Dealing With Double Parking in the Bike Lane

Background Reading

Summary

So as usual the conversation of misappropriation of the bike lane by double-parked vehicles has re-surfaced. The contention is:

Reply by Steven Vance on Monday
You can direct them to the city’s own website, which states:
Motorists parking in bike lanes endanger bicyclists by forcing them to merge unexpectedly with faster moving motor vehicle traffic.

The key phrases here are ‘forcing them to merge unexpectedly‘ and ‘endanger bicyclists‘. The first idea has some merit. But I would consider it inexact to describe an already parked motorist as provided an unexpected experience. This might accurately apply to taxicabs that dart into the bike lane to unload passengers, but does not seem logical when describing your average beer truck unload PBRs. That behemoth can be seen a block away, so not it is not in my mind unexpected.

But the real problem with description is the part about ‘endangering bicyclists‘. Let’s for a moment assume that we are not talking about taxi cabs but rather the beer truck that can be seen a block away. Does having to move between him and faster moving traffic to the left constitute endangerment? I would have to say ‘no‘. Why?

Consider The Suggested Strategy for Dealing with ‘Intended Lane Obstruction’ In San Francisco

SF Bicycle Coalition Right Turn Diagram

SF Bicycle Coalition Right Turn Diagram

Despite the inaccurate statements by some of Chicago’s lawyers bike lanes are not sacrosanct. It is never the case that a vehicle other than a bicycle is always there illegally. If this were the case then no vehicle in a parking spot adjacent to a bike lane (especially a buffered bike lane) could ever parallel park. Consider also the fact that no motorist could ever depart their parked cars on the driver’s side by stepping into the bike lane if their presence there was always illegal. So in point of fact we always share these lanes at best.

Taxi cabs should in fact be taught to have their passengers debark from the passenger’s side of the vehicle and this only when the cab is up against the curb. This would certainly prevent cab-related ‘Door Zone‘ collisions. But take the case of the recent strategy posited by the San Francisco Bike Coalition in an effort to thwart ‘Right Hook Collisions‘.

Note that the driver is to move up against the curb (effectively blocking the bike lane and of course the cyclist) in order to keep the cyclist from attempting to ride parallel to the turning vehicle. The cyclist is instructed to ‘pass on the left as driver merges into the bike lane‘.

Now presumably there could be some discussion about what this all means, but a video clip will help clear up the confusion:

Every Lane Is A Bike Lane © Wheel and Sprocket

Every Lane Is A Bike Lane
© Wheel and Sprocket

It all sounds a bit confusing when considered alongside the usual misinformation coming out of the ‘braintrust‘ of StreetsBlog journalists who simply hate anything other than protected bike lanes. But in reality PBLs are only one tool in the arsenal of the cyclist. We own all the lanes. We should never allow ourselves to develop a ghetto-like mentality with respect to these PBLs. In fact we should expect that at each and every intersection should their be a motorist making a right-hand turn to have to pass them on the left.

Sure that is going to seem frightening at first but eventually we will adapt. While many journalists are well-meaning in their insistence upon the presence PBLs, they are by no means a reason to assume that you will never have to be ‘out in traffic‘.

Being ‘Out In Traffic’ Can Save Lives

If anything we should have a new motto that says ‘being out in traffic‘ can save lives. We need to understand that most of our bike lane designs (especially ones which use ‘sharrows‘ snugged up against parked vehicles) are dangerous. In fact a StreetsBlog journalist wrote as much here:

My first inclination is to distrust the vaunted safety of on-street bicycle design. Much of what gets implementation is put into place by folks who do not even ride bicycles and furthermore is never vetted by their having to ride to work on their designs. Would you trust a meal prepared by a chef who had never bothered to taste his seasoning levels or the degree of ‘doneness’of his meat products? I would not.

So I would propose that you try out for yourself various bike lane implementations. For myself the buffered bike lane is the winner. I get to ride somewhere away from the usually trashy and uncleared curbs where debris and water and glass and ice collect year round. And because the buffered lanes are wider I can safely steer clear of opening doors from parallel-parked vehicles while still being able to change lanes to move left should a turn in that direction be required.

Your mileage may vary. But I do not see any single lane design as being a ‘perfect‘ and clearly ‘superior‘ specimen. They all have their weaknesses and strengths.