Minneapolis has at times (in 2010 according to Bicycling Magazine, and in 2015 according to Copenhagenize Design Co.’s worldwide index) held the title of the number one bicycling city in the United States.
As a commuter cyclist, I often wonder what the number two city must feel like regarding facilities and enforcement.
More often than not, my commute involves dodging cars parked in the bike lane.
Drivers routinely treat our bike lanes as their personal storage and loading zones. This selfish use of the bike lane puts cyclists in real danger. Not only do we have to attempt to get back into the general purpose lane, we are forced to weave. Drivers feel more comfortable when cyclists are riding in a predictable manner. But when a cyclist has to weave back and forth into mixed traffic, we are endangering ourselves as well as appearing to be reckless road users.
Taxi cabs lining Blaisdell Avenue are a routine sight, the same as cars loading groceries on Central Avenue. Regular cyclists see this behavior everyday and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of enforcement of the laws designed to prevent this behavior. Without the threat of corrective enforcement, why would drivers fear using the bike lane for their own personal use?
When a cyclist does “take a lane”, drivers will often get angry and further endanger us by driving too close or passing inside of the three feet buffer as the law provides. Why do we install bike lanes if car drivers simply own every inch of pavement due to lax enforcement?
Winter presents an entirely new challenge. Shorter daylight during commuter hours makes riding more dangerous. Motorists are often distracted and don’t see or expect cyclists, due to the assumption that winter put all of us on buses. Not all of us retreat onto the transit system during winter. Another issue is our bike lanes are slowly eroded due to the encroaching snow taking over the parking lane. Instead of parking vehicles on side streets, drivers instead opt to take over the bike lane, assuming their parking is a right and the bike lane a suggestion. Enforcement is absolutely zero. I’ve yet to see a vehicle tagged for parking over into the bike lane.
When the city opened the 26th / 28th Street protected bike lanes, there was a public outcry over the loss of parking and a segment where a lane was removed. It took weeks for people to adjust to no parking on the bike lane side of the streets. Even after the few weeks of adjustment and orange flags being displayed on the “No Parking” signs, folks continued to park in the bike lane. The lanes were finally properly enforced after many in the cycling community called in the illegal parking. Traffic on the pair of streets has returned to normal, and the promised congestion never materialized.
We as a city should prioritize our bike infrastructure with actual enforcement. If we did as much “doing” as we do “talking” about our infrastructure, our city would be a safer place for everyone!