Bills to prevent parking, driving in bike lanes in final stages

The legislation has met opposition from policymakers outside the Twin Cities.

Brian Arola

 

Bicycling advocates in Minneapolis and across the country often say they want more of their share of the roads, and pro-bicycling legislation at the state Capitol could help grant that wish.

Two bills in the transportation omnibus currently being discussed in conference committee would prohibit cars from driving and parking in bike lanes.

While biking enthusiasts say the bills are common sense, some politicians from outside the Twin Cities have criticized the bills as only being necessary in state bicycling havens like Minneapolis and St. Paul and as something that should be left for cities to decide.

Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, said cities have the ability to keep cars from parking in bike lanes.

“It’s a solution that’s really in search of a problem,” he said during a recent legislative session. “Local jurisdictions already have the ability to assign these locations.”

Speaking to the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, Osmek said prohibiting parking in bike lanes could take away valuable parking spots right in front of local businesses.

But safety is at the forefront of the push for bike-friendly legislation, said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.

“If folks are parking in a bike lane or pulling into bike lanes without any regard for bicyclists in those lanes,” he said, “obviously that creates a pretty significant traffic hazard for bicyclists and drivers.”

Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said most people in the state aren’t even aware of bike lanes, so a statewide law didn’t seem to make sense. He said the law would only confuse motorists and be a way to collect fines.

Confusion about where to park might happen at first, said Sam Newberg, a Minneapolis resident and urban blogger, but people would eventually get used to it.

He said there seemed to be a divide between familiarity with bicycling in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the state.

“[The opposition] is coming from a place of, ‘I just don’t see bikes very often, and why do we have to accommodate them?’”**** he said.

At the Capitol, the bill prohibiting cars from driving in bike lanes drew much less debate.

The ban would be welcomed news to bicyclists on Minnehaha Avenue, said Brandon Wells, spokesman for the south Minneapolis Hub Bicycle Co-op.

He said the street, which has bike lanes, often has problems with cars infringing on bicyclists’ space, especially when the motorists are turning right and crossing into bike lanes. The new legislation would remedy those issues, he said.

“Anything to protect bicyclists in the long run will just be better for everyone,” he said.

Dibble said as more people are bicycling in Minneapolis, they need to feel like their safety is important. The city has 92 miles of street bike lanes.

“This is simply an acknowledgement that bicyclists really do need that consistent message that they need to be treated like any other vehicle using our roads,” he said.

Newberg said in urban settings, pedestrians’ and bicyclists’ rights should be placed above motorists and he’s in favor of the legislation. He cited Chicago’s recently released Complete Streets design guidelines as a good example of a city prioritizing means of transportation other than cars.

Chicago motorists are banned from driving, parking or idling in bike lanes and face a $150 ticket if caught.

The Complete Streets design is a comprehensive set of guidelines for transportation initiatives in the city. It puts motorists in the backseat in the hierarchy of street users.

“All transportation projects and programs, from scoping to maintenance, will favor pedestrians first, then transit riders, cyclists, and automobiles,” the report said.

Newberg said something similar should be an example for other cities.

Despite the opposition, the laws will likely make it through conference committee, Dibble said. Then the full omnibus bill goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his approval.

Wells said he’ll be happy to know the streets will be safer for bicyclists.

“Anything to protect bicyclists in the long run will just be better for everyone,” he said.