Earlier in the week VELO Bloomfield went to Urban Cyclery to celebrate the opening of a positive thing going on the Essex community of East Orange. Urban Cyclery is owned by Osceola Hansen a East Orange native and just an all around great guy, because not only does he have a shop he supports Black and Latinx teenagers (the demographic that there are few programs for) in the bicycle rides that the teenagers put on called Ride-Outs.
While cycling has gotten more popular, so has racism. The rules for Black and Latinx young people having fun seems to differ greatly in comparison to everyone else.
On Saturday, January 27 a bicycle ride in East Orange that was organized for the local kids. This event was advertised via social media, Urban Cyclery, and VELO Bloomfield. Someone else decided to invite themselves, the East Orange Police Department spent the morning shadowing, stalking, and harassing the kids for being kids.
Kids on bikes from East Orange, Long Branch, and Newark were harassed just for being on bicycles.
“Cops say that we have to follow the same rules as motorcycles and if they don’t take your bike or they’ll walk you out of town,” said a young cyclist from Long Branch.
The police presence was intimidating. This event was a group of kids on their bikes with their grandmothers, parents, and little sisters. I’m confused as to why the police came down on this ride like it was an Apocalyptic Outlaw Motorcycle Gang that was pillaging the local countryside.
“Seems like bike lanes and cycling are just for rich people,” said another young person from Long Branch.
A woman there with her granddaughter said the Elmwood Park in East Orange, does not allow bikes.
Meanwhile the cops on the scene said the kids should not be riding on the sidewalk, but then began ticketing kids for riding in the street (while popping wheelies). So effectively, there was nowhere for them to bike.
“The boys take great pride in their bikes. They maintain them, keep them clean, and have a lot of bike knowledge,” said a woman at the ride.
One boy overheard and agreed. I took a pic with him and his bike labelled “Proud of his bike.” He was from the neighborhood East Orange.
A man who said he had been biking all morning in other towns, in town likes West Orange, towns that are whiter, kids were popping were given applause. He also said they had bike trails.
“The police at the [ride] were ridiculous. People always want to talk about community policing and this isn’t community policing. Kicking kids off the sidewalk, writing them tickets, arresting the kid for ‘talking back’ or ‘not listening.’ If they really wanted to do community policing, they should offer to escort the group on the ride. Create an area for kids to ride bikes. East Orange PD gives away bikes every year, but then gives the kids no place to ride,” said Mike.
Eventually the ride happened and people had fun, but a kid should be able to ride their bicycle without risk of arrest and harassment by the police in their own neighborhood.
By Halashon Sianipar
edited by Lark Lo
halashon rides a bike regularly as transportation. interested in collective power, self expression, self determination. mc, organizer, mathematician living in newark.