The last “No Cruising Zone” sign came down in San Jose, California last month, to the applause of the lowriding community who can now freely enjoy their passion on public roads.
Cruising was deemed illegal in 1986, due to its association with gang members. However, the cruising ban that arguably did little to hurt the popularity of lowriders is now lifted in California. This move answered calls for equality as many argue it was wrongfully targeting Latinos.
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Lowriders are heavily modified classic cars featuring hydraulic suspension systems that allow them to bounce, lower, or lift each wheel individually under the driver’s command. Such vehicles often get fancy exterior shades and other visual modifications including smaller-diameter wheels. This car culture started back in the ’40s by Mexican-Americans and got popularized in the ’60s and the ’70s.
The purpose of lowriding is to cruise as slowly as possible, exhibiting customized vehicles. Thus, any association with street racers or gang members is now irrelevant, since lowriders are just people who love customizing, driving, and showcasing their cars, with some describing it as an art form.
Speaking to ABC 7 News, San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez said: “I never knew a time when cruising wasn’t illegal because I was 4 years old when it became illegal. So, for me, this has been something that I didn’t even see possible initially, coming into office,” adding that people will “be able to experience low riding and the culture in a much more positive way than I did.”
Historian John Ulloa from the San Francisco State University explained to PBS News: “Lowriding has been a target of police suspicion since the beginning of lowriding”. Ulloa admits that some lowriders have “passed gang affiliation”, but for the most part they “are hardworking people”.
Lowrider Robert Gutierrez said: “Now that hopefully everybody’s on the same page and they know we’re just out there having fun with our family and friends, and we are obeying the law, what is wrong with it?”