Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 2nd, 2011 at 9:01 pm
"Since July 1, 2010, our officers have issued 226 citations to motor vehicles parked illegally in bike lanes."
— Cheryl Kuck, PBOT spokesperson
Last week I shared the problem of cars parking in vehicle lanes which are legally set aside for bicycles (a.k.a. bike lanes). That story generated a lot of helpful discussion. I've also gotten a response from the City of Portland about their towing and parking enforcement policies around this issue, so I felt a follow-up was in order.
First and foremost, if you see this annoying (and potentially dangerous) phenomenon taking place in a lane near you, please call the City of Portland parking enforcement hotline at (503) 823-5195. Put it in your phone's speed dial right now. I have heard from many people that the City is very responsive to this line.
While hotlines are great, they are no substitute for solid policies to address recurring problems.
Speaking of the City and policies, I asked PBOT what their policy was for towing vehicles parked in a lane of travel. I was especially curious if their policy for cars parked in standard vehicle lanes was the same as it was for cars parked in vehicle lanes set aside for bicycle traffic.
Here's what City spokesperson Cheryl Kuck said about the issue (emphasis mine):
"... our officers on routine patrol always cite vehicles parked in bike lanes. If an officer on patrol in their beat sees a vehicle parked in a bike lane, the officer issues a bike lane violation citation that carries a fine of $80.00.
Since July 1, 2010, our officers have issued 226 citations to motor vehicles parked illegally in bike lanes. In a review of photographs from bike lane citations, it appears that half the citations were issued to vehicles that were completely blocking a bike lane and half were issued to vehicles that were partially blocking a bike lane.
Our officers issue a tow based on a safety assessment*. If the street is a heavily traveled street and the vehicle has been blocking the lane completely, the officer can make the decision to have the vehicle towed.
[*This sounds to me like a reason to tow more frequently when bicycle vehicle lanes are blocked.]
Our officers use the same standard for bike lane violations that they use for travel lane violations. Our officers do not routinely issue tows unless they feel that the violation poses a safety hazard, impedes traffic flow, and creates unsafe congestion. The citations for blocking a bike lane and for blocking a travel lane are the same; the fine is $80.00.
If a motor vehicle is parked illegally in a travel lane, our officers cite the vehicle. In most circumstances, the officer does not call for a tow because the vehicle is not parked there long enough for a tow truck to get there. The most common vehicle that parks illegally in a travel lane is a delivery van; often the driver returns to the vehicle while our officer is citing it."
I was happy to hear the City takes this issue seriously. Kuck also encouraged folks to bookmark the Parking Enforcement page on the PBOT website.
Looks like a nice place to park right?
More signs like these might help.
What has also become clear is that often, people simply aren't aware that they are parking in a bike lane. As curbside bike lanes become wider, people will continue to mistake them for parking lanes. If you look at where the problem happens, there is little to no "bike lane" or "no parking" signage at all. PBOT can address this by simply laying down more frequent bike lane symbol pavement markings as well as installing "No Parking: Bike Lane" signage where it's needed.
So, what did we learn?
We can take it upon ourselves to make sure parking offenders are ticketed; we are now more informed about the City's parking enforcement policies; and hopefully PBOT will consider doing more to communicate to road users that parking is not allowed in vehicle lanes set aside for bicycles — no matter how tempting they appear.