Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Why Shouldn't I Park in the Bike Lane?

Why do we even need bike lanes?



Bicycles are vehicles under the law in Ontario. Cyclists may use the roads under the same laws as other vehicles.



But cyclists are a lot more vulnerable than motorists, especially on roads with heavy traffic. Cyclists have been killed at a modest but pretty steady rate on Toronto streets through collisions with cars. Over the decade from 1992-2001, there were 32 cyclist fatalities. To make bicycling safer, and to encourage more of it (because it reduces traffic wear on roads, and pollution), small lanes have been been set aside for bicycle use only aside on some major roads.



Setting aside small parts of the roadway isn't unusual. Cities often set aside lanes or entire roads for particular uses only -- like carpool lanes only for high occupancy vehicles (to encourage carpooling and reduce traffic), or forbidding heavy trucks on residential roads (for safety, to reduce noise and road wear-and-tear), or forbidding cyclists on highways. Nor are there a lot of bike lanes; Toronto has 51,000 km of roads, and 59 km of bike lanes; about one kilometer of bike lane for each 865 km of roads.


Is it even illegal to briefly stop in the bike lane?



The bicycle lanes are meant for traffic of vehicles. They are actual roadways, not the shoulder of a road. Blocking the bike lane, then, is blocking the roadway, covered under section 170 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, and punishable by fines of up to $100 and having the vehicle towed; this is on top of whatever parking infractions might have occured.


Who does it hurt if I stop briefly in the bike lane?



The 2003 Bicycle/Motor-Vehicle Accident Report is a detailed look of accidents that were reported to police between bicyclists and motor vehicles over the course of two years (1997 and 1998). Over that period, there were 2156 reported cyclist injuries from bike/car collisions, and ten cyclist deaths.



Obstructions of the bicycle path was a factor in at least seventeen of those accidents (`at least' because external contributing factors were only spottily reported in the police reports that provided the data). In these cases where the bike path being blocked was known to be a factor, six cyclists were sent to the hospital, and one was killed. Usually (eleven of the seventeen cases) when the bike lane was blocked, the car hit the bicyclist from behind in these cases -- which, maybe surprisingly, is one of the more fatal forms of car-bike collisions because the cyclist is likely run over as well as simply hit. That is why blocking the bike path, although accounting for as few as 17 of the over 2000 bike-car accidents over that period, contributed to almost a third of the cyclist fatalities those years.



On a road with a bike lane, drivers aren't expecting to have to deal with bicylists in the other lanes. A major road with a bicycle lane which is occasionally blocked means cyclists have to weave between the bike lane and the other lanes where drivers don't expect to see them, meaning a blocked bike lane can be more dangerous than no bike lane at all. The results can be a car-bicycle accident (in the 2003 report, the accidents were almost always with private cars), or a car-car accident as a driver swerves to avoid the cyclist.


Is it always illegal to stop in the bike lane?



It's pretty much always illegal to stop in the bike lane, for exactly the same reason that it's illegal to block a lane of car traffic. Having your hazards on doesn't make it legal, doing it only briefly doesn't make it legal, loading a couch into the car doesn't make it legal, and certainly none of those makes it any safer for cyclists.



There are exceptions, of course, but they are very limited. If a car breaks down, there's not much you can do if there's no where nearby to push it. An emergency vehicle responding to an emergency has to stop where it has to stop, and road work needs to happen on the roads. But unless it would be legal to stop in one of the other lanes, it isn't legal to stop in the bike lane.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be useful to also post here instructions of when it IS good for a car to enter the bike lane - many don't know how to make a proper right hand turn by merging into the bike lane and try to hook the cyclist in the bike lane instead.

11:55 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many drivers are ignorant bullies. They also are known to drive their cars right against the curb, not allowing cyclists to pass. I was yelled at by one of these drivers as I was forced to walk my bicycle past her huge, ungodly pick-up truck. "You're not supposed to pass on the right side, buddy! Learn the rules of the road!"
Of course, after screaming this at me, who was where I was supposed to be, she proceeded to run a solid red light.
When they are in the bike lanes we should smash their windows with our bike locks, maybe then they will learn.

11:46 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your sided statement did not make any suggestions in regards to how vehicles needing to stop for a short period (ie. couriers, service or delivery trucks) can do so on a street with a bike lane. Any ideas?

11:30 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: anonymous #3:

"Your sided statement did not make any suggestions in regards to how vehicles needing to stop for a short period (ie. couriers, service or delivery trucks) can do so on a street with a bike lane. Any ideas"

I have a suggestion: Don't. I can cite reasons to support this: The Law.

5:31 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link to gis.esri.com you provided states 5,100 km of roads in Toronto, not 51,000 km as you wrote. Cheers.

3:59 AM

 
Blogger Felcunje said...

It is safer to block a bike lane an not impede the flow of car traffic. Bikes can go around you the same way cars go around a guy who stopped with his 4 ways on.

1:36 PM

 
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10:59 AM

 

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