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Photo by Seth Anderson.

This is an embarrassment. This protected bike lane was developed to provide people bicycling to and from downtown a safe passage, in which no vehicle should ever enter. The physical separation is apparently of no concern to postal workers, who don’t believe that the public will mind them putting cyclists in danger by forcing them to unnecessarily merge in and out of moving vehicular traffic.

Grid Chicago readers have observed postal vans on more than one occasion.

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Grid Chicago will mail this open letter to the Postmaster General and others on Wednesday, July 20.

United States Postal Service
Office of the Postmaster General
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260

Office of the District Manager
433 W Harison Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Dear Postmasters General Patrick R. Donahoe and Gloria Tyson,

Some of your employees park their mail delivery vans in bike lanes in Chicago (see enclosed photographs). It is illegal to park, idle, or drive a vehicle in bike lanes in the City of Chicago; see Municipal Code 9-40-060.

When people park motor vehicles in park bike lanes, they endanger bicyclists by forcing them to merge unexpectedly with faster moving motor vehicle traffic.

Please instruct your employees to park their vehicles legally and to stop parking, idling, or driving in bike lanes, and let us know when and how you did so.

Sincerely,

Grid Chicago writers John Greenfield and Steven Vance

CC

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein
Chicago Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy
Chicago Ward 42 Alderman Brendan Reilly

Updated July 18, 2011, to revise letter text, and add new letter recipients, and to reflect the fact that letter will be mailed later in the week (to account for revisions). 

Postal Service responds

The Chicago District Postal Operations manager, D.N., responded August 5, 2011, saying that the USPS does not “condone illegal activity by our employees, nor endangering the citizens of Chicago. We will provide ‘Safety/Service/ talks to our employees to bring awareness to this matter.”

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  • John Wirtz

    Thank you. Postal workers seem to think they can park anywhere with full immunity (which may be true). It would be nice if they would think about the safety of the public.

  • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

    Yeah, it’s an interesting issue. People often have reasons to double park, and when conventional bike lanes are striped it becomes more obvious they’re doing something illegal. At least in that case it’s pretty easy for cyclists to detour around the vehicle parked in the bike lane.

    With protected lanes, driving and parking in the lane become completely obnoxious, and probably more dangerous because cars in the travel lane may be less likely to notice a cyclists emerging from the line off bollards.

  • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

    Yeah, it’s an interesting issue. People often have reasons to double park, and when conventional bike lanes are striped it becomes more obvious they’re doing something illegal. At least in that case it’s pretty easy for cyclists to detour around the vehicle parked in the bike lane.

    With protected lanes, driving and parking in the lane become completely obnoxious, and probably more dangerous because cars in the travel lane may be less likely to notice a cyclists emerging from the line off bollards.

  • http://peoplingplaces.wordpress.com/ Lynn Stevens

    Postal employees also park so to block the sidewalk at the Logan Square/Clemente post office.

    Also note regular bike lane parking by rental car agency, old school food truck and day care parents on Kedzie.

  • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

    Interesting! Any ideas of what can be done to keep all of thes groups from parking in the protected bike lane?

  • EK

    I like the idea that was mentioned in one of the photo’s comments of giving these cars free bumper stickers. May be inconvenient to remove them, but would definitely be more convenient than a ticket, tow, or injury lawsuit.

    I don’t like the idea of preventing all vehiclar traffic from entering the lanes, because in life threatening emergency situations, I believe an ambulance should be able to use the lane.

    The most frustrating thing about this situation is that there is available parking in most of these photos.

  • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

    Sure, it goes without saying that normal road rules don’t apply to emergency vehicles. If an EMT drives over the bollards to save a life I won’t be too upset.

  • Sean Piper

    Man this makes my blood boil.

  • Aaron Brown

    I hope you cc’d Gabe Klein, CDOT, and the CPD in this letter. Best to get this in front of them as well.

  • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

    And, course, Active Trans should be in the Loop if they’re not already.

  • Jordan Pierson

    Here is a pretty funny video that NYC biker put together after getting a ticket for biking outside of the bike lanes due to a similar problem in New York. The very end is the best part.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

  • http://twitter.com/shua123 Josh

    Have you tried talking to the Post Office in charge of that area?

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      No, I haven’t.
      I don’t know which post office has this route.

  • HF

    “merge in and out of moving vehicular traffic”.
    That’s funny, traffic hasn’t “moved” on Kinzie since they put in that bike lane, it’s gridlock central.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I wrote the letter generically so that the Postal Service gets the message that the rule applies to all drivers on all streets in Chicago.

      I think it’s easy to see that the car is blocking the way, but so what? A biker can just go around them right? The message they should be receiving is that “going around” can be dangerous so just stop blocking the bike lanes.

    • Aaron Brown

      Yeah, the reduction to from two lanes to one on half a mile of Chicago’s roads has really ruined this city. It’s so tough being a driver.

    • http://profiles.google.com/rsolinsk Roland Solinski

      That’s not because of the lane reduction, it’s because of the stupid stop signs the city put in at Kingsbury and Franklin. Kinzie carries a lot of traffic because it crosses the river. Those two intersections should be signalized, and the traffic backups would immediately vanish.

      I’m not exactly sympathetic with drivers, but the city has a poor road design that not only backs up traffic, but backs up traffic on Canal across the VERY BUSY Metra grade crossing. One of these days, there will be a serious accident there.

    • Anonymous

      Actually I’ve seen far less backed up traffic since the lane than before it. You’re full of baloney. Day in and day out in Chicago and New York it’s the same whining about how tough car drivers have it. Christ you selfish “me me me” people have RUINED the public domain over the past 90 years. The days of car-only infrastructure are OVER – it’s a dinosaur. Pollution, road rage, carnage and death, boorish behavior, and the fattest, most unfit of any industrialized nation. GOOD RIDDANCE.

      Moving on, this same mindset evidenced here is why the USPS is going bankrupt: “nobody else but myself.” Any UPS or FedEx trucks? Nope. I took the top right picture by the way, and reported the vehicle number printed on it to the USPS 1-800 #. I actually got a follow up call from the USPS two days later. Doesn’t appear to have affected anything. Shocker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711696708 Andy Freivogel

    I’ll bet you guys are missin’ Mayor McTightShorts now.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      Oh, yeah…

  • Jenn.

    Funny the postal truck was in the lane on the Saturday we rode it with our kids. The guys rode around it but it was right in front of an intersection which made it a little more dangerous to get by for them as they sailed down the hill out of my sight line. Hopefully the post office guys can understand this akes the lane less unsafe. I wish we had a funny was to catch their attention- don’t want anyone going “postal”- just to stop parking in the lane!

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I think you meant to say, “less safe.”

      I think it’s hard to understand how using your automobile to block a bike lane is unsafe for bicycling until you ride a bicycle around them.

  • byktxi

    Definition of parking as per Chicago Municipal Code:

    “Parking (to park)” means the standing of an unoccupied vehicle otherwise than temporarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in loading or unloading property or passengers.

    There are, of course, limits on how long (un)loading of property or passengers. For typical delivery vehicles, it’s three minutes. There’s a higher limit for handicap access vehicles, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.

    So – if these postal vehicles are legitimately engaged in the (un)loading of property, how could the bike lane ordinance still apply, since they aren’t technically “parking?”

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I have two counter arguments:

      1. The municipal code, section 9-4-010, indicates that the vehicle must be “actually engaged in loading or unloading property…” The vehicles in the photos above are not actually engaged in this activity.

      2. To park where the vehicles are seen parked, the mail carrier had to drive the van into the bike lane. Driving in bike lanes is illegal, “unless entering or exiting a legal parking space (9-40-060). Additionally, 9-40-060 says that “the driver of a vehicle shall not…drive or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such path or lane.”

      • byktxi

        Re #1: Unless a photo can show the passage of time, there’s no way to know whether the postal employees presumably in charge of the vehicles are engaged in (un)loading. I guess it’s conceivable that the operator of the vehicle in the first photo might have popped into the foreground establishment for a Heineken after driving onto the sidewalk and violating 9-40-070. The placement of the other vehicles doesn’t appear to be particularly recreational, and so leads one to believe that the postal carriers are just leaving vehicles where they’ve always left them while delivering, out of habit.

        Re #2: Point taken. The only photo for which a reasonable excuse can be provided is the curb-parker in the first photo, as the police tape strung down the poles might create a safety hazard for someone stepping over it while carrying a package.

        While embarrassment might put pressure on the USPS, it is ultimately the job of the Chicago Police to enforce municipal code. Unless it occurs within a pattern of discrimination, it is nigh-impossible to get law enforcement disciplined for specific instances of not enforcing the law.

        • http://go.fiu.edu/FIUBikes Brandt Absolu

          None of the pictures above are excusable. There is space to legally park! There’s no justifiable reason to park in the bike lane, unless you’re that fat that you can’t walk a few extra steps to the sidewalk.

        • http://go.fiu.edu/FIUBikes Brandt Absolu

          None of the pictures above are excusable. There is space to legally park! There’s no justifiable reason to park in the bike lane, unless you’re that fat that you can’t walk a few extra steps to the sidewalk.

          • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

            The ordinance doesn’t indicate obesity as a legal exemption to the rule ;)

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  • Enewslettersource

    The post office is inside the Merchandise Mart.

  • http://go.fiu.edu/FIUBikes Brandt Absolu

    Most of them have the same attitude in my neighborhood. The postal worker that is usually delivering in my neighborhood used to park in the bike lane, but now he’s changed. However, occassionally some replaces him, and that’s where you’ll see something like you see in the attached picture. The building where this postal service vehicle is parked has a driveway, but the worker insisted on parking in the bike lane, inviting others to do the same.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      “If they can do it, I can do it, too.”

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  • John Wirtz
    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I’m still waiting for a response to my letter to the USPS. I specifically asked them to inform me when and how they plan to instruct their employees to stop breaking the law and making conditions dangerous for bicycling.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      Does every depicted bicyclist have to be wearing a helmet? No. Most people in this country, and around the world, don’t wear helmets when cycling.

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  • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

    Sweet!

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      In a cynical way. 

  • Jackson Adams

    Thanks guys!

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      You’re welcome. If you ride this route and see more bad behavior, let us know. 

  • Jackson Adams

    Thanks guys!

  • Jackson Adams

    Thanks guys!

  • John Pelletier

    I didn’t see anything this bad however when visiting a month and a half ago I did note a taxi trying to drop somebody off, getting frustrated when trying to leave the drop off zone and then deciding it was a great idea to zoom full speed down the cycle track. This location http://maps.google.com/maps?q=chicago&ll=41.88912,-87.638143&spn=0.000004,0.004823&gl=us&t=h&z=18&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=41.889116,-87.638277&panoid=xvHksygRP6Xtmw8oue8AxA&cbp=12,115.17,,0,20.32

    I think the cycle track has a designated opening for folks coming off of North Kingsbury right in front of this building. The opening was wide enough for the taxi to use it and proceed down Kinzie to the underpass under North Wells.

    Sigh…

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      The bike lane is 7+3 feet wide, so plenty wide for all cars and trucks. I also see people parking in the hashed line areas at the beginning and end of the parking lane. 

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  • http://twitter.com/#!/Justinhaugens Justin Haugens

    I don’t know if someone else has posted this, USPS vehicles are like the forbidden fruit in Chicago, most likely everywhere.  I had long wondered why their vehicles were never towed, let’s just say a phone call to their manager by a courier would cause all sorts of problems for the tow truck driver.  Federal property man, federal property.  This will have to be changed from the inside.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I could ask the police for data on how many tickets they give to the USPS. That would give an indication on the extent of the problem, or it may tell us that they’re not getting ticketed. 

      USPS is an independent agency of the federal government, property of USPS, not the taxpayers. 

  • Mark Elliot

    They’ve got City of Santa Monica bike lanes sewn up too!
    http://betterbike.org/?p=1398  

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I didn’t think it was going to be a Chicago-only problem. FedEx, UPS, USPS – they all do it. 

  • jon shefford

    This article is ridiculous. the postal worker cannot deliver without being in the bike lane and they never go faster than the bikes, due to the number of stops so close together.  As you notice in the first picture, the worker parked halfway on the sidewalk so that cyclists could pass AND they are to YIELD.

    This is NOT illegal for them to do and they have to; however, it is illegal for them to not yield when in oncoming traffic or in the wrong lane. My father has worked as a letter carrier for 45 years. He has to go into oncoming traffic coming at him at 60 miles an hour just to reach a box across the road, because people want to break the law and put it on the wrong side of the road.

    Postal and EMS workers are the only ones allowed to break traffic laws to accomplish their duty. Also, its not like that postal work is going to pass the same place on the bike lane more than once; he’s not doing it to be an A$$ or to skip traffic.

  • Chris Miller

    Really?  And you would be the first one to throw up another website and writing letters to the USPS asking why you never get your mail on time.  These guys bust their asses getting your bills, welfare checks and playboys in a timely manner.  

  • https://plus.google.com/112576806265718893386 Brandt Absolu

    The worst part of about the cases in these pictures is that there is actually parking available. All they have to do is park in it, and cross the bike lane. I don’t see why it’s necessary to get in the bike lane (or jump the curb). Postal workers do some strange things sometimes.

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