Information on the Chicago Law

Here is some more information on Chicago's law. It comes from Jack Blackfeltin Chicago via Joel Metz in San Francisco (digest 2.2) "Chicagopolice crackdown on messengers"

"that 4 years back, a law went on the books (with the encouragementof the owner of Arrow Messenger) requiring messengers to wear safetyvests or brightly colored company shirts, 2 inch tall ID numbers on theirbags, and helmets. Up until this past fall, these laws went widelyunenforced, until Phyllis Applebaum, the owner of Arrow, felt the ordinanceshe helped write wasn’t being enforced enough . Combined with her weeklyattendance to council meetings (+ Chicago-style politics ie CASH) and anew, over-zealous bicycle cop squad trying to prove the need for theirexistance, the clampdown began. The result? For the couriers, a up to 3hour stay in detention, and for their packages, a stay in city custodyfor up to 3 days or more. What this translates to is an encouragement bythe city for clients to switch to Arrow, which makes compliance with thelaw mandatory, from smaller, more lenient companies. 'After all, Arrowmessengers won’t go to jail and have their packages confiscated'".

I have looked into Chicago's Messenger Ordinanceand what I have found is , it is actually the messenger companies whoare licensed not the messengers themselves. I don't understand wherethe police feel that this ordinance gives them the right to jail messengers.The only requirement that is the reponsibility of the messengers is towear the vest and helmet and carry an identification card under subsections4-168-070 and 4-168-080 (b). The penalty for violating these sections,under section 4-168-120 is "a fine of not less than $25.00 and notmore than $500.00 for each such violation."

So the police are jailing messengers for three hours for something thatmay result in a $25 fine? The only mention of jail refers to the messengercompany and only upon two or more convictions within 12 months.

According to the city itself "the vest number is not a licencefor the courier. If the courier is stopped without numbers on his/her vest,the courier company is responsible and will be in jeopardy of loosing theirlicense."

"Only couriers working in the business district and the near northside are required to wear helmets. They are only required to wear thesehelmets during work hours also. Other cyclists do not have a law requiringthem to wear a helmet."

This ordinance is dangerously close to violating a person's civil andconstitutional rights. It would appear to me that not only do police haveto prove the offender is a courier but that he/she is working at that moment.Perhaps this is why they jail them. They are using the ordinance to harass.The scary thing is they could do it to anyone on a bike. They couldsay they found it necessary detain someone (who is obviously not workingas a courier) in order to check them out. And once you leave the professionyou could be jailed anytime you are on a bike downtown because you arenow "marked". The police could use your former state of employmentas grounds for the detainment.

According to the city itself there has been a recent crackdown on messengerswith "strong enforcement of regulations this Spring (1997), with 100'sof tickets issued to bike couriers. The tickets were about 90% in violationwith the ordinance. The other 10% were traffic violations."

Chicago is "hoping to produce a training video for couriers inthe next year or two" but this is dependant on grant funding. Perhapsthe money would be better spent on a training video for the police.

Chicago is not unique. Each and every time I have looked at a city wholicenses messengers in some way, the licensing leads to specific harassmentof couriers. Police focus more on enforcing the license laws than the trafficlaws. The general public doesn't seem to care because they mistakenly feelthat messengers need to be brought in line and if civil or constitutionalrights are violated - "hey so what?" But what happens when itis not just the minorities like messengers who are discriminated against?What about similar laws for other professions or other activities? Whatlaws like this do is allow police to harass and imprison. If it keeps upanyone could be picked up and jailed at any time at the whim ofone single police officer, while he/she "checks you out."

Click here for Chicago's Messenger Ordinance.

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