Eyes on the Street: The 15th Street Postal Delivery Lane

USPS in 15th St. Bike Lane
Technically, this may not be illegal in Denver. Photo: David Sachs

On the way to Streetsblog Denver’s office in LoDo yesterday morning, a driver with the United States Postal Service was clogging up the 15th Street protected bike lane with his van. He plopped himself right behind a “No Parking Any Time” sign.

As you can see from the picture above, he left no room for me or other people on bikes to pass without riding into traffic. I tapped on the vehicle’s window as cars brushed by on the right. I told him he was parked in a dedicated bike lane, and he was forcing me into a dangerous situation.

“Where am I supposed to park?” he said, as if the only possible place to come to a stop is immediately in front of one’s destination.

“Where am I supposed to ride?” I rebutted, pointing at the “no parking” sign.

“So call the cops,” he said.

Call the cops. That’s one option, but enforcement should be preventive, not reactionary. The responsibility lies with Denver police to strictly enforce rules against parking in bike lanes, so people on bikes don’t have to worry about getting forced into traffic or interrupting their trips to call 911.

The 15th Street protected lane is obviously meant solely for bikes, but the lack of enforcement allows cars to treat it otherwise. Drivers can be fined up to $175, towed, and cited, but how often does that happen?

Drivers also have to obey posted “no parking” signs. But there’s a loophole in the municipal code that allows drivers of certain vehicles to ignore those signs based on the “traffic engineer’s discretion.” Perhaps the postal service is permitted to do that, which would explain the driver’s air of entitlement. Some companies consider tickets for parking illegally the cost of doing business. Maybe the fines should be graduated for them so that’s no longer the case.

Accommodating drivers who insist on parking right in front of their destination negates the purpose of protected bike lanes. The City and County of Denver and the Denver Police Department need to strictly enforce the prohibition against parking in bike lanes, otherwise bike infrastructure won’t deliver on the protection it’s supposed to provide.