the city, and wants to focus on solutions that would benefit Angelenos and make the best use of limited resources.

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“This ordinance does not feel like the most effective way of addressing a really serious problem which is bike theft,” Raman said.

There were 2,124 incidents of bike theft in the city of Los Angeles in 2021, according to an analysis of crime data by Crosstown LA. That represented an increase of 6% from the year before, but the figure is 12% below the level in 2019. Raman said she’s doubtful the data collected is robust and would be interested to see if the ordinance curbed bike thefts in the long run.

“I think there are real potential investments that we could make like bike storage lockers and infrastructure on city streets to make it easier for people to store their bikes,” Raman said.

“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.”

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The ordinance is supported by the South Robertson Neighborhood Council, Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council, and the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council.

The Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, however, is worried the ordinance would increase harassment of the unhoused, as well as Black and Latino cyclists.

It submitted a community impact statement in April saying they oppose the ordinance, in part, because the language in the draft of the ordinance is too broad.

“This ordinance criminalizes mundane behavior such as bicycle repair that is performed in lower-income neighborhoods without a license or permit, which are expensive to obtain,” the statement reads.

“In combination with the vague language in the ordinance, simply possessing bicycle parts on a sidewalk would be criminalized…The City of Los Angeles should be aware that black and brown cyclists already experience unnecessary police stops at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. This ordinance does nothing to improve the well-being of Angelenos during a time when studies continue to show that increasing criminalization of activities does not reduce crime.”

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Matthew Luna, who's unhoused, told LAist, "I can’t see the ban helping with putting a stop to stolen bikes being sold. I can see how it would be an attack on the unhoused, considering some rebuild bikes from scraps and make some pocket change from that."

He sees it as another way to push unhoused people from the city. "I think it’s less about criminalization and more another way to take an inch, forcing a mile to push the unhoused out of the city. What’s next? Ban recycling?"

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Ethan Ward for a time lived in his car while attending community college. That experience informs his reporting on one of the most pressing issues in Southern California.