Tagged: etiquette

Parking in bike lanes

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.

Catching up: Round 1

Since I’m bed-ridden for the time being, I thought I’d use this opportunity to catch up on some articles I’ve been meaning to share with you, dear readers.  (If it’s not obvious already, I’m a really bad patient when I’m sick.  I don’t whine or complain or annoy my caretakers; I just have a hard time sitting still and resting for an extended period of time.  After a few hours I’m ready to get up and organize something, or do some laundry, or anything.  I know … I need to work on this.)  I’m going through these in roughly chronological order, so you might have seen some from this first batch, as they are the oldest.  Whatever the case, here we go …

I had a rather unpleasant and unfortunately typical biking on Madison the other day.  It was Monday afternoon, around 5:30, and I was heading home from buying the wrong lightbulbs at Home Depot.  (No, I did not mean to buy the wrong ones.)  I was heading east and had just crossed McLean.  I’m sure you’ve noticed how tight Madison gets right there: parked cars to the right, narrow traffic lanes, little room to bail if something happens.  In hindsight I should have more assertive as I entered that stretch and taken the lane, but for whatever reason, I didn’t.

The first few cars to pass me did so fully in the left lane.  But then an elderly woman driving a Mazda decided to “share the lane” with me, without asking me first of course.  I figure her right-hand-side mirror came within about 18 inches of my handlebars.  It was at that point that I began to yell profanities and make certain hand gestures.

I’ve had a conversation or two about this.  I don’t think I suffer from road rage, at least not when I’m driving my car, but when people come that close to me on my bike, it does touch a nerve. I have made a concerted effort to be less hostile to inconsiderate drivers of late, and more thankful of those that do obey the rules.  So it was with great interest and a feeling of community that I read this article.  I really like the author’s principles of peaceful biking.  As soon as I get back to being a normal human being, I’m going to give them a try.

And speaking of being mindful and calm about the numerous offenses and infractions we cyclists must suffer at the hands of idiot drivers … oh wait, never mind.

But really, here’s a great video on greenway etiquette, courtesy the City of Memphis

Sometimes the planets align in interesting ways and I manage to find not one, not two, but three Star Wars-related custom bike (or bike accessory) articles in one week.  “The Empire Strikes Bike” … how awesome is that?  (h/t to Kyle)

Speaking of awesome

The Bluff City Blues 100 Ride is coming up soon.  I won’t be riding, but maybe you’d like to.  It looks like fun.

It’s never really been a concern of mine, mostly because my hair is pretty short (and my standards of grooming are somewhat “relaxed”), but here’s an interesting take on the issue of helmets and hair.

And finally, bringing it back to being mindful and cycling, here’s a great article about yoga for cyclists, courtesy my pal Leah.

Look for another round of articles soon, my people.

Today’s commute

After taking yesterday off, except for a short ride from home to my local watering hole – less than two miles round trip – I saddled up and set off this morning (OK, this afternoon – I worked from home until around 3:00 PM) to ride to work and get a few things done.  The ride to work was great.  I continued to take it easy, especially on the uphill sections of my ride. I managed to get to work in about 20 minutes, much closer to my regular commute time that in recent rides.

After checking off a few items from my to-do list, I saddled up once again to run a few errands.  Fortunately, most of the errands were in very close proximity, in and around the stores at Poplar Plaza.  From work I rode to the Post Office on Prescott Street then to the UPS Store on Highland.  (I had to drop off an empty canister of CO2 for shipment, which is not something I do very often, but my wife and I are huge devotees of our Sodastream soda maker, so when duty calls, I answer.)  After the UPS store, I biked to the best video store of all time, then home.

Overall the ride was really good.  My knee started aching a bit toward the end, probably due to pushing a little too hard and riding a little too far, but after some stretching and relaxing at home, it feels better.  The weather was a bit nasty; cold throughout and rainy toward the end.  I was fairly well soaked by the time I got home, but nothing a hot shower couldn’t fix.  I forgot to turn MotionX GPS back on when I biked home from Black Lodge, so the official trip length estimate of 8.41 miles is a bit low.  But my maximum speed is slowly increasing, which I take as a good sign.

I even got some good biking love today.  When I was waiting in line at the post office the woman in line in front of me struck up a conversation.  She said that she had passed me in traffic on Central Avenue and seemed a but surprised that I was in line behind her.  I joked that she had probably seen me make a few obscene gestures toward the drivers passing me in traffic.  (More on that later.)  I was surprised to hear her say that she didn’t blame me.  (It might’ve been her fur coat that rendered me so taken aback.)

She went on to say that the bike lanes recently installed on Southern Avenue have inconvenienced her a bit, as it slows down her commute somewhat.  But she didn’t seem at all cheesed by this – in fact she said that the bike lanes were a long time coming to Memphis.  That made me really happy.  Outside the post office an elderly gentleman remarked on my multitude of taillights, saying how I looked ready to go.  I laughed and said I was.

It’s not often that I hear positive comments about my biking from two strangers in one day, and it was especially welcome after my ride down Central Avenue, from my building on campus to S. Reese St.  Reese is an ideal connector between Central and the Poplar Plaza.  A two-lane residential street, it’s not very heavily traveled, especially compared to Highland between Central and Poplar.  Plus, the Chickasaw Gardens route is accessible from Reese, so I can bike from Kroger all the way home on any number of routes without accessing four-lane roads.

The ride down Central from my building to Reese is maybe half a mile, not even five minutes in duration.  In that time I had at least two vehicles break the three-feet rule.  I was certainly holding up my part of the deal, riding as close to the curb as is “practicable” (a direct quote from the updated municipal cycling code).  Unfortunately, drivers often don’t do the same.  Once there was a car in the left lane stopped waiting to turn.  As I overtook the car in the far side of the right lane some douchebag in a minivan decided to shoot the gap between me and the car.  He came so close to me that, had his passenger window been open, I could have reached in and adjusted the volume on his car stereo with little effort. Another driver just made no effort to move over in his lane when he was passing me.  Rude and illegal.

I should sign off now as this is really getting my dander up and I have a crap-ton of stuff to do today.  I’ll try to reserve my energy for a later post on driver (and cyclist) etiquette.  (It’s not only the internally combusting inhabitants of the road that cheese me off.)  To end on a positive note, in a few hours I’m off to the (annual?) Bicycle Swap Meet then to Shelby Farms for a photo shoot of me and my bike.  I was going to spend my entire day on my bike today, but given my slightly ambitious commute yesterday, I think I’ll going to take it easy.