LOS ANGELES – Dozens of people gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest an ordinance prohibiting people from assembling or disassembling bicycles in the public right-of-way that took effect Monday.
The ordinance was approved by the city council in June. Councilman Joe Buscaino, who proposed the ordinance, previously said it would reduce the number of bicycle thefts in Los Angeles and prevent “bicycle chop shops,” in which people disassemble stolen bikes and sell the parts on sidewalks.
Eli Akira Kaufman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, told City News Service that the ordinance is unproductive, does not address the root problems of bicycle theft and targets vulnerable groups like the unhoused and people of color.
“For a lot of people who are down on their luck or — for whatever reason — find themselves underhoused, a bicycle becomes a key lifeline to getting around and navigating the region,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman agreed that bicycle thefts are a problem in Los Angeles, but said “there are so many other ideas that haven’t been explored before this draconian ordinance gets laid down.”
Those ideas include building better bicycle infrastructure such as bike racks and lockers and educating bicyclists on how to properly lock and park their bikes.
The mutual aid event outside City Hall on Monday included several groups who offered free bike repairs, distributed supplies and organized a solidarity bike ride.
Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez, who unseated Gil Cedillo in the June primary, said in a statement that the city should be providing funds to such events.
“It’s disappointing that the council continues to rely on failed responses to the crises of people experiencing homelessness,” Hernandez said. “Because giving more money to carceral and police responses does nothing to address the crises they claim to be addressing.”
The ordinance is modeled after one already in effect in Long Beach to prohibit the assembly, disassembly, sale, offer of sale, distribution of bicycles and bicycle parts on public property or within the public right-of- way. Under the 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; or
— five or more bicycle parts.
Buscaino said his district, which borders Long Beach, “has seen a proliferation of bicycle chop shops.”
Lidia Catalan, who works as a street vendor in South Central, said in a speech in front of City Hall that many of her peers make a living through selling bicycle parts.
“This unjust law, which is ultimately discriminatory, will affect the majority of my colleagues, even though they have permits to sell,” Catalan said in Spanish, through a translator. “I am here to call on our councilmembers to find ways of controlling the theft of bicycles without affecting street vendors.”