Urban cyclists do battle in city bike lanes: they dodge illegally parked cars, open doors, makeshift loading zones, or drivers that use the bike lane as a freeway. In New York City, blocking a bike lane can earn you a $115 fine, but the regulation is seldom enforced.
Cyclists in New York are standing their ground with creative tactics. To preserve their safety, they’re resorting to peaceful, renegade protests of the many obstacles that prevent optimal use of bike lanes (a highly controversial subject, as we’ve noted here in previous posts).
It’s arguable as to whether ill-maintained bike lanes actually make cyclists safer, but New Yorkers have taken matters into their own hands—with cans of spray paint and stencils.
From the NYT:
At a bike lane on Hudson Street near Christopher Street, one rider placed a cardboard stencil on the pavement, and others covered it with white spray paint. When they lifted the stencil an image of an automobile bisected by a diagonal line was left behind.
“I want to remind drivers that it is not all right to be in bike lanes,” said Barbara Ross, 44, a human resources manager, who lives on the Lower East Side and has been a volunteer for Times Up!, http://times-up.org/ an environmental group that promotes nonpolluting transportation. “A lot of drivers don’t think twice about parking in a bike lane because no one tells them not to.”
Over the next two hours, the bicyclists roamed north, creating a variety of painted images including ones in the shape of a bicycle with a heart and the words “love lane.”
While painting messages on public streets is illegal, Ms. Ross and her companions said that they meant their markings as a service. Most bike lanes in New York are separated from cars only by stripes of white paint, they said, and additional reminders are likely to help cyclists and, maybe, yield more respect from drivers.
Other cyclists have organized mass rides to raise awareness for cyclists and their presence on the streets.
Next month, the city plans to complete a 2006 project that added 200 bike lanes throughout the five boroughs. NYC has also made an effort to make bike lanes more visible and safe by creating buffer zones between car lanes, and by painting some lanes (in Brooklyn and Queens) with a green stripe.
Despite the city’s efforts, however, a safe, peaceful coexistence of cars and cyclists doesn’t look promising. For those who forego cars, it will be a long road.
Video at NYT.
See also: Austin Okays Parking in Bike Lane