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.
Two weeks ago, feeling sick and tired of the disrespect people have for facilities the City of Chicago and its funding partners (mainly the federal government) have built for the exclusive use of people riding bicycles, I confronted three people about their parking in the bike lane.
The first person, on Tuesday morning, parked his car in the bike lane on northbound Milwaukee Avenue just south of Haddon Avenue, to enter the convenience store across the street. I was on the sidewalk talking to a friend who was doing field work for the City and cupped my hands around my mouth and told the guy (over 50 feet away), “Don’t park in the bike lane”. I started walking towards his car because I was going to photograph it (as I normally do when people park in the bike lane). He retuned to his car, too, and told me, “You take this too seriously” to which I replied, “I’m concerned for cyclist’s safety which you’ve impacted by parking here”. He slowly did a u-turn and parked in one of the many empty parking spaces, directly in front of the convenience store.
The second person, on Wednesday around noon, parked his pickup truck in the bike lane on westbound Armitage Avenue east of Lincoln Avenue. I had just locked my bike in front of a restaurant to have lunch. I was in the vicinity to survey a situation about which I had been emailed: three cars had been parked by valets in the bike lane in front of Sushi O Sushi and neighboring restaurants. The valet service wasn’t being provided at lunch time. I told the driver, in a matter of fact tone, that he parked his truck in the bike lane. He responded, “Yeah, that’s what I do”. He entered my destination restaurant and I found another restaurant at which to eat.
Blocking the bike lane with his truck: “Yeah, that’s what I do”.
Three cars have been parked in the bike lane, apparently as part of valet service, in front of Sushi O Sushi (and perhaps other restaurants), on Armitage Avenue, between Lincoln Avenue and Orleans Street.
The third person, on Friday afternoon, parked in the bike lane the Honda Accord he uses to delivery pizza for Armand’s Pizzeria on Division Street. I was eating inside the restaurant watching him maneuver his car. When he walked inside, I got up from my seat to talk to him. I simply asked, “Why did you park in the bike lane?” I don’t have a perfect recollection of our conversation. I do know he said, “I’m just in and out [to grab pizzas]“. I counted: he was parked in the bike lane for over 5 minutes, hardly “in and out”. I reminded him of its illegality. He then said, “Cyclists blow stop signs all the time”. I replied, “And does that make it okay for you to park in the bike lane?” He responded to that with his body language and facial expression, which to me meant he didn’t believe it was an okay “swap”. He then said, “If the police come and give me a ticket, that will justify your complaint. I don’t know what to tell you.” I pointed out two empty spaces (one that would partially block a car wash driveway, and the other one in which he said he couldn’t fit). I sat down at this point.
Three Armand’s Pizzeria delivery drivers and their three automobiles blocking the bike lane in a period of about 20 minutes.
Within the next 15 minutes, two other delivery drivers for Armand’s Pizzeria proceeded to park in the bike lane. As the third was leaving the scene, I asked him to stop parking in the bike lane, as a cyclist passed him after merging out of the bike lane into the travel lane. He just pointed to the restaurant, and said, “I deliver for them”. Then, the car wash next door closed and he moved his car to park in their driveway.
This isn’t okay. Why is it that blocking facilities for bicycling is acceptable?
Who else was caught blocking the bike lane in the past two weeks?
Drivers from Jimmy John’s and Carbón Mexican Grill were spotted blocking bike lanes on Division Street (Ukrainian Village) and 18th Street (Chinatown/Pilsen) respectively. After Grid Chicago reported to 25th Ward Alderman Solis in April a rash of driving and parking in the 18th Street protected bike lane (from Clark Street to Canal Street), some change will occur: the flexible posts will be moved closer to the sidewalk, narrowing the bike lane. This will widen the travel lane next to the bike lane. I would like the Chicago Department of Transportation to try an alternative intervention: bollards 6 feet apart at the entrances and exits of the bike lane. The bike lane’s width is one of its strong points, as it allows for social, side-by-side cycling with a friend.
A Jimmy John’s delivery vehicle on Division Street in Ukrainian Village.
A Carbón Mexican Grill delivery vehicle on 18th Street. The bike lane here will be reconfigured and receive additional police attention in an effort to curb this behavior.
The city has picked up the pace in issuing citations for Municipal Code of Chicago 9-40-060 about parking and standing your car in a bike lane or marked shared lane. In the period January to April, the rate was 5.07 citations per day. In May the citation rate was 6.65 citations per day. This is still not enough to change behavior and the transient nature of the restaurant delivery vehicles – where 5-10 minutes is “nothing to worry about” – makes it hard for police or Department of Finance workers to catch them in the act. A new website has sprung up, to join My Bike Lane, that shows photos of people parking their cars and trucks in the bike lane.
N.B. The previous week I stopped at a parking lot across the street from Congress Theater. (It was actually a strip mall where the parking lot is used for event parking at night.) There was a “park here” sandwich board blocking half the 5-feet wide bike lane. I asked a guy working nearby, “Is this sign yours?” It was. I followed up with my real question, “Can you please remove it from the bike lane?” He said he “yeah”.
Some photos provided by Calvin Brown.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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