A World Class Bike City Should Probably Enforce Laws Against Parking In Bike Lanes

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?

Photo by Jeremy Hop

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.

Photo by Paul Nelson

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!

Jeremy Hop

About Jeremy Hop

Jeremy is multi modal commuter, map geek and an urban development nerd in Northeast Minneapolis. A single father, he enjoys spending time enjoying "here", "there" and "getting there" with his two daughters, 5 and 11.

12 thoughts on “A World Class Bike City Should Probably Enforce Laws Against Parking In Bike Lanes

  1. Boris

    Automated CCTV-analytics-based enforcement should be pretty straightforward to setup and quickly pay for itself. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to follow up on how to make it happen.

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    There’s a place on Minnehaha where the “no parking” sign is just barely far enough from a driveway curb cut that you can park a car between them. Problem is that if you do, at least the front wheel and, depending on the size of that car and how well you park, probably the back wheel as well, will be in the bike lane. Last summer, someone was pretty much always parked there.

    I reported it to 311 many times, often getting “parked in front of the no parking sign” or otherwise taking no action. People would reopen the case and note that it’s illegal to park in the bike lane. Nothing. I wrote to the relevant city council member, but got no response. Then one day parking enforcement wrote a ticket. Now no one parks there (the car that used to is usually now parked in the driveway).

    Like, just a wee, tiny bit of enforcement could go a long way.

    1. Justin D

      Whenever I complain about enforcement for this or any number of other car-related violations, I usually get a response to the effect of “Well it’s hard to enforce” and sometimes it seems to imply that it’s basically impossible. But nail a handful of people for this and word will get around that you’ll get a ticket or tow.

  3. Serafina ScheelSerafina Scheel

    For months parking enforcement refused to ticket parking in the bike lanes near the disastrous Prime Place apartments, saying that even though the bike lanes were clearly marked, there wasn’t any no parking signage.

  4. Presley Martin

    Maybe we should try guerilla parking tickets. Maybe a little guilt and shame will change behavior.

  5. james q

    The last time I complained to the cops about people parked in the bike lane, it was the cops who were parked in the bike lane. I made the unfortunate mistake of riding up on the sidewalk to go back and talk to them and they gave me a ticket for riding my bike on the sidewalk. The next time I talked to the police about bicycling it was about a rogue bus driver; I got detained.

    A passer-by yelled an appropriate slur at the cop after checking if I was ok – “the most dangerous gang in Minneapolis.” Once the cop realized I was a lawyer he scooted me on my way and promised to deal with the bus driver. He never did.

    Look alive out there people, you are the only one looking out for you.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      I don’t think the police do parking enforcement (there’s Parking Enforcement for that). They definitely do a lot of parking violations, which Parking Enforcement will tell you aren’t violations because cops get to do that.

  6. Rosa

    Car drivers using them for passing lanes can be really dangerous, too. There has to be a balance between wide enough to be safe if the lines are respected, and so wide drivers think it’s totally just another driving lane.

    Last week, headed north on 26th Ave in Seward, I stopped my car to let a cyclist on the Greenway cross, and the driver behind me didn’t even slow down – just swerved right into the bike lane to go around my car, nearly creaming the cyclist I’d stopped for. Similar things happen often if I stop for pedestrians, too. Sometimes the only thing that stops it is a parked car in the way.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Passing on the right, especially in the bike lane, is an extremely deadline thing that pretty much everyone casually does. We need bump outs everywhere, physical barriers for the bike lanes and some actual traffic enforcement.

      1. Dave Carlson

        …as long as the bump-outs do not infringe on the bike lane forcing bicyclists to briefly merge into the traffic lane.

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