Bike Lanes Blocked By Cars, Police, Ubers, and Commercial Trucks
As if riding your bike on the streets of America’s biggest cities wasn’t dangerous and stressful enough with distracted, aggressive drivers and unpredictable road conditions, riders in cities like San Francisco often also face complete disregard for their space by drivers who think that parking in the bike lane is no big deal.
In San Francisco, as the city attempts to make it harder for drivers to encroach into bike lanes with measures like raising the bike lane, cyclists continue to see all kinds of vehicles — police cars, delivery trucks, Ubers and Lyfts, and everyday car drivers — simply choosing to double park in the bike lane rather than find a real parking spot.
Trying to get a driver to move their car while parked in the bike lane is a challenge most cyclists would rather avoid. You never want to start a confrontation that could end dangerously for you with a driver you don’t know, and very few cyclists feel comfortable telling a police officer that they are breaking the law. Plus, telling one driver at a time (who may or may not listen to you) hardly solves a widespread problem.
So what can a cyclist do when their lane is being blocked by a car left by a careless driver?
According to Streetsblog SF, one opportunity for creating change and discouraging drivers from using the bike lane as a parking spot could be taking note the commercial trucks and vans that block the lane every day in San Francisco.
The author of this Streetsblog SF post shared a personal story of being cut off by a DHL truck who pulled over right in front of him while he was riding his bike and parked to block the bike lane. Instead of confronting the driver and attempting to convince the driver that parking there was in fact illegal, the author simply took a photo of the truck and sent it along with a note to DHL Corporate.
“Scold an individual who parks on a bike lane, and you’re probably not going to accomplish much. Chastise a cop who does it and you’ll get nowhere. But if it’s a commercial vehicle, sometimes–just sometimes–it might make a difference.
I took photos of the DHL truck and emailed them to DHL corporate. Here was the response:
Thank you for sending the pictures with the date and time stamp. DHL takes the safety of our employees, and the general public, very seriously. Our employee’s disregard for the law and the bicyclists traveling on Market St. will not be tolerated. I provided the Station Manager the pictures you sent. He is an avid biker and immediately got to work researching which courier was on Market St on that day and time. He will take appropriate action with this employee and he will address at the courier meetings for all employees to be notified of the proper use of the bike lane. I apologize for this behavior and assure you we are working to make sure this does not happen again.
Marsten Tullius, Area 2 Safety Specialist”
Corporations have an incentive to follow the law and to have a positive corporate image, which makes them a perfect starting place for a conversation about the dangers and illegality of parking in the bicycle lane.
An individual can argue with you and choose not to move their car, and there’s not much you can do about it. However, a huge number of cyclists creating a loud voice, speaking to one of the largest groups of bike-lane-blockers — corporate vehicles — now that can actually make change happen.
So why does this matter?
An inconveniently parked car is usually more of an annoyance than a true safety hazard, as long as you have enough time to see it ahead of you and re-route your path to avoid it.
However, this problem really speaks to a much deeper than a few interrupted rides. Streetsblog SF says:
“The “broken windows” theory of policing addresses this: If a society says it’s okay to break small rules, then it invites people to break larger ones. In other words, allowing cars to park on safety measures, such as bike lanes and crosswalks, sends a clear message that it’s acceptable for motorists to put cyclists and pedestrians in danger. But if parking dangerously is the start of a problem, maybe it’s also the start of a solution.”
If enough cyclists can encourage enough commercial truck driving companies to stop parking in the bike lane, then the publicity just might remind other drivers that the bike lane is not a parking spot. Solving these inconveniences and issues might not feel monumental, but every little change helps make our city streets safer for cyclists.