Why Do We Need Laws To Prevent Parking in Bike Lanes?

bike laneSeriously, why?

Today’s Star-Tribune features an article about current legislative activity at the state Capitol oriented to banning parking in bicycle lanes. Really?

Why is this even an issue? It’s already legal to park there? Why?

Is it legal to park in traffic lanes? No.
Is it legal to park blocking alleyways? Don’t think it is, but I could be wrong.
Is it legal to park completely randomly? Of course it’s not.

Now, sure. In some of Minneapolis’ creatively designed bike lanes for which the bike lane is along the curb, and the parking is near the traffic through lane, if you are driving a giant SUV in hopes of finding a dirt road and mountain in downtown Minneapolis, you may be wider than the parking lane. A delivery truck may also be wider than the lane. But there are generally parking zones for deliveries.

Legislator comments are hilarious:

Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, said the parking ban would interfere with delivery drivers.

“I’m not sure this body wants to stand in front of somebody’s hot pizza,” he told the Senate.

Really? First, most deliverators I see are not driving giant vehicles that use a ton of gas. The economics of that are prohibitive. Second, someone delivering a pizza should be in and gone within mere minutes, or the pie gets cold. Heck, where I work in Minneapolis, our pizza is delivered by bicycle when we order, unless we order mass quantities that challenge the delivery riders’ balance.

“I bet most people in the state don’t even realize what a bike lane is,” said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, during a recent legislative session. He called a proposal to ban motor vehicle parking in bike lanes “ridiculous” and “a way to collect fines.”

Don't read the comments. Ever.

Don’t read the comments. Ever.

Well, gosh. We believe drivers can’t figure these things out, but we’re licensing them to drive vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds? What a grand idea! And insofar as fines go… so? It’s a nice form of local government funds collection that isn’t property tax or LGA. Embrace that. It’s like a user feee, for goodness sakes! Maybe this is simply a reflection of the Senator’s constituency in Eden Prairie?

Needless to say, the user comments on the Strib story… well, needless to say. Don’t read them. It seems that many users of that site believe that since “bicyclists don’t stop at stop signs!” this means that everyone should park in the bike lanes. The logic is difficult to grasp.

This legislation seems so common sense it is amazing that this is apparently a hole in legal code. Parking is not allowed in traffic lanes, right? A bike lane is a traffic lane. How hard is that?

Really, really hard, apparently.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

7 thoughts on “Why Do We Need Laws To Prevent Parking in Bike Lanes?

  1. minneapolisite

    I get your point, but I see SUVs and pickups exceeding the boundaries for normal-sized parking lanes and hanging well into the bike lanes way more than I do streets without them. The problem is really over-sized vehicles parking in lanes which simply don’t accommodate their width. If they have to ban something it should be a ban on vehicles more than “X” inches wide in such lanes and specifically state the offenders that can’t park there: SUVs/hummers, pickups, etc.

    On the 1st Ave separated bike lanes every now and then some cars are even parked in the bike lanes themselves even where the plastic barriers are. So, the driver had to carefully maneuver through those into (and then out of) the bike lane and on top of that there are signs which clearly illustrate where the bike lane is and not to park in it. A couple of motorists came back to find a big ole loogie on the driver side window.

    As for cyclists not stopping at stop signs, well, motorists don’t either. Especially when they’re riding bikes. Talk about selective memory. Oh well, what kind of thinking can one expect from a bunch of below-average Joes?

  2. Julie Kosbab

    Note: Thinking a little further, I can come up with streets where there is precedent for parking in traffic lanes. As you take University out of Minneapolis towards the north, there are many blocks that are NO PARKING during rush hours to create 4 traffic lanes, but outside of rush, parking is allowed in the curb lane.

    So maybe it’s not utterly ridiculous in some scenarios. Maybe.

    1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      BUT! How would drivers know to obey such a disparity? How can drivers possibly be expected to know when it’s legal to park in a bike lane and when it’s not, as our esteemed representatives state? If people can read signs that don’t allow for left turns during rush hours, no turn on red at select intersections, and parking signs dictating times of day it’s ok, then they should certainly be trusted to figure out that bike lanes aren’t for parking. End of story. If they can’t, take away their privilege to drive a motor vehicle.

  3. TOM

    I remember seeing a car block the single travel lane on a street off the Arch de Triomphe in mid-afternoon Paris. Driver just got out took off to do his business(delivery). The two lanes for parking were full. The ‘Meter Maids’ just walked by and did nothing. Their job was to ticket only cars at the curb. The driver knew it. No police would catch him since he was protected from behind by the tail-back. The driver knew this too. He came back, left and there was no road rage.
    The point is: you have to know the law, the practices and the local protocols before you can enact intelligently.
    I do believe any attempt to ban parking in a bike lane might require a assessment of the competing needs of parking for motor vehicles, of all types, and passing bikes. This should have been anticipated when planning the bike lane. Perhaps it wasn’t.

  4. James Kennedy, Transport Providence

    Do Minneapolis and St. Paul have the ability to just put plastic bollards in to stop parking? Perhaps a better target for a campaign is the local government, since its constituency is more supportive of biking, rather than the state government.

    There was a great article about Seattle residents putting in the flexible plastic reflectors themselves, which was technically illegal, but apparently cost them very little, took very little time, and got the attention of the city government.

  5. Cathy Burgess

    It is very much important to have laws preventing parking in bike lanes. Giving respect to areas or parking lanes for bikes just means everyone is paying respect to cyclists as well. With proper parking, everything would be in great order and in place. Thus, promoting parking and traffic safety. Thanks!

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