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Cars parking in bike lanes: How can we fix this problem?

Posted by on January 25th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Photo taken last night on
N. Williams south of Hancock.
(Photo: Andrew N.)

What would help prevent people from parking cars in bike lanes?

The problem as I see it, isn’t that people are simply jerks and don’t care about blocking a lane of travel that is reserved for the use of non-motorized vehicles — it’s more likely a lack of signage, enforcement of existing laws, and a general lack of awareness. To someone who doesn’t ride a bike around town, a wide, curbside bike lane looks a lot like a convenient place to park.

There are two specific locations where this phenomenon is occurring in Portland that have recently come to my attention.

New Seasons overflow parking in bike lane-8

This lane blockage is close to a freeway
on-ramp, and the speed differential
between bicycles and motor vehicles is high.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The first one is on N. Rosa Parks Way in front of the New Seasons Market in Arbor Lodge. The parking lot there is notoriously small, and whenever the store is busy, people flagrantly violate Oregon state law (ORS 811.550) and park in the bike lane. They park directly adjacent to the lot and on surrounding block faces. I have documented this several times and have been in touch with New Seasons. They say they’re working on the problem with PBOT, but I’ve yet to hear any resolution. I have never seen a City parking enforcement officer issuing tickets at this location.

New Seasons overflow parking in bike lane-6 New Seasons overflow parking in bike lane-2 Cars in bike lane at New Seasons Arbor Lodge-1 New Seasons overflow parking in bike lane-4

The other location is on the popular N. Williams bikeway between Weidler and Hancock. This issue comes up during Trail Blazers home games (the arena being just a few blocks away). My hunch tells me that streetcar construction must have taken away some parking for the games, because I haven’t heard or seen of this in the past. Regardless, it’s happening now, and it’s particularly dangerous given the speed differential between motor vehicles and bicycles on that stretch of road.

Reader Andrew N. sent in photos of massive parking-in-the-bike-lane violations during last night’s Blazers game against the Sacramento Kings. Andrew said, “This set up an extremely dangerous situation for cyclists in an already chaotic atmosphere.” He also reports that all the cars had been written tickets. In the photos below, take note of the person riding a bicycle in the lane adjacent to the curbside lane…

Look closely and you’ll see two people bicycling in the lane adjacent to the parked cars.

I think one of the problems is that in both locations, there is no signage telling people that this curbside, painted lane is a place where vehicles travel. Perhaps PBOT could place a few of the bike lane characters on the pavement to reinforce the presence of a bikeway and/or perhaps we need some “No Parking” signs. Better yet, how about a few signs that say, “Bike Lane: Do Not Block. Vehicle Owners Will Be Towed”

Have you noticed other vehicle lanes in Portland where this occurs? What would you suggest as a solution to prevent it?

UPDATE: Thanks for all the helpful comments. I just heard from someone at PBOT, who pointed out the Parking Enforcement page on their website. Beyond improved signage, seems like the consensus is to get out your phone and call in violators.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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NW Biker
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NW Biker

Okay, just a little amusement: “vehicle owners will be towed.” The cars, however, remain in place…. 🙂

Seriously, I agree with you that people who park in the bike lanes are just unaware that they’re breaking the law and if they’re searching high and low for a parking space, they’re probably not paying attention, either. I think better signage and lane markings, as well as consistent enforcement, are great ideas.

Joseph
Guest
Joseph

how about actually towing cars that park illegally in the public right of way, instead of just citing them and leaving the vehicle to block traffic? And what happens to those citations? what amount are people fined? do people actually pay these citations? do we go after the scofflaws who don’t pay?

I’ll tell you what, if my car was towed and I had to pay the impound fee to get it back, I’d think twice (at least) before parking in a bike lane (well, I would anyway, but I digress).

Ultimately the penalty has to be increased for blocking the public right of way as a disincentive for people choosing to do so. For example, in North Carolina, the maximum fine for parking in a marked handicapped space is $50 (yes, FIFTY dollars). As such, I’m no longer surprised to see newish Mercedes and BMW’s (without handicapped tags) parked in handicapped spaces when parking is tough, because that’s not much of a disincentive to people who feel entitled to break the rules. Combine the pitifully small fee with the complete lack of enforcement, and you end up with a BIG problem.

jim
Guest
jim

I know I was downtown and there was a bike lane and then for one block there was a white line but no bike signage in it so people were parking there. You can’t blame epople if there is no signage, otherwise it could be a fog line, or a place for emergency parking, cell phone parking…

kww
Guest
kww

Don’t forget the occasional truck parking in the bike lane on SE4th between Caruthers and Division. Not likely to cause an accident, but the bike lanes are well marked and there is a huge amount of bike traffic off of the Springwater Trail.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I see a lot of this around schools. When there is a event often the school doesn’t have enough parking for everyone who decides to drive to park right at the school, and they shouldn’t really since it is maybe 10 days a year that they run out of parking, it creates an extra dangerous situation with lots of kids around and reduced visibility as people try to cross streets due to cars being parked where they are not supposed to be. Usually there is legal parking available within a block or two, people just don’t want to walk even a short distance.

JE
Guest
JE
Thom
Guest

Every time you see a car illegally parked in the bike lane, take a picture of the car with it’s license plate visible and the no parking signage visible, and email it to the traffic enforcement division of the police department.

G. Tyler
Guest
G. Tyler

I was amused by the Portland Police pulling over the car adjacent to me on the way home last Friday. I was entering the bike lane heading east on Holgate Blvd. just past I-205 and the car pulled over to the parking median and the police officer just parked the car right in the bike lane. At least I got to use the ‘buffered’ part of the lane while passing the officer getting out of his patrol car.

Nick
Guest
Nick

If someone was parked in a car lane for an extended period on a busy road, wouldn’t you be justified in calling 911 and getting police involved, instead of praying for the elusive parking enforcement people?

Why not do it here?

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Not sure if there’s an Android counterpart yet, but there’s always this:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/city-portland-citizen-reports/id351455616?mt=8

Not marketing for iTunes/Apple. I personally abhor their devices.

Richard Masoner
Guest

I like the towing idea; owners or the vehicles themselves sound good to me.

I suspect there’s probably some herd behavior in the stadium parking situation — somebody sees a line of cars and thinks if they’re doing it then it must be okay for anybody else.

David M
Guest

I’m not trying to pile on drivers here, but the idea that they just didn’t know it was a bike lane or that you shouldn’t park there is pretty weak in this city. There are bike lanes everywhere and they are clearly used regularly. I just have a hard time believing that people would be completely unaware of bicycles especially around the Rose Quarter at rush hour. (And yes I rode around several parked in the bike lane yesterday on my way home) This smacks of a case of selfishness. Even if it weren’t against the law I wouldn’t park in a bike lane because I like to consider how my actions effect other people. I know this seems like a cars hate bikes post and I don’t mean it to come across that way, but I just get exhausted of all the excuses made for bad, rude and selfish behavior of bicyclists, cars, and pedestrians.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
Oliver
Guest
Oliver

It’s significant that tow companies impound vehicles parked in the lots of businesses after hours (even permanently closed), but not illegally parked in a lane of traffic.

I agree; tow them, no ticket. I know it sucks, but I was towed once, the first time I went out in Portland in 1987. A night on the street in the fall was a stark lesson.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I’ve seen two spots.

One less common is near the Wonder Ballroom when there’s activity going on there. People park in the bike lane where there’s no curbside parking on NE Russell between Rodney and Williams. East of Rodney, there’s curbside parking with an adjacent bike lane.

The other really annoying, very common one is an everyday habitual thing. The taxis that park in the taxi stand at the northeast corner of SW Broadway at Oak are nearly always parked wide (two, sometimes three feet from the curb) and straddling the bike lane. During rush hour commute, it seems to be a real liability.

I’ve taken pictures of some of the cabs so I can get their cab numbers, but I’ve never reported them. When I’ve directly asked some of the cabbies if they could try to park closer to the curb, they either shrug or don’t even acknowledge the request.

For what it’s worth, Radio Cab is the one company with drivers that park at that stand that seems to consistently park legally and with some courtesy to people on bikes in mind.

becky
Guest
becky

My experience is that tickets for illegal parking and towing are separate things. I had a car park in front of my driveway totally blocking my car. I called parking enforcement and a guy came out and gave a ticket quickly, but the tow truck driver took a little more time. Perhaps those ticketed cars were later towed?

(The fine for parking in a bike lane is $80, the same for blocking a street or alley.)

Opus the Poet
Guest

Perhaps pulling a Yehuda Moon and using a road flare? I think that’s a little extreme, but if PBOT or some other agency won’t keep the lanes clear, maybe knowing their car might get torched would keep people from parking in the bike lane?

I really wish there was a better way, though. Like a fresh ticket every hour a car was parked in the bike lane, maybe. Not just $80, but $80 an hour.

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

If you see a car parked in a bike lane, call 503-823-SAFE for parking enforcement. In your message, recommend that they tow the vehicle per:

Title 16 Vehicles and Traffic

16.20.130 Prohibited in Specified Places.

Except when specifically directed by authority of this Title or when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, it is unlawful to park or stop a vehicle in any of the following places:

[…]

U. On or within a bicycle lane, path, or trail.

16.30.210 When a Vehicle May be Towed.

A vehicle may be towed and held at the expense of the owner or person entitled to possession thereof from:

[…]

9. The vehicle is parked in violation of any parking regulation;

3-speeder
Guest
3-speeder

For the purposes of my post, I’m willing to ignore the fact that drivers are supposed to know these examples are bike lanes.

The design of these bike lane are perhaps flawed so that it isn’t obvious to some drivers that there is a bike lane there.

But that got me thinking – according to Oregon law, what is it about the markings, etc. that means the space to the right of that solid white line is a bike lane? Is the curb yellow (to indicate no parking)? Does the law require “BIKE LANE” or some other symbol to be painted every 100/500/2000 feet?

On an interstate, the space to the right of that solid white line is the shoulder of the road, with functionality very different from a bike lane. I don’t know that it is a good idea for the same marking to have different meaning in different traffic contexts.

I’ve certainly seen city streets (although I’m not positive I’ve seen this in Oregon) with a solid white line about a foot from the street edge. This seems to be there to encourage vehicles to maintain space from the road edge, but that foot is clearly not intended to be a bike lane.

I realized that I don’t recall reading anything explaining what makes that space familiar to all of us a bike lane vs. some other function.

I wonder if the law telling the city how to mark a bike lane is inadequate. Maybe that’s part of the problem

Ted Buehler
Guest

My suggestion —

Whenever you see this sort of thing,
1) Take a pic with your cell phone
2) email pic to safe@portlandoregon.gov with the location and time.
3) ask for immediate ticketing and routine enforcement.

If they get a handful of these each day, they’ll start enforcing the trouble spots.

If they only get a couple a month, expect to see no improvement.

Thanks for covering this, Jonathan.

Ted Buehler

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

the cycle track on broadway frequently has a dingaling parking or picking someone up in the lane.

Dude
Guest
Dude

I think you’re wrong: These people simply are being jerks.

It might be because they have failed at their basic responsibliity to understand Oregon traffic laws, but they are being jerks nevertheless because through blithe ignorance they put their convenience ahead of others’ safety.

And this is a perfect example of how local politicians’ pro-bike rhetoric is not backed up with any definitive action to address a speficic problem that endangers the safety of people who ride bikes. People who care about safe roads need to demand of these so-called leaders: If you’re so pro-bike, why don’t you simply work toward solving the everyday problems that keep people from feeling safe and thus from riding? It doesn’t take millions in funding or lots of infrastructure to make sure that bike lands can actually be used. Priorities.

are
Guest

pretty sure i remember someone whining on joe rose’s blog the other day about getting ticketed for overstaying the two hour limit onstreet near the arena. what i don’t get is, why do we bother to put a max station right there if people are going to insist on arriving in private automobiles? the lloyd district stop is in the fareless zone, and there is plenty of parking there. tow these cars.

Matt D'Elia
Guest
Matt D'Elia

I think there is a huge amount of ignorance about the rules to be honest. Two summers ago the area we do our ride launches from was having some construction taking place that ate up a large number of the open parking spots that we used. I was shocked at the number of people, including some cyclists, who parked in the bike lane of an adjacent street.

Often times convenience is more important to people than following the law.

Stacy
Guest
Stacy

Gladstone between SE 26th and SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd, always pinching traffic as the bike lane lumbers around the traffic circles.

eljefe
Guest
eljefe

+1 to Elliot.
Call 503-823-5195 and report it. I have successfully used this process TWENTY-NINE TIMES, several of which were for bike lanes violations (often on SE Water Ave, incidentally). Quit whining and pick up the phone. Then you can start whining about the city’s response rate (about 50% in my experience).
BTW Parking on any portion of a sidewalk is also illegal, and is even worse in my view since bikers can safely take the lane while pedestrians do so at their peril. If you have time to read this article, you have time to take proactive action. Pick up the phone now. Seriously.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

yes, tow the cars blocking the bike lane just like they would if they were blocking a motor-vehicle lane!

I’ve noticed a lot of issues where bike lanes end by tapering back towards the curb… people will park the rear of their car out of the lane but the front will hang over into it… so as the bike lane ends or moves towards the curb, you end up getting pinched… there are a couple places on Lake Rd in Milwaukie on my bus route where this happens…

VeloBusDriver
Guest

It’s not just bike lanes. Lots of folks love to use my bus zones as a parking spot. While not as hazardous to me or my passengers, it’s annoying and slows traffic down when I have to block the lane to service a bus zone.

+1 to enforcement comments. Given revenue issues of cities, they are happy to write more tickets and tow – at least in Seattle. I also wave and give a thumbs up to Parking Enforcement Officers I see doling out tickets. They seem to appreciate it.

Sel
Guest
Sel

My ride along NE Sandy between 102nd and 122nd is harrowing at the best of times – but there are several bars along the route with large trucks that like to use the bike lane as a buffer – giving them a much wide parking space than the curbside allows them. Nothing like swerving into 45 mph traffic to avoid them.

Sal
Guest
Sal

I think it’s naive to assume that everyone who drives a car is familiar with 100% of the state and vehicle codes (e.g., try crossing a street at an intersection where the crosswalk isn’t painted in). In the spirit of communication rather than confrontation, how about at least painting the curbs yellow where curbs exist. If no curbs, then signs.

And yeah, that all costs $$$. Maybe instead of building lots of poor quality bike lanes, the city could focus on improving the ones we have first.

cold worker
Guest
cold worker

this happens on denver in kenton. people going to the liquor store. people double park in the bike lane to rush in and get booze before they close, before the game, etc.

also; portland needs to get serious about parking violations and issuing tickets. this includes people who park facing the wrong direction on streets. this is a huge issue with me. people pulling away from the curb, facing me in my lane as they accelerate to enter their correct lane of travel is not ok. it’s not legal and it shouldn’t be accepted.

Liz
Guest
Liz

I have PBOT’s Parking Enforcement hotline on speedial in my phone. So should you!

503 823 5195

Anytime a car is blocking the bike lane, or the sidewalk, I call it.

And it really IS a hotline! Parking enforcement really do respond in realtime when you call the number.

There have been times I have called in a violation, walked past the offending vehicle just 10 or 15 minutes later, and found it slapped with a parking ticket!

Ed
Guest

At 7pm I called the police to report the north williams blockage last night and they said they already sent out dispatches to check. And they told me they received several calls.

Liz
Guest
Liz

PS – I do also sympathize with some less-smart folks who might mistake a bikelane for a parking lane.

Bikelanes are sometimes abysmally marked here in Portland. A bike stencil every two blocks is not going to cut it. You need a bike lane stencil every single block. How else are motorists going to know what it is?

Steve B
Guest

I’m always amazed at how easy it is for people driving to Blazers games to park for free on these neighborhood streets. If the city wants revenue, it can have it by using parking zones and meters in East Portland.

I’ll keep calling in the violations, and look forward to the day when the city takes a proactive approach to parking enforcement.

Steve B
Guest

The other question I have is, since they are technically blocking a travel lane, shouldn’t these cars have been towed ASAP?

jonesey
Guest
jonesey

Here’s another perspective and my experience from Eugene, which is a little more laid back than Portland.

There was an intersection where the city moved some lanes around, restriping the bike lane, which led to confusion about where it was OK to park. Cars routinely parked where they *had always parked*, but now they were blocking the bike lane. It wasn’t entirely the fault of the drivers; bad traffic engineering was partly to blame.

I e-mailed the Public Works hotline for reporting road problems, asking them to restripe the bike lane or paint the curb yellow to shrink the parking zone. I gave them a polite week to fix the problem, then I started calling the police (our parking hotline) every time I passed the intersection. I suspect that the cops put a little heat on the public works folks, since the intersection was restriped (nicely) within a few days.

I was polite and respectful in all of my contacts. People were making honest mistakes, and I just wanted the situation fixed. I’m sensing the same vibe in many of these comments and in the original post, and I think it’s the right way to go. Focus on solving the problem, not on punishment, as the first remedy.

Matti
Guest
Matti

The Charthouse restaurant on SW Terwilliger near Capitol Highway is a flagrant violator of the bike lane during holiday evenings when they are heavily booked. They have a parking lot which is insufficient for big nights. Their valet parking attendants run the cars out onto Terwilliger and park next to the curb eliminating the bike lane. They even put up orange traffic cones, as if this justifies the action. I have brought this up with the valets and they just shrug. It seems to me that if you are having that kind of business, you can rent some space in nearby Hillsdale or OHSU and get a shuttle system working.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Ha! I saw the headline and immediately thought of the minivan I encountered, parked in the bike lane, last night at Williams and Hancock.

I’ve got a couple years of commuting that stretch under my belt (although not since 2008) and I’ve never seen such a blatant parking gaffe.

J
Guest
J

Wow, only 2 locations. In NYC, cars parking in bike lanes is a problem basically on every bike lane that exists. It’s so bad that we’ve basically given up hope of clearing standard bike lanes and begun creating physically protected bike lanes, which, in my opinion, work much much better.

G Man
Guest
G Man

When THEY break the law bust’em. When WE break the law ignore it. That’s my motto.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

What I don’t understand: If there is a curbside bike lane that drivers don’t recognize as a bike lane, why are there not any “NO PARKING” signs? Why isn’t there a yellow curb? Why aren’t there signs that say “TOW AWAY ZONE”? Seems like in other areas that authorities or property owners actually CARE about keeping [parked-]car free, there are multiple signs and warnings, including citations of ORS and fine amounts…but not for bike lanes. How do drivers ever know not to just park in a curbside “car” lane? Do we need something other than the 4″/8″ stripe distinction? I don’t think even 2% of non-cyclists understand the difference (I’ve had people try to tell me that the crumbling 1-foot width of pavement on the shoulder of the road was a “bike lane”, and I’d better be “in” it).

To me, the lack of warning signage indicates that bike lanes aren’t taken seriously as lanes of travel. Just as drivers don’t seem to care about parking there and blocking them, the city doesn’t seem to care about making it more clear that those drivers aren’t to be doing that. If I were paranoid, it would almost seem like this: to make the cyclists happy and look like benevolent lawmakers, we’ll make it illegal to park in bike lanes, BUT, we won’t clearly indicate where all the bike lanes are, and we won’t advertise the fact that it’s illegal to park there, and then we won’t ticket people for parking there, cuz, after all, they’re not that clearly marked and there are no warning signs, so how is anybody supposed to know not to park there?

Jean
Guest
Jean

Ok, here’s my pet peeve, and it’s not just inside PDX. Cars pulled over to the side of the road (aka bike lanes) to make their cell phone calls. Then, I come riding along on my bike and am forced into 45 mph traffic while also watching the car. A parked car you know isn’t going to pull out on you. But, someone talking on their cell phone you really don’t know what they will do next.
Is it that hard to wait a few minutes to make/take a phone call?

MinNY
Guest
MinNY

“The problem as I see it, isn’t that people are simply jerks and don’t care about blocking a lane of travel that is reserved for the use of non-motorized vehicles — it’s more likely a lack of signage, enforcement of existing laws, and a general lack of awareness.”

Funny. That’s the difference between Portland and NYC. Here, they know they’re parking in the bike lane and don’t care.

mle
Guest
mle

I noticed the 8 cars parked in the bike lane between NE Broadway and Hancock on Monday night during the Blazers game. And I called them in. 823-SAFE directs you to call Police Non-Emergency after hours when their office is closed. I called Non-Emergency with an ‘After Hours Parking Enforcement Request’. The dispatcher knew right where I was talking about and finished my sentence for me. They had obviously gotten a few calls about it. She told me an officer would be out. Its nice to hear they got ticketed, I wasn’t so sure it would happen, but thought I had to do it.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

My experience with parking enforcement has been great. I’ve had them show up within the hour on multiple occasions.

Freeman
Guest

Many drivers will park against the flow in order to get that ‘perfect’ spot…(ie, right in front of their home or work)…this endangers all roadway users both while they are parking and while leaving said spot….at the very least extremely annoying…at worst, deadly. The road flare idea is okay, but it encourages retribution, anti-biker backlash and criminal charges….if these violators were made to suffer a slight inconvienance….(parking boot – keep ’em there untill an officer frees them?)…my favorite, remove the valve stem cores from 2 of the 4 tires…(only one spare)…and they have to call for Les Schawbb rescue truck…for a .50 cent part….no damage, minor theft…zero guilt. Major headache for the ‘parker’ in question. http://www.ride-this.com/index.php/rema-tip-top-4in1-valve-core-remover.html

John
Guest
John

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Should pedestrians wear license plates?

Nope. Our society has not yet decided that feet are to be considered vehicles… but we have decided that bicycles are vehicles.

So you’re willing to give up an essential liberty – traveling without having to get permission from the Government – over a silly label like “vehicle”?

Cars are registered and their drivers are licensed because they are large, fast and dangerous, and there is a greater government interest in preserving people’s freedom to not get smashed by incompetent operators. Bicycles are none of those things, and do not need registration or licensing.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

There’s still a car parked in the bike lane at N WIlliams and Hancock, at least a whole day later. Looked like it had a number of tickets– but the fact that it remains there 24+ hours later is unacceptable.

Stig10
Guest
Stig10

I got cutoff in the bike lane on E Burnside this afternoon when a pickup pulled over when a passenger had to step out to puke. That’s a new one for me.

And pssst, the Gresham-Fairview Trail is now open from Halsey to the Springwater BTW which is where I was headed.