(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Westside Current on February 8 and was published in partnership with the Westside Current.)
The Los Angeles City Council voted on February 8 to instruct the City Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance that would prohibit people from assembling or disassembling their bicycles in the public right-of- way.
The motion, introduced by Councilman Joe Buscaino, passed 10-4, with council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Nithya Raman, Curren Price and Mike Bonin opposed. Harris-Dawson said the potential law could have gotten him arrested as a child.
The motion calls on the city attorney to prepare an ordinance similar to 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.
Buscaino said it would prevent “bicycle chop shops,” in which people allegedly disassemble stolen bikes and sell the parts on sidewalks.
Harris-Dawson said before Tuesday’s vote that if this ordinance existed when he was growing up in Los Angeles, he “would have been arrested four, or five, or eight” times.
“Growing up in this city I never had a new bicycle. Never. It was always a hand-me-down bicycle, so I never had a receipt,” he said.
“I don’t remember how many times my bicycle broke, and I had to fix it, or me and my brother had to fix our bikes, or me and a friend on my block had to fix our bikes,” he added. “This wide swath that says anybody fixing a bike on a street that can’t prove it’s theirs, somehow, is moved into the category of a criminal.”
Raman noted that the actions being alleged as justification for the ordinance — including bicycle theft and blocking the sidewalk — are already illegal.
Buscaino, however, said the ordinance would give the Los Angeles Police Department a “necessary tool” to reduce the number of bicycle thefts in Los Angeles. His motion called for the city’s ordinance draft to be modeled after a similar ordinance in Long Beach, which he said describes a “chop shop” as:
- three or more bicycles;
- a bicycle frame with the gear cables or brake cables cut;
- two or more bicycles with missing parts
- five or more bicycle parts.
Buscaino said his district, which borders Long Beach, “has seen a proliferation of bicycle chop shops.”
Councilman Paul Koretz spoke before the vote in support of the motion, alleging “there’s a lot of criminal activity in some homeless encampments,” including bicycle theft operations.