Dear Streetsbloggers: How Do You Handle Alt-Side Parkers in the Bike Lane?

Photo: ## Slope News##

Christine Bush, editor of the neighborhood blog South Slope News, writes in with this question about when painted bike lanes and alternate side parking collide:

We just had our snazzy new bike lanes pop up on 14th and 15th Streets in South Park Slope last weekend, but when I left to take my son to school this morning, I discovered most of the lane blocked by double-parked cars.

Is this an issue on other bike lane streets?

Other residential streets with un-protected bike lanes do have this problem on alt-side parking days. The problem has been overcome, sort of, on at least one of these streets.

On Maple Street in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, the alt-side double parkers stay out of the bike lane. Neighborhood blog Hawthorne Street attributed this behavior to some effective enforcement by the 71st Precinct in 2007.

Photo: ## Brody/Hawthorne Street##

While it’s great to enforce the integrity of bike lanes, it might just be better to ride next to the empty curb instead of going in the narrow space between two rows of parked cars, where you’d have to look out for getting doored. Then again, if you ride by the curb, you’d have to maneuver around any stray alt-side violators.

Ideally, the ritual of double-parking when streets are getting cleaned wouldn’t be sanctioned by police, regardless of whether the bike lane is blocked or not. In a world where residential street space isn’t given away for free, you could set a price on curbside parking that would open up enough spots for car owners to vacate the street sweeping side of the street while still finding a legal place to park.

Or — and I don’t know if this has been implemented anywhere else — on a street that’s too narrow for a protected bike lane plus two parking lanes, you could get rid of one parking lane and put the remaining one in the middle of the roadbed. Motor traffic would travel on one side and bike traffic on the other. Street sweepers would be able to reach both curbs without anyone having to move their parked cars.

  • Ari

    1. I’d definitely prefer to ride in an wide street without a bike lane than inside a narrow bike lane surrounded by parked cars.
    2. The ritual “street sweeping dance” doesn’t really bother me. Yes, curb space should be charged a fair market value. But that’s a separate issue.
    3. Not surprisingly, people like to park at the curb. Better for loading/unloading or people and stuff.

  • I just go around. These types of streets are residential and traffic is low anyhow.

  • Anonymous

    I’d go around.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    I’ve seen this, mostly in Harlem, bike lane or not. They double-park and then leave the car unattended, which I still don’t get. I mean, here in Queens when it’s alternate side, people just take their cars and drive to work or run errands in the car, etc… But if you have a car, just to move it one side of the street and then be one of the first to move it back, what’s the point of the car if you don’t even drive it anywhere, just to take up a parking space? If I was biking…well I care about clearance between me and the vehicle, that’s my biggest concern. In the first image, I would probably bike faster than in the second image because of the tunnel vision effect would force me to bike slow, no maneuverability. That’s my two cents.

  • anon

    Every lane is a bike lane, so just ride in the middle of the other bike lane, i.e. the unmarked one to the immediate right of the marked bike lane.

    I used to get SO F*&$(ING MAD at cars parked in the marked bike lane, until I had a wonderful moment of zen: marked bike lanes are not there for the convenience of cyclists – we’re perfectly happy in the unmarked bike lane – but for the convenience of drivers. So if someone wants to block the marked bike lane, fine, no problem, I just merge into the unmarked bike lane well in advance and keep riding at my own pace. The person parked in the marked bike lane is inconveniencing the other drivers, not me.

    This has lowered my rage factor by several logs.

  • anon

    Correction: “to the immediate _left_ of the marked bike lane” (in the standard setup).

  • Anonymous

    Non issue. I’d rather bike next to a curb free of cars than in a bike lane where I could get doored.

  • James Reefer

    As an ex-NYC driver, the way people drive in the city is not like the way they drive in the suburbs. It was honestly nice to have a car (in Bushwick) to get groceries, go on road trips, and travel north or south in Queens and Brooklyn. However, most trips are not enjoyable, and I got sick of moving my car from one side of the street to the other every day, even though I only used it maybe twice a week. The hassle of keeping it (which I think should be much more of a hassle) was not worth the convenience, so I got rid of it.

    It’s also why I think parking and biking is the key for reducing auto use. More so than traffic or tolls, if you have to deal with parking every day, you consider the actual value of the vehicle. The result (in my experience) is that the people who actually need private transportation, like contractors and large families, continue to use it, while the rest of us take the train or bus. Not that there aren’t a panoply of other factors, but I think that parking is one of the most important.

  • Anonymous

    Second and Third Street bikes lanes in Park Slope are generally keep clear of double parking, like Maple Street, as a matter of tradition and I believe occasional enforcement.

  • Anonymous

    Second and Third Street bikes lanes in Park Slope are generally keep clear of double parking, like Maple Street, as a matter of tradition and I believe occasional enforcement.

  • Anonymous

    Second and Third Street bikes lanes in Park Slope are generally keep clear of double parking, like Maple Street, as a matter of tradition and I believe occasional enforcement.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I “love it” when the rich Brooklynites come down to Deal, NJ in the Summer and insist on double-parking even though there is unlimited street parking only 50 feet away.

  • KillMoto

    I’ve stumbled upon the same epiphany.

    I keep waiting for the rage-blinded driver to get pissed, floor his car and try to pass me on the right (half in the bike lane) and run into the car parked there. Fantasy, I know…

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. That’s how I feel too. These lanes are to get us out the cars’s way, not the other way around. So yeah, I just take the traffic lane and take my time. So far nobody honked at me for that, I think it looks pretty obvious what I’m doing. Again, time and time over: cars cause problems for cars.

  • david

    I just ride around them, the world is not perfect.

  • Jared Rodriguez

    I love the center-street parking idea. No alt-side rules required!

  • Anonymous

    But then how would they sweep the middle of the street? 🙂

  • MontrealUrbanist

    Here in Montreal, if a vehicle is parked on a bike lane, citizens are instructed to call 9-1-1. After they ask you for a description of the vehicle, license plate, and location, they send the cops and usually within 10-20 minutes the next patrol stops by to hand out a ticket. There’s a bike path on my street, so I’ve had to report 3-4 times a year. My city has a new campaign to install bollards on all bike lanes, hopefully ending any remnants of the illegal practice.


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