Parking in the bike lane is illegal, so why do you keep doing it?

My first car, a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee, had a number of issues when I bought it. The decision to give up driving it in 2016 was a simple one. It saved me the trouble of rehabilitating what just needed to be retired. After a visit to Bullseye Bicycle that same summer, I joined the legion of cyclists in Durham.

Bike Life is a noble one. Cities and its automobile drivers are rarely accommodating and weather conditions can be brutal at the most inopportune times but the health benefits and zero emissions outweigh the drawbacks. For anyone who has never felt the pressure of preparing your day around biking, it's like playing chess; you have to think five steps ahead to be successful. This is on top of strapping an extra 10 pounds to your back because you're traveling with your entire life anywhere you go; computer, computer charger, phone charger, a good book (for us that still enjoy the pleasures of paperback) and a jacket for all the businesses in America that choose to recreate the Arctic Circle inside their building every summer. Good luck if you want to go to the gym because you're bringing an additional, very awkward seven pounds of gym clothes, shoes, and a basketball because the gym never seems to have a serviceable one.

I'm not asking for a pity party. What I am asking for is courtesy on the roads.

The current state of US infrastructure is post- "The Incident" at best with little improvement in sight (except for "The Wall"). As a biker, this makes getting from A to B like a game of Mario Kart, constantly dodging belligerent drivers, debris in the road, and the occasional Chain Chomp.

One of the great achievements of the 21st century is the establishment of a dedicated bike lane. But what was once a safe space for cyclists has become a gutter, collecting sand and rocks, animal carcasses and what is truly the bain of my existence; parked vehicles.

Let's get one thing straight: parking your car in a bike lane is illegal. Against the law. Not allowed. In some states, punishable by death (feel free to take your chances on which state that is). It is an issue that should be policed by the proper authorities. Instead, police cars are too often complicit co-conspirators, in Durham and across the country {1}.

  Photo courtesy of @PSteely on Twitter via The Village Voice. The cops getting on their bikes in the background makes this all the more ironic.

Photo courtesy of @PSteely on Twitter via The Village Voice. The cops getting on their bikes in the background makes this all the more ironic.

Every Sunday, as I leave my neighborhood, I ride by Mount Vernon Baptist Church on South Roxboro Street. Both behind the church and across the street, there are parking lots owned by and dedicated to the attendees of the church including spaces for the disabled and elderly. And yet, every Sunday, there are cars parked in the bike lane in front of the church.

For bikers traveling on Chapel Hill Street, the prospects are no different. Either the people in the apartment complex don't care or don't know that what they're doing is wrong (highly unlikely).

Residents are up in arms in Raleigh about bikes lanes taking away real estate from parked vehicles {2}. All the while, parking decks are sprouting up like an invasive weed (even though they will continue to become obsolete in the coming decade {3}) but bikers can't even get regular maintenance on the existing bike lanes, let alone adding new ones to the transportation infrastructure. In Baltimore, the battle over bike lanes led to one advocacy group suing the city over its proposed plan to tear out a cycle track in one of its neighborhoods {4}.

I am mildly sympathetic to those who see bike lanes as an inconvenience to their comfortable lifestyle behind the wheel but I haven't heard any substantial alternatives to bike lanes from those same people. In the CityLab article (listed below), residents complain about the dangers of driving on roads with dedicated bike lanes:

Protected bike lanes that are carved out of existing streets—often set off from traffic by flexposts, parking lanes, or other barriers—can find themselves under fire because they’re perceived to be taking up space at the expense of cars, or they make it more dangerous for cars and other vehicles to navigate already-narrow roads.
— Andrew Zaleski, CityLab
People were getting ticketed for parking in the wrong spaces and people didn’t like parking next to moving traffic on busy roads.
— John Greenfield, Chicago Reader

Boo-hoo.

Trust me, I've seen some of you drive. I don't want to be anywhere near you on the road any more than you want me in your way. The whole reason for implementing bike lanes in the first place was because of the careless, reckless, impatient behavior of motorists when sharing the road with cyclists. If you think it's dangerous for you in your car, imagine what it's like with only a helmet to protect you from the two-ton hunk of metal hurling itself in your direction.

This country already makes enormous concessions to drivers. Meanwhile, the bike lanes stay cluttered and unsafe forcing cyclists into the dangers of preceding traffic, leading to unnecessary accidents and fatalities {5}.

So here's the trade: you can keep me cycling 10 to 15 mph in front of you in the normal driving lane or you can give me my f-ing bike lane, uninterrupted.