Seatle council recently repealed law to wear bicycle helmets. This was not done because of safety, or that helmets did not increase rider safety. It was done because the policing of those laws caused more harm to marginalised communities.
Black and indigenous poeple were four times more likely to be ticketed by police for riding without a helmet. These interactions are not safe, and serve to increase fear and distrust. They are also a very clear manifestation of racism. In a time of increasing concern over climata change, we do not need to discourage bicycle riding. We also do not need to further increase the rift between people of color and the police force that is supposed to serve all people equally.
That government bodies are motivated to repeal laws that are meant to make everyone safer is a severe indictment of the police. We should all be asking why it is that the police cannot do their jobs fairly and even handledly. Why they cannot keep all people safe, regardless of the color of their skin. This is not the first law under which people of color have been unfairly targeted. There are many, but this perhaps is the first that will have such obvious potential for harm for everyone. We have open bottle laws, which have been used to harrass people of color “liming” outside their homes as well as the homeless. There are of course the marijuana laws which were entirely motivated by racism. These laws however, did not have much impact on white people, in part because they weren’t white cultural habits. Even when white people began to participate in these habits, arrest rates were far lower for them. Even so, once enough white people used marijuana, the movement began to end prohibition.
Do we always have to wait until we are impacted before we act? Is there no compassion, no empathy for our fellow man? Our police forces are broken. The way we do policing is deeply flawed, and we are not holding them accountable to the communities they serve. Unhoused people and people suffering mental breakdowns are being shot by police as they seek help or shelter. Meanwhile, half or more of city budgets are going towards increasingly militarised police forces that view the populations they serve with contempt. This is unsustainable and should be morally repugnant.
Do not believe that you will be exempt from police violence. An attitude of contempt for citizenry will creep into their interactions with everyone. Eventually they will turn on the rest of the population they are supposed to serve, and perhaps only then we will try to reel them in.