Slow your roll

Proposed ordinance to ban “ghostriding” bicycles is an unnecessary law.

There’s no doubt that bike theft is rampant in Chico, and it’s getting worse. We’ve heard as much from bike shop employees, police and cycling advocates, and Police Chief Mike O’Brien’s report to the Chico City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 3, backs up that perception: Between Jan. 1 and June 1 this year, 168 bikes were reported stolen, compared with 149 during the same period last year.

Police want to handle the matter themselves, O’Brien said, discouraging the vigilantism exercised by some in the biking community who are understandably fed up. And in an effort to give police more tools, Councilman Randall Stone has proposed a city ordinance banning “ghostriding”—riding a bike while pushing another—and disassembling bikes in public. “A ghostriding ordinance would allow us to stop people and check ownership,” Stone recently told the CN&R.

But wait a second, here. Ghostriding a bike, though not illegal, is certainly suspicious, and we imagine that police officers who witness it stop and question the rider. In fact, O’Brien said just that—ghostriding gives officers reasonable suspicion to investigate a possible crime. If that was banned under a city ordinance, officers would instead have probable cause, meaning they could arrest or cite people simply for the act of ghostriding.

The council kicked the matter to the Internal Affairs Committee, and it’s unclear when the ordinance will come back. When it does, we urge the council take a hard look. Cops who see ghostriding in progress already have the power to investigate further. That’s why this has the makings of an unnecessary law.