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An Evanston alderman Wednesday night asked the city’s legal department to draft an ordinance that would repeal the city’s rule requiring lights on bikes at night.

Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, said he believes police are using the bike light rule as an inappropriate pretext for stopping late-night riders who they suspect may have committed some other, more serious crime.

The issue arose from a complaint filed against two officers by a man who was stopped about 1:15 a.m. on May 19 after the officers saw him riding on Elmwood Avenue near Dempster Street without a light.

Officers said the man, who smelled of alcohol, became verbally abusive and combative after they stopped him, leading them to handcuff him while they wrote a citation for the ordinance violation.

One of the officers said he was aware that burglars sometimes use bikes without lights at night to be more elusive.

After initially filing the complaint with police, the cyclist didn’t pursue the issue and, after reviewing the officer’s statements, the department ruled the complaint unfounded. (The full text of the Office of Professional Standards review of the complaint starts on page 9 of the Human Services Committee meeting packet.)

Miller said that while Evanston police issued well over 100 citations last year for riding a bike on a business district sidewalk, it hardly ever cites someone for riding without a light at night. And he suggested that disparity provides evidence that when the light rule is enforced it’s done in a discriminatory way.

Increasing enforcement of the sidewalk rule has been a demand of some other members of the City Council, notably Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and the council last year considered, but ultimately tabled, a plan to raise fines for that offense after launching an educational campaign about the rule along with a focused ticket-writing effort.

Other aldermen on the committee seemed nonplussed by Miller’s proposal.

“Isn’t that a bit extreme?” said Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward.

Delores Holmes.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said that after reviewing the police report, she believed the officers had acted appropriately.

And Fiske said, “The last thing you’d want is to hit somebody on a bike,” adding that enforcing the bike light rule should be a priority.

It appeared from the discussion that Miller’s proposal is unlikely to win approval. But even if it did, it’s still a violation of state law, 625 ILCS 5/11-1507, to ride a bike at night without a light.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

10 Comments

  1. Bike lights are important to safety
    While I agree it is appropriate for city council to address issues of enforcement that is unfairly discriminatory, repealing safety ordinances is probably not the best remedy.

    Bike lights make a big difference. I am concerned that Ald. Miller is not considering cycling safety. A vivid example why safety should matter is shown in the report below. See the second video on the page starting 25 seconds in. Last month a man was riding a bike at night with no lights on a sidewalk. When he got to an intersection he moved into the road and was hit head-on by a van. The van driver looks to be at fault, but I think the cyclist contributed to the incident by not being as visible as he should have been with a light, and not riding on the road the whole time.

    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2016/08/18/man-killed-in-hit-and-run-chicago-police-hunting-for-driver/

    If this can happen in Chicago, it can happen in Evanston. If it did happen in Evanston, would Al. Miller regret advocating for repealing the bike light ordinance?

  2. This Democrat apparently doesn’t understand or respect the law

    Brian MIller, a former Evanston Democrat party president, is reacting to only ONE complaint and wants to eliminate a city and state law based on that complaint. Doesn't Miller understand that state law TRUMPS city law?

    Miller is a Northwestern Law School graduate and chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Democrat Larry Suffredin.  You'd think he'd understand that.

    Are folks in the 9th Ward happy with their city representative? Well, he wasn't voted into office – he was appointed by Mayor Tisdahl.

    One party rule in Evanston, Chicago and Cook County continues.

  3. It’s Miller time…

    Good job Alderman Miller. Please continue to focus on the unpolular but necessary job of righting social and criminal wrongs that plague our city and drive down our quality of life. No need to focus on the rise of gang activity and shots fired incidents in the near and far west side.

  4. What is he thinking?

    Somebody needs to be voted out of office come election season. Apparently Alderman Miller cares more about social justice than basic safety. It would be a different situation if there were multiple incidents, but ONE ultimately unfounded complaint does not give cause to eliminate a law that keeps people from getting injured or killed. Serioulsy, what is this guy thinking?

    1. Bike light issue
      Mr. Miller demonstrates poor judgment and must not have any experience driving, biking, or raising children in Evanston. The streets are dark at night despite the lovely talmadge lights. Cyclists are notorious for riding dangerously and with great zeal – often at their and drivers' peril. Giving even more leeway to riders who are in violation of basic safety precautions by riding bikes without lights is a dangerous and thoughtless suggestion. I don't care how many people are stopped for this violation. Cyclists who flaunt that rule are jeopardizing the safety and well being of themselves, other cyclists, drivers as well as pedestrians. Mr. Miller is off base and needs his own safety town training before he makes decisions that impact the rest of us. 

  5. Wow. Just wow

    Ready, fire, aim!  

    Sorry for the gun analogy but it fits here. Spoken like a true Evanston alderman. One person complains about a legitimate police stop (then doesn't pursue any further claim). No facts even offered that stops are conducted in a discriminatory manner.

    No problem for anyone but Mr. Wilson jumps to the ready. With no application of facts or common sense (like knowing that there is a state law), he is ready to endanger many more people by allowing bikes to zip around on our talmadge-lit (read: dark) streets at night and hope that cars see them. 

    Law school graduate?  Maybe he did not pay attention to any of the public policy discussions that go on there.

    Here is a short course. Government is supposed to identify, scope and competently address safety issues. Pretty much job #1 for just about any government entity.  And definitely, just like physicians are supposed to do, do no harm

    Murders on the street near our high school. Shootings, especially near schools and parks. Attacks in parks, most notably just last week a mother pushing a child in a stroller at dusk. And shots fired in many parts of town. Any ideas, Mr. Miller?  Hello??? Or do you even know what is happening in this town?

    We need responsible, thoughtful leadership.  I hope that Mr. Miller demonstrates some soon. 

    1. I don’t favor Miller’s

      I don't favor Miller's proposal, but the comments are ridiculously over the top, like this one:

      >he is ready to endanger many more people by allowing bikes to zip around on our talmadge-lit (read: dark) streets at night and hope that cars see them.

      One of the major take-aways of the argument is that this law isn't enforced anyway.  So changing it wouldn't allow any new behavior that isn't already condoned by police who basically think it's a law not worth enforcing.

      1. Many bicyclists use lights because it is the law

        Not many tickets written?  That is because many bicyclists use lights at night.

        The few who don't use lights at night should be ticketed. It is dangerous to ride a bike at night (especially in our dimly-lit city streets) without a light.

  6. Brian Miller for Mayor?
    Rumor has it that Brian Miller is considering running for Mayor of Evanston.
    Is he qualified? Is he ready?
    His performance on City Council since his appointment would suggest he’s got a lot to learn.

    TP

    1. Trading Favors

      If Brian Miller is considering running for mayor he could not be any worse than our current mayor who's talent appears to be photo-opts. The only thing that I see Miller has not learned is the Council's frequent practice of quid pro quo ( vote for my special cause, I'll vote for yours; vote for my buddy's city free loan, I'll vote for yours). I may not agree with everything Brian Miller does or his politics but I see him as honest and not as a person that has not yet learned the politics of trading votes. I hope he never learns this and continues voting what he thinks is good for all the people of Evanston.

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