It’s okay to park in the bike lane?

On my commute home on Thursday, I had an interesting encounter with a motorist.

On Thursdays, I travel along Keats Way roughly at the time that Keats Way Public School lets out.  There are always motor vehicles parked in the bike lane on the south side of Keats Way.  But today, for the first time, I encountered an SUV parked on the north side (westbound) bike lane, blocking my way.

I asked the driver why she had parked in a bike lane, and to my surprise, she responded that it was fine because “there are no signs prohibiting it, and the traffic police says it’s okay”.  She was indeed correct that there were no signs indicating a parking prohibition, but I would be rather interested to meet these supposed traffic cops, because here are the laws about parking in a bike lane in Waterloo:

From City of Waterloo Bylaw 08-077 Section 3 (a) xxv:

Unless otherwise permitted in this By-law, no person shall park a vehicle on any highway in such a manner so as to obstruct any designated bicycle lane, provided that this shall not prohibit:

– a momentary stopping of transit buses at signs marking a bus stop

– taxis actively engaged in receiving or discharging passengers

– or, other motor vehicles while actively engaged in receiving or discharging passengers

Parking in a bike lane is not otherwise permitted elsewhere in the bylaw, and a “highway” refers to any public roadway, including Keats Way.  As a side note, I find it strange that taxis are singled out, despite the rule being the same for them as for everyone else.

There is no specific definition for being “actively engaged in receiving or discharging passengers”, but I would feel confident saying that waiting fifteen minutes for someone to show up is not included.

In searching for the legality of parking in a bike lane, I discovered a major challenge to its enforcement: every municipality has its own laws about parking.

Citizens cannot reasonably be expected to know the laws from each individual municipality.  Many motorists would not even know what municipality they are in.  I know that I personally do not know where the exact border is between Kitchener and Waterloo.

That said, the laws regarding bike lanes are typically the same, and Kitchener’s parking rules are word-for-word identical.  But still, I think it would make sense for parking regulations such as bike lane rules to be officially standardized on a provincial level.

The main issue raised by my encounter is that some member of the public is unaware that there are rules regarding  other than those posted.   One popular suggestion for improving road users’ knowledge of road rules is to license them.  But as you may be aware, drivers are already licensed.

I do not have a clear answer as to how we could reduce the occurrence of bike lane parking.  My suggestion would be to move the bike lanes off the roadway to eliminate the issue altogether.  But on-street bike lanes do have a place in our transportation system, so even this option is not final.  Enforcement would be essential for the on-street bike lanes which do exist.

What else can we do to reduce bike lane parking?

7 thoughts on “It’s okay to park in the bike lane?

  1. I would imagine that providing actual parking would solve the problem. Parents pick up their kids at roughly the same time each day. It would make sense to designate a parking area for the parents during X and Y times of the day.
    Regarding other situations, there’s very little that can be done, unless there’s room in the budget for hiring a few hundred more by-law enforcers.
    The ugly reality is that most people break minor laws like this on a daily basis. The motivations vary, but the consensus is that it is very unlikely they will get caught, and even if they do get caught, they get away with a warning.

  2. There is no parking in a bike lane. The bike lane is a diamond lane traffic lane. These kinds of lanes are exclusionary. The ONLY thing allowed in a bicycle diamond lane is a bicycle. People may enter and exit a diamond lane in order to make a turn when they are not the intended vehicle for the diamond lane. That’s it.

    What makes me oh so very happy is that the diamond lane for bicycles on Father David Bauer will no long be usable for the lazy at the Perimeter Institute when they have an event. The center boulivard makes it impossible to park there and allow cars by. By extension, the diamond lane for bicycles should remain free and clear for bicycles. Wandering cars excepted *rolls eyes*.

  3. On behalf of bob – wordpress wasn’t cooperating –

    How about separated bike lanes? It’s unlikely that cars will park in a bike lane if those bike lanes are separated from motorized lanes by a curb, or, even better, a barrier.

    But curb-separated bike lanes are apparently not working in Toronto: “How Not To Design A Separated Bike Lane” (which also shows how it should be done, as in Montreal).

    Keep pushing for a completely separated bicycle infrastructure. Some nice (and less nice) examples here: “Separated Bike Lanes” (appears to be content injected into a hacked web site, but serves as a good illustration of bike lanes).

    And something else I ran across while looking for examples: “BlogTO: How should the city separate its new bike lanes?

    Incidentally, separated bike lanes wouldn’t just keep the car-parkers out, but would keep cyclists a whole lot safer too. Imagine that!


      1. Possibly,he’s been weighing in on the topic on CBC’s facebook page, twitter and the Waterloobikes facebook page as well. We want to get the word out and ensure there’s a large contingent of cyclists at Wednesday’s community feedback on the proposed King Street designs. Let’s get the best design for all users of King Street!

  4. The street I live off of has ‘No Parking’ signs every 10 or 15 metres. As do the majority of streets with bike lanes here.
    People usually only park in them to drop off or pick someone up. I can’t say I ever encounter a car sitting empty and left for long period. Taxi’s and couriers are usually no more than 3 minutes (at the most), but usually under a minute. In most cases courier vehicles are too large to properly fit in a drive-way also.

    Parents dropping their kids off (which actually does bother me), are no more then 1 minute.
    Streets with a fair amount of transport truck traffic, you will get the odd 18-wheeler parked in the bike lane, but since there generally isn’t anywhere they can fit into to park, it doesn’t bother me.

    1. I find there are plenty of bike lanes in the region without “No Parking” signs.

      I might add that in Toronto, even stopping in a bike lane is illegal, unless you are a taxi, or if you are unloading a person with a disability.

      Click to access bike_lane_bylaw_handbill.pdf

      It’s possible the last clause (which I agree seems redundant) was added on later?

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