Our government in action: Encouraging drivers to park in bike lanes

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.

Evidently, the DMV thinks drivers should have the right to park here.

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?

No problem.

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.

The only good news is, it is against the law to double park. And as Enci points out, most bike lanes in L.A. — and throughout California — run adjacent to the parking lane.

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.


  1. […] DMV Encouraging Drivers to Park in Bike Lanes (Biking In L.A.) […]

  2. Digital Dame says:

    I don’t see this too much up here, but one time when I had to dodge a car in the bike lane, as I came up on the parked vehicle and slowed to look over my shoulder to see if I could get around, lo and behold, a couple cars back was a cop. No doubt he watched as I took the lane, because he pulled in right behind the car which looked unoccupied. When I came back a little while later, the car was gone. I’m guessing it was towed.

  3. Evan says:

    Sorry everyone, but I hope Contador wipes the floor with Lance. I’ll be rooting for Vandevelde, as usual, and I also like the Schleck brothers. But man, I’m really getting tired of Lance.

    • bikinginla says:

      I just want a great race, where none of the leaders get DQ’d for doping. Is that too much to ask?

      • TheTricksterNZ says:

        I’d rather see Sastre win again as the man is a gentleman and a scholar.

        Or for hilarity (and a bit of antipodean pride even though he’s from our neighbours/closest rivals) it’d be good to see ‘Cuddles’ finally win instead of being the also-ran every year.

        Also, while he’s nowhere near the tour yet, keep an eye out for a kid called Michael Vink from down here. Got 2nd in the TT Nats and then broke and solo’d 150k of the 184k National road race before getting about 5km from the line by two TdF pro’s and a third bloke. He’s only just turned 18 and has a HUGE future ahead of him.

        Don’t forget, you heard it here first.

  4. […] related: It’s legal to park in bike lanes in California, just in case you didn’t know. My little town has a local ordinance that prohibits street […]

  5. […] Our government in action: Encouraging drivers to park in bike lanes   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, … […]

  6. dragon23 says:

    Are you serious. I mean c’mon really. I applaud you american right to complain. Bike lanes usually are just painted on existing streets as a compromise for the timid bicyclist that wouldn’t ride in the lane they were supposed to originally. Cities didn’t widen the streets to give you a special lane genius. If parking is allowed on the street, which it usually should be, then you have to occasionally inconvenience yourself and merge into the normal flow of traffic to pass the parked car. The same way I have to slow and pass bicyclists, changing lanes if needed. Both parties motorist and bicyclists need to learn to SHARE the road, and by road I mean the space between the two sidewalks, in case there was any confusion.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, a bike lane is legally a traffic lane, and it is against the law to block a traffic lane. Parking in a bike lane should be no more allowed than parking in a vehicle lane. And while this inconsistency in the law has been corrected in most California cities, it needs to be addressed on the state level.

      If we have to experience the “inconvenience” of swerving out into traffic to avoid parked cars in the lane devoted to bike traffic, why shouldn’t drivers have to swerve to avoid cars parked in the other traffic lanes?

      Oh, and thank you for recognizing my genius. I appreciate that.

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