The Bike Lane Is Not Your Parking Spot

07/03/2012 02:02 pm ET | Updated Sep 02, 2012
  • Renee Patten Active transportation advocate & Chicago bicyclist

As someone who has owned a car in the city, deals with angry clients when deliveries are late, but also rides everywhere -- I have some thoughts on personal cars, delivery vehicles and taxis in the bike lane.

Regardless of the type of vehicle, parking or driving in a bike lane is breaking the law.
Drivers: don't do it.
Cyclists: document offenses & share.

'Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited'

The driver of a vehicle shall not drive, unless entering or exiting a legal parking space, or stand, or park the vehicle upon any on street path or lane designated by official signs or markings for the use of bicycles, or otherwise drive or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such path or lane. The driver of a vehicle shall not stand or park the vehicle upon any lane designated by pavement markings for the shared use of motor vehicles and bicycles, or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such lane. In addition to the fine provided in Section 9-4-025 of this Code, any vehicle parked in violation of this section shall be subject to an immediate tow and removal to a city vehicle pound or authorized garage.

For reference, the Chicago Department of Transporation (CDOT) annotates all bike laws here.

While I understand why drivers would park in bike lanes on Clark, Lincoln, Wells, Illinois, Lake, Canal, Randolph, Milwaukee, Halsted, Orleans, Southport, or Dearborn (all documented offenses) the law-breakers on Kinzie, Elson, and other clearly protected, marked and separated lanes baffles me.

Except for the offenses by taxi drivers -- that is not a shocker at all.

Chicago governmental departments and organizations have put considerable effort and money into creating safer streets for all users. For the first time in recent history, Chicago cyclists have space that is dedicated directly for us and a pathway to increasing safety with legally marked space -- please respect this and work with us to make the road better for all.

In case any drivers need a reminder, you do not own the road you just own a car.

Several Chicago cyclists have taken up the issue of cars parked in the bike lane. A Tumblr user started, which is open to submissions. There is also with more pictures of bike lane violations.

I have been contributing to the Tumblr, taking pictures from the front of the illegally parked drivers -- that way they see me taking it. I'm hoping it makes them think.

Grid Chicago has several posts and taken action advocating against cars in the bike lane. They have received responses from USPS, Alder-people, and CDOT -- none from CPD (Chicago Police Department) or the Mayor's office. Their opening paragraph from one post on the topic:

Take it back. The bike lane that is. Take it back from those who park in it, put their valet signs in it, park valet cars in it, pickup and drop off passengers in it, or generally illegally block the bike lane, forcing cyclists to merge into faster moving traffic to avoid it.

The USPS Chicago district told Grid that they "will provide "Safety/Service" talks with our employees to bring awareness to the matter."

An overview of what is in CDOT's Gabe Klein said responding to Grid:
- The Department of Revenue issues tickets to motorists parked in the bike lanes. Between 2008 and 2011 3,968 tickets were issues for these infractions. This will continue.
- Police officers in 6 districts went through Share the Road training in 2011 & there are plans to expand to all districts in 2012.
- "All registered taxi drivers... are trained about sharing the road using CDOT curriculum in conjunction with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection."

In a 2011 study (PDF) in the journal Transport Policy, researchers confirm a seemingly obvious connection -- that a major determinate of increasing cycling rates is more bike paths and lanes. The research shows, as previous studies have also confirmed, infrastructure and policy encouraging bikes into dedicated riding space via on-street and off-street lanes have more significant impacts to differences in ridership compared to the number of hot or cold days, public transportation, or rain; all of which showed no significance.

With just 11 miles of Emanuel's promise of 100 miles of protected or buffered lanes, Chicagoans are going to have to get used to sharing the road, respecting the city's laws, and not using the bike lane as their drinking, smoking, sitting, driving or parking space.