I’ve seen it many times; I’m sure you have too. Sometimes it’s a landscaping truck, or a broken-down car. Sometimes it’s an MLGW truck or even a Memphis Police Department vehicle. A friend of mine on facebook even began to chronicle it on his wall. As the subject line suggests, this post is about parking in bike lanes.
I don’t have any statistics or photos to share with you. Usually I’m too busy to stop and take pictures or do a count of vehicles parked in bike lanes when I’m biking to school. It appears to be more common on Southern Avenue than Madison, probably because there is already on-street parking on Madison. I hear that it’s an issue on McLean as well.
None of this should be particularly surprising. For all the acclaim the bikes lanes have received, many Memphians are not used to them. Part of that stems from the fact that new lanes are being added on an ongoing basis, so drivers haven’t had a lot of time to adjust to them. And they’ve only just recently begun to infiltrate the most dense and heavily-trafficked parts of the city, on roads like Peabody, Madison, and McLean. Nonetheless, the lanes are here to stay, so we have to do what we can to educate drivers and ourselves about the proper use of these lanes.
For more information on the city’s rules about bike lanes, visit Municode, a repository of municipal codes from across the country. Click on Tennessee, then Memphis, then the Memphis Code of Ordinances link. The relevant code is found in Title 11, Chapter 11-24.
I’ll quote from the code here. In Section 11-24-9, the code says that “[e]very person operating a motor vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a person operating a bicycle within a bicycle lane. A person operating a motor vehicle may cross a bicycle lane when making a turn or when entering or leaving the roadway, but a bicycle lane shall not be used as a turning lane or passing lane.” It goes on to say that “[m]otor vehicles shall not be parked, stopped or left standing in a bicycle lane unless the city has determined that parking within the bicycle lane in specific locations is appropriate during certain hours and official signs have been erected in the designated areas to that effect or the city engineer has issued written special permission parking for a specific event during certain hours.” That’s as clear as I can imagine.
So the challenge now is on two fronts: education and enforcement. On the first front, the city recently released a video which discusses the proper etiquette in the use of bike lanes. It’s a great video, short and to the point. And hey, that male cyclist looks familiar, doesn’t he?
On the second front, we must rely on the Memphis Police Department. I called the MPD today for more information about the fines that could be levied on a vehicle parked in a bike lane but was unable to get a response. (Don’t worry: I didn’t take it personally. I know that our city police are pulled in many directions and I always appreciate their part in making Memphis a better place to live.) But according to the city’s code, parking in bike lanes is a misdemeanor offense, so I imagine that the penalty is similar to what would be levied for a parking ticket.
Hopefully, continued education, vigorous enforcement, and the accumulation of experience in dealing with bike lanes – plus lots of cyclists using those lanes – will resolve many of the unlawful uses of these lanes. We’ll likely never reach a point of 100% respect and compliance, but by working together we can insure that bike lanes are used only for their intended purposes: giving cyclists a safe place to ride.