in Green, Raleigh, Weather

Bike lanes or parking places?

The family and I had a very active day yesterday, taking advantage of the balmy (if cloudy) 75 degree weather. First I met my brother for a run around Shelley Lake. After that, the family and I did some biking along the Crabtree Creek Greenway. After a quick lunch, we took some of the kids’ friends with us to Buffalo Road Aquatic Center for a swim. I call it a triathlon, though Kelly insists that it’s not.

There is a sewer line replacement project taking place along the greenway and, as a result, we had to detour onto Anderson Drive to get around the construction. Upon reaching Anderson Drive, I was dismayed to see there were no sidewalks but a bike lane instead. That would’ve been fine but there were a number of cars parked along the street, sending my family and me out into traffic to get around them.

I became curious about the legality of parking in bicycle lanes. It turns out the rules aren’t really clear. The city code says it’s unlawful to block bicycle lanes:

Sec. 11-3006. – USE OF BIKE LANES BY MOTOR VEHICLES.permanent link to this piece of content

It shall be unlawful for any person to drive, stop or stand any motor vehicle in any bike lane designated as such except when necessary to gain access to and from a public street or alley and/or private driveway or other entrance way and except that a driver may stop temporarily during the actual loading and unloading of passengers or materials if otherwise permitted in this chapter or if necessary to obey traffic regulations or signs or signals of a police officer.

(Code 1959 , ยง6A-6)

Yet, the definitions in that chapter of code seem to indicate that parking may be permitted in bike lanes (emphasis mine):

Bicycle lane:

Those bikeways on existing street rights-of-way where a portion of the roadway is set aside for exclusive bicycle use and designated by signs placed on vertical posts or stencilled on the pavement and by a painted line marking the bicycle lane on the pavement. Through travel by motor vehicles or pedestrians is prohibited. Vehicular parking may or may not be allowed or it may be restricted to certain hours of each day. Cross-flows by motor vehicles and pedestrians when necessary to gain access to and from a public street or alley and/or a private driveway or other entranceway are permitted.

So which is it? Who knows! Anderson Drive has bike lane stripes on the road but I saw no other indication of bike lanes, such as a sign. Maybe it’s there and I just didn’t see it. Furthermore, there aren’t any “no parking” signs next to the bike lanes, so homeowners have no way of knowing what they’re allowed to do.

So, now that we’ve discovered conflicting information on the ground regarding bike lanes, we know we should check the code to clear up what constitutes a bike lane, right? Uh, wrong. The code helpfully defines some of Raleigh’s earliest bike lanes but doesn’t list Anderson Drive. That seems to me to mean that, while the paint on the road is comforting, it won’t stop the bike lane from getting completely ignored should drivers and residents see fit.

With all the new bike lanes being built around the city, it seems to me that the city code needs to be updated so that new lanes don’t require city code changes. Local blog Multi-Mode Raleigh looked into this issue last summer. I’ll see if I can track down what came of the recommendations of Raleigh’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Commission.

  1. There are several streets in Raleigh with sharrows. Anderson Drive has a mix of them. The cars I saw were definitely parked in the officially-striped bike lanes, however.

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