I have battled this question for years ever since I bought a Vespa, and it’s still not clear to me if I’m allowed to park on the sidewalk where bicycles are designated to park, or not. I see bike messengers on scooters park there, so depending on the circumstances, I’ll also park there if it’s for a short period of time.
Yesterday, I went to pick up a salad wrap and drove up onto the sidewalk and stopped at the bike station and saw a LAPD cop getting out of car that was parked in front of the bike station. I thought OK, now I’m going to get an answer to this question that has been haunting me for years every time I go to park my bike. I stepped off, removed my helmet, and glanced over to him thinking maybe I’ll get a ticket or a warning to something if it’s illegal to park on the sidewalk? He turned to me and said, “Hello.” At which I replied, “Hey officer!” and I walked to the store to pick up my wrap.
I guess I got my answer, but the first thing that crossed my mind as I walked away is that I am wearing a Calvin Klein dress, pearls, I have bright red hair (with current roots) and am white. I wondered if that made a difference in his greeting of me. It struck me that somehow my relationship with the police has been shifted after all that has gone down the past month. I’ve never been pulled over on my Vespa, but when I used to drive a car and was stopped I would immediately freak out, start sweating, shut down, feel anxious, assume I’m in “trouble” which are a lot of feelings white people are not supposed to experience, or maybe they just don’t talk about it. I could have done absolutely nothing wrong, and get pulled over and will assume I’m going straight to jail. I think when I got into trouble as a kid, and I would be reprimanded by an authoritative figure I would be hyper sensitive, and so there’s some kind of PTSD that occurs when I am met with some form of authority as an adult, and turn into that scared child all over again.
But back to the bike parking situation. Things are different now. I still get anxious when I see a cop, but I couldn’t help feel a shift in my response to him saying, “hi” like oh Jesus thank God I’m okay to park here, but would he have the same response if I wasn’t white? That’s a loaded question, without a simple answer, but I can acknowledge a change in my response to the police which can be loaded and confusing.
When I was waiting for the guys to make my salad wrap I told them about the exchange with the police, and asked them if people could park there and they said they weren’t sure. Then they managed to share with me that the cops come in for lunch and some of them don’t wear masks – despite the signs that requires all customers to wear a mask, somehow it doesn’t apply to everyone.
Huh, so I can legally park on the street cause it’s a scooter, or does race play a role in that exchange with the cop? You don’t have to wear a mask cause you are the police, so you are exempt?
Times are shifting, and it can be confusing on multiple levels. I prefer not to come up with definitive answers at this juncture in my life cause I’m sure tomorrow, next week, next month, things will continue to extemporaneously evolve. I’m just going to do my best to be a law abiding citizen that can freely park on the sidewalk for any period of time and not get a ticket, and continue to wear a mask responsibly when I pick up my salad wrap.