It’s against the law to drive in a bike lane. But not, apparently, to park in one.
At least, not here in the late great Golden State.
I found that out this morning as I was reading through the California Driver Handbook, looking for ways it could help educated drivers about the rights of cyclists, and how to drive safely and courteously around bikes. And there it was, on page 26, in the section on Bicycle Lanes.
You may park in a bike lane unless a “No Parking” sign is posted.
That set me off on a daylong search of the California Vehicle Code. And unbelievably, I couldn’t find a single word prohibiting parking in bike lane. Or any specifically permitting it, for that matter.
A Class 1 off-road bike path, yes.
In fact, you’re not allowed to sit, stand, block, park, or otherwise obstruct an off-road bike path in any way. Which would no doubt come as a surprise to the many people who sit, stand, block and otherwise obstruct the beachfront bike path through Santa Monica and Venice.
But while that can be a major pain in the butt when you’re out for a ride, it’s not likely to result in serious injury.
On the other hand, blocking a bike lane could, by forcing cyclists out into the traffic lane where drivers aren’t likely to be looking for them — especially if there’s a bike lane present.
As noted above, there are restrictions against driving in a bike lane, except to turn or park. There are restrictions against parking on a sidewalk, in a crosswalk, within 15 feet of the driveway of a fire station, or next to an obstruction or excavation if it would block a traffic lane.
But parking in the only lane on the street specifically devoted to bikes?
Cyclists are actually required to use the bike lane if there’s one available on the street they’re riding, although they are allowed to leave it to pass, turn or avoid an obstruction. Such as a car parked in their way, for instance.
So there actually is a benefit to all those bike lanes that force you to ride in the door zone.
At least it keeps cars from parking there.
Try it yourself. Take a look at the DMV’s list of traffic infractions, and see if you can find a single one for parking in or blocking an on-street bike lane.
Update: Stephen Box, L.A.’s leading bike activist, points out that parking in a bike lane is prohibited in Los Angeles under the city’s Municipal Code, under a revision passed just three years ago — and which was, not surprisingly, opposed by LADOT. There’s also an argument to be made that CVC 21211 prohibits parking in on-street (Class II) bike lanes; however, since it refers specifically to Class I bikeways, that’s a grey area at best. And it does nothing to address a state Drivers Handbook that tells motorists they can park in any bike lane they want, unless there’s signage specifically prohibiting it.
The LAPD demonstrates a lack of understanding of state traffic laws; evidently, the California Highway Patrol doesn’t do much better. A reader forwards the webpage for Robert Painter’s ghost bike, the cyclist killed in North Hollywood last month. Stephen Box says words matter when you call traffic motorists and collisions accidents. Bob Mionske writes that the Thompson trial was just one case, not a sea change for cyclists. A local rider recalls his two greatest calamities, as evidence that we have a long way to go. The next Dim Sum Ride kicks off this Sunday. In praise of cheap neon fixies. A new bike mural debuts in Atascadero. A Connecticut writer says Vulnerable Users laws have a downside, too. Who needs headphones when you can turn your helmet into a speaker? You do wear a helmet, right? Is there sexism in cycling? U.S. bicycling trips are up 25% — to a whopping 1% of all trips. Facebook refuses to remove the anti-cycling hate group; that may be okay, though, because cyclists are taking it over. Lance says he can beat Contador; the odds makers beg to differ. An English rider writes in Time about going motor-free for a full year. A Budapest transit strike means opportunity for that city’s cyclists. This beautiful Japanese bike was handcrafted almost entirely in wood. Sometimes, pretty pictures of Scotland in winter are enough. Finally, a hilarious take on a Colorado cycling fail. And Yahuda Moon reminds us that visionary cycling plans start with politics.