Can You Legally Park In A Bike Lane?

Here we start getting into some testy waters: limited resources and both cars and cyclists need access.

Many communities have begun either widening the road or repurposing the edge of roadways and marking them off to serve as “bike lanes.”

That part is all “fine and dandy”, and we cyclists applaud the nod towards a healthier cycling community. Once in awhile we even write a letter of thanks to a city council member or something.

Very quickly, however, these lanes start being violated by drivers, most noticeably the police and delivery drivers.

Police In Bike Lanes

This is the one cyclists like to point out the most. They are trying to drive in the bike lane — in New York, you can be ticketed for cycling outside of the bike lane — but there is a cop car smack dab in the middle of your morning commute.

Now what?

Of course, you merge into traffic, wishing you could use this as an excuse the next time a cop hollers at you for holding up traffic.

It is unfair. 

In most municipalities, police officers have special parking privileges: they can park wherever they damn well, please.

It’s a requirement of the job. Thugs aren’t courteous about where they commit crimes, and so, officers must be able to park where needed to fight said crime.s

It also comes in handy when stopping for donuts.

Since there is no shoulder in many of these locations with bike lanes, officers are left with no choice but to park in the lane while handling their business.

This is a battle we cyclists cannot win. And we only seem uninformed and petty when we point it out. An abuse of power? likely.

But who truly wants to spend the time and money fighting it in court? (ok, so we want to, but few of us can afford to!)

Delivery Drivers

These guys are skirting the law, but they’ve gotta get their packages delivered. Packages create commerce and commerce pay the taxes that gives us nice roads… and bike lanes.

So everyone just gives them a friendly nod and assumes that they will be out of their way, shortly (they typically are).

After all, the beer isn’t going to deliver itself.

Utility Vehicles

I don’t need to say anything, here. When shit breaks, it breaks. Be especially careful when navigating around these guys and don’t hesitate to use verbal cues if they are actively working and you must pass close by.

Inconsiderate Locals

“Oh, I’ll just pop on in to grab a sandwich. I’ll be right back out.”

These are the only ones we stand any chance of fighting. They are playing a dangerous game of roulette, and they will continue to do so until we impound their cars.

In our community, repeated issues with people taking advantage of the bike lane typically have been easily resolved by buying a cup of coffee for a local officer, carrying it over to him, and having a friendly chat over coffee.

Of course, I do that regularly, anyhow. I like them to be on my side.

Some of the more stubborn violators, however, were only dislodged when cyclists recorded multiple days of violations and brought it up with their local alderman or at city council.

And, there has been the rare case where it has to go to the local newspaper.

Staying Safe With A Blocked Lane

The trick is awareness, especially of occupied vehicles.

The inconsiderate driver who is parking there is probably in an abject hurry to get out of their car and into the store and return before they get cited.

They will fling their door open with abandoned and hurt any cyclist in their way. Give these cars extra berth.

The same goes for cop cars. We can hope they are more observant, but they might be focused on a perp and not on you.

As a preventative measure, you must maintain awareness of the traffic patterns beside you. If you are going to be forced into traffic, it is better to claim your position early — or wait until the traffic has passed and then merge (my preference).

In general, however, we cyclists appreciate these lanes and the community is on board with protecting them, as long as the cops and the beer delivery guys still get to park there.

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