When Will Drivers Parking in Bike Lanes Get the Attention of Denver PD?

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Photo: Kyle Kline/Twitter

Last week the Denver Police Department, cheered on by CBS 4, made a concerted effort to scold people who bike through stop signs or on sidewalks.

Denver PD’s focus on bicyclist behavior is curious. No city has made its streets safe for bicycling by punishing people on bikes. Even the Hancock administration’s bike safety analysis found that unsafe driving behavior is more likely to result in injury than unsafe biking behavior.

What if, instead of fining people on bikes who break the rules because streets are hostile to them, Denver PD enforced the law so streets become less hostile?

In Toronto, parking enforcement officers just finished a week-long “ticket blitz” of drivers parking in bike lanes, a constant and largely unenforced problem in Denver. Toronto agents charged drivers $150 per violation in what the Toronto Star editorial board called a welcome and long overdue push to protect bicyclists:

This effort wasn’t, as some will surely claim, part of a larger war on cars. Rather, it was a welcome message to drivers that parking in bicycle lanes doesn’t just inconvenience cyclists. It also endangers them and thus contributes to widespread anxiety about city biking that leads many to abandon the practice altogether.

That’s a shame. Anything that deters people from choosing to cycle instead of drive is bad for Toronto. Cycling is healthier, better for the environment and an important way for Torontonians to counter the city’s nightmarish gridlock.

Toronto officers wrote 6,500 violations last year to drivers obstructing bike lanes, according to the Star. Denver PD has not provided similar data requested by Streetsblog. What we do know is that Denver’s enforcement is mostly complaint-driven, not a response to measurable public safety risks, and that no agency takes responsibility for it.

Police Chief Robert White says he’s committed to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries in Denver. If so, he’ll have to start enforcing the rules of the road to protect cyclists and pedestrians — the most vulnerable people on the street — instead of singling them out for punishment.

  • MT

    Not to excuse the drivers at all, but it would really help if there were something more substantial than a plastic stick every 40 feet to “protect” the bike lanes.

  • mckillio

    He is parked at a parking meter, so…

    • Brian Jeffrey

      No, someone else is LEGALLY already parked at that meter.

      • mckillio

        You’re right. I knew that’s how they worked and I still forgot about it. So I can certainly see why that would be confusing. Maybe they should use the meters as the separators.

        • Brian Jeffrey

          Confusing? Perhaps. Nothing like a cop with a ticket book to provide enlightenment. From my observation riding around the downtown area, the majority of motorists get it, as witnessed by all the legally parked cars in this pic. I’d rather they spend funds on creating more safe lanes for cyclists than for the cost of moving 1000’s of parking meters.

  • Brian Schroder

    I think Denver actually encourages bad parking behavior to benefit from parking fine revenue so why would they discourage illegal parking in a bicycle lane?

    • Alison Torvik

      Because they don’t fine them. Therefore, they don’t get the fine.

      • Brian Schroder

        I got fined before the bike lane was official and before the lane was complete and realigned. I felt horrible since I have a share the road license plate.

  • John Riecke

    This should be an automatic tow. They’re parked in a traffic lane.

  • jc_denver

    There is a parking meter right there…. Look at the picture

    • Nick Orticelle

      This is a parking protected bike lane. The cars to the left of this one are parked legally, and the drivers will walk across the bike lane to get to the meter.

  • deadindenver

    Denver has an army of parking ticket writers that ticket virtually every conceivable violation, but this they let go?

  • ecycled

    A good situation showing the need for a proper, separated bike lane (see picture). Honestly this design is the bargain basement blue light special when compared with design standards that truly address the needs of both cyclists and automobiles. DPW you can do better. And yes, DP lets get tickets on the windshields of these cars.

    A great resource (well illustrated) of how to do things right can be found in MassDOT’s Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guidelines (link below).

    https://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/8/docs/SBLG/Chapter3_GeneralDesign.pdf

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