Cars parking in the bike lane: What can you do about it?
Bike lanes are a great way to provide safe space for biking on a street, and they've worked well at helping more people feel comfortable riding on Chicago's often busy streets. But many of us have experienced the fear and frustration caused by cars parking in the bike lane.
When the bike lane is blocked, you can be forced to squeeze into faster-moving car traffic, which is not always the safest situation. Parking in the bike lane is illegal for good reason, but not everyone driving understands the law or why parking in the bike lane can put others at risk.
So if you notice a problem with parking in the bike lane and want to do something about it, what can you do? First, you can politely talk to the driver if he or she is in or near the car to let them know there's a bike lane on the street and ask if they're willing to move to keep the street safer. Many people will politely move their car, and they may not have realized what they were doing. But since it's not always that simple, here are some other tips for dealing with vehicles parking in a bike lane in Chicago:
- Call 311: Report vehicles parked in bike lanes to 311 and ask that they be towed. For recurring problems, calling 311 helps to build data showing that there’s a chronic problem in the area.
- If it’s a government or business vehicle: Note the vehicle number, snap a photo, and send it to the agency or business with a written complaint, and cc your alderman.
- If it’s a cab: Note the cab number, snap a photo, and call 311 to report a cab driver complaint. This is different than asking for a tow truck. The city will record the complaint against the cab driver without sending police to write a ticket, but it will be a strong reminder to the cab driver not to park in bike lanes.
- For chronic problem spots: Note if there is a particular spot on the block where the problem is recurring, and then consider the following actions:
- Call your alderman and ask for enforcement at the specific location, if the problem spot is in the same ward where you live. If you can be specific about problem times or days of the week, even better. Ask your alderman to talk to the police commander and the Chicago Bicycling Ambassadors about it.
- Contact the Chicago Bicycling Ambassadors, who can work with the Chicago Department of Revenue on an enforcement event.
- Write to the police commander, cc'ing the alderman. You can send the same correspondence you send to the aldermen to the local police commander. Find his or her contact information here.
- Attend a CAPS meeting to request action: This is an opportunity to talk to police face-to-face about the problem and explain why it’s a public safety issue deserving attention. Find more information here.
- If you notice people are parking to visit specific businesses, talk to managers at those businesses to request that they post a sign notifying customers that parking in the bike lane is illegal and their car will be ticketed. Many businesses notify their customers about nearby parking lots that are off-limits – they should do the same for off-limits parking in bike lanes. You can create a simple, friendly sign for them that they can tape to the window to increase the likelihood the business will try this.
(Photo credit Steven Vance via Flickr)