Among many cyclists, bike lanes already have a bad reputation. If wisely designed and properly planned, however, bike lanes can be a boon to urban riders. But, they can also create greater peril for cyclists on the road—especially when cars take precedence. On many streets, bike lanes seem no more than an empty gesture by municipalities that cater only to cars. In certain cities, the local government’s true sentiment toward cyclists has never been so evident as it is now, when the line that separates the bike lane from the roadway is legally blurred.
In Austin, Texas, the City Council voted to allow vehicle parking in the bike lane on Shoal Creek Blvd., a major thoroughfare for cars and cyclists. Local residents were engaged in a tussle with the city of Austin over this bike lane for several years, until the cars finally won out.
In a written response, Michael Bluejay of Bicycle Austin addressed the Council’s decision:
Call me crazy, but I think the phrase "bike lane" implies a lane for bicycles, not cars. That’s true in most places, but not in Austin, Texas. In Austin it’s legal for cars to park in most of the bike lanes, rendering them useless for their supposed purpose. Why even call it a bike lane, why even paint that stripe down the road, if cyclists can’t actually use it?
This phenomenon isn’t only parking itself in Texas, where one vehicle in every four is a large pickup truck. In Brooklyn, New York, the Adams Street bike lane is consistently clogged by parked limos, taxis, and buses. A blogger on Brownstoner expressed frustration that city law enforcement fails to give these offenders tickets for violating bike lane and parking rules. (Perhaps that’s because many of the offending drivers are part of law enforcement, themselves? Click here for incriminating proof.)