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

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.