Bicycle stops made by Los Angeles County sheriffs rarely make headlines.
They happen thousands of times a year, mostly out of the public eye. Few of them have resulted in bloodshed, but nonetheless, their sacrifices are significant. Riders and cyclist advocates say the practice undermines people’s trust in law enforcement and does little for public safety.
Here are some cyclists’ stories of being stopped:
Eric Huerta is a frequent cyclist in East Los Angeles.
He said that the deputies once mistook him for someone they were chasing – “some Hispanic riding a bicycle” – and with naked weapons demanded that he get off the bike and put his hands up.
“If I fit, even to some extent, into the description of who they are looking for at the time, that’s an automatic reason to stop me,” Huerta said.
On other occasions, he said, they accidentally drove up to him or other riders he knew and asked questions from their patrol car to find out where the riders were going or if they were connected to the gang.
“All suspects until proven otherwise,” Huerta said. “They’ve always had this kind of relationship with the community.”
Huerta serves on the board of People for Mobility Justice, a nonprofit that promotes transportation and teaches bicycle safety classes, including how to interact with police during a stop.
“The more information people have at their disposal, the better informed and prepared they will be when faced with such situations,” Huerta said.
Tony Pry, 56, has been stopped twice over the years because MPs thought he looked like whoever they were looking for.
“They stopped me saying that someone had robbed a house and raped a girl,” Pree, Black, said one afternoon in the Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles as he was driving home with a sandwich on the subway. “I was fine when they tested me back then because I knew, you know, I want you to find who this person is. He’s pretty sure it’s not me, so I didn’t have much of a problem with that. ”
A.J. Stiff worked as a delivery man for Uber Eats and usually pedals around West Hollywood, a predominantly white city.
Stiff said he was stopped this year during a late night delivery near Santa Monica Boulevard. He was warned for not turning on the lights on his bike.
He said that the deputies found it suspicious why he was driving so late, and asked where he was going. They checked his driver’s license and ran his name through a computer system to check for unpaid arrest warrants.
“Everyone here thinks that if you ride a bike, you are homeless,” Stiff said. “So they talked to me like I was homeless.”
Stiff, who is Black, felt that his skin color was a factor in the MPs’ decision to stop him.
“For starters, there aren’t that many blacks here. And I skated late, ”he said. “I don’t feel like they are targeting me, but I feel like if they see me, they will pull me out.”