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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

How to deal with cars parked in bike lanes

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This afternoon I was in Little Italy running some errands when I saw a police officer duo on bike patrol. Three cars were parked in the bike lane ahead of them so I thought I would watch with a little bit of glee as they dismounted and gave the vehicles tickets. Instead, they rode past and completely ignored the parking violation.

Cars parked in bike lanes is one of my greatest pet peeves in this city. I can only imagine what the officers would’ve done if three cyclists had parked their bikes in the car lane.

When I got back to the Spacing office I dug out a poster I designed last summer but never did anything with. I’ve posted it on Spacing’s Flickr account (you can download the different sized versions by clicking on “All Sizes”, or if you want a high-res version you can grab it from Photobucket). We encourage any and all of you to download it, put it on your blogs and web sites, post it on utility poles near parking spots with bike lanes, or photocopy it and place it on windshields when appropriate. We have left space at the bottom of the poster for you to include your group’s logo or whatever you want to place there (feel free to remove our logo/website entirely if you wish).

The most important thing is to get the message out to the general public on how important it is for cyclists to have an unobstructed path free from the dangers of cars and trucks. We need to communicate better on how cyclists and drivers need to share the road and show respect for one another.

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We’d be very happy to supply any organization with a high-resolution version if they have problems downloading it from the above mentioned sites. Please contact us by phone (416 644 1017) or by email.



  1. My biggest pet peeve is bikes driving in front of me in car lanes.

  2. Chris, the only lanes I can think of that are “car lanes” are on the DVP or 400 series highways, and I’ve not yet seen a bike on them. All the other road lanes are traffic lanes, and bikes are traffic.

  3. does anyone know if it is actually illegal to park in bike lanes? and who deals with the violation – parking police or the “real” police??? i question whether it is actually an offence because i’ve never ever seen any car in a bike lane ticketed. parking police are always around but noticeably absent in the bike lanes…

  4. Yes, it is a violation, though almost completely unenforced and the fine (CDN$40) is pathetic.

    This city does not take bike lane enforcement seriously. It makes me absolutely furious.

  5. Fabulous image – thanks.
    THe cops don’t do well at enforcing other hazards of the cartillery either, like speed limits, or this, or that, in large measure because most of them drive in every day.
    And sometimes, what else are delivery folks supposed to do – use a back alley? or haul materials from around the corner?
    Perhaps we might do better with a massive repainting of our streets with the “sharrow” markings which are used in Chicago, and may be coming here soon. They’re bike symbols with arrows and at least begin to mark off the part of the gutter with its glass, potholes and sewer grates and debris that we’re supposed to ride in. While we do have a lot of good respectful car drivers, these symbols might help get the message into all of the carcooned.
    But to get depressed or angry, go to martino’s bikelanediary and look at a post of what the City of Copenhagen does for bikes.

  6. Can you imagine a car having to steer around a bicycle stopped in the middle of a street, going up on to the sidewalk? Probably more difficult and dangerous than a biker doing the same thing. Although, I guess a car could just drive through the bike.

    Anyways, if the city is going to have bicycle lanes, they might as well enforce them.

  7. does anyone know of any groups that ride around toronto and actively confront bike lane parkers? you know, just pull up and ask what they are doing in the bike lane? i would be interested in doing something like this but there is of course strength in numbers…

  8. I seriously think cyclists should petition the Toronto Police Department to allow us (or anyone actually) to perform a sort of “citizen’s arrest” on bike lane parkers.
    We would take a picture of the offending car – 1 shot close enough to get the license plate, a 2nd shot wide enough to conclusively prove that the car is in a bike lane.
    Then we would mail the photos to the cops, and they would accept it as good enough proof to issue a ticket to the motorist.

  9. Fantastic poster!
    >Green Monster – Do you mean doing something(s) like this?
    It is a superb cartoon that makes me smile every time.
    I think Bradford has a good point in that raising the fine and having enforcement ‘blitzes’ would be useful. I say blitzes since it is clear that making the extremely radically move to total enforcement, all the time would produce such a shock to the city as we know it that it would somehow cause a rift in the time-space continuum and open up a wormhole that all of college street from Euclid to University would be sucked into.

    Wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful – and logical – if the City would do a campaign during bike week where parking enforcement officers actively search out and ticket motorists in the bike lane?
    If we can’t actually get bike lanes, at the very least the City should do all it can to enforce laws and proper usage for the ones we do have.

  10. I love the idea, but I have an issue with the image; why use a photo containing a cyclist riding on the sidewalk? Does that not send the wrong message?

  11. Great poster! Very good point by david though.

    I am one who confronts bike lane thiefs. Why should we be forced into oncoming traffic that gets even more angry because we are intruding on “their” lanes? Usually, I am told to “fuck off” or something similar. I usually reply by getting off my bike, if I have nothing immediate to attend to, and invite them to step out of their car and use that language to my face. You can imagine the result is usually cowardice, everybody is a tough guy in their car not in person. It is mostly a bad idea for fat, lazy people to enrage anyone who spends most of their time on a bike building their muscles and endurance.
    I have been struck by a car (on the sidewalk while walking) and I have no love lost for assholes who blatantly thumb their nose at the law and my safety.
    U-lock justice cyclers! U lock justice.

  12. On College, a block east of Bathurst, a police cruiser was parked in a bike lane.

    I wish I had my camera with me.

  13. I don’t understand why cyclists don’t understand the dislike they sometimes draw from motorists when they are impeding cars from travelling at the speeds the road was designed for (ie faster than a bike can go). If I were a pedestrian walking in the bike lane, and you were forced to slow your bike to a crawl and walk behind me, you’d feel pretty annoyed, right? That’s how motorists feel about you sometimes. Don’t get all sanctimonious about it.

    That being said, I’m all for bike lanes and for ticketing people who park in them.

  14. Luis,

    It sure does pay to carry the camera! 😉

    1st June 2006, on my morning commute in Dublin:
    That’s a Garda (police) motorbike parked in the bike lane at a busy, narrow stretch of road- not on urgent business as far as I could tell (the only legit reason for such parking according to our Rules of the Road).

    Green Monster / Andrew,

    I too confront drivers when their behaviour jeopardises me, whether parked in bike lanes or just driving dangerously. If I’m not in the mood, I tend to just get aggro with them (which is generally counter-productive in the long run), but if I have the time / patience, I use my favourite line ‘Please have a bit of respect for your fellow road users’ which usually disarms them to an amusing extent, and I can almost hear the brain cogs processing the info- ‘Fellow road user? Huh? But you’re a cyclist…’

    Thanks for the poster / flyer. I intent to put it to good use.

    Love the site,

    Robert, Dublin.

    (Currently in Sihung/Seoul, South Korea- where drivers routinely go through red lights when pedestrians have a green man, and mopeds routinely ride on footpaths. As the man said, Be thankful for what you got!)

  15. Darren,

    Uhh… have you ever ridden a bicycle in the city? Or a car for that matter? Unless it’s Sunday at 4 AM with no rain or snow on the ground, I always bike faster than cars, without really trying. There’s this thing called ‘congestion’, you see. I might flip your question around and ask cars to get out of MY way.


  16. Darren,

    99% of the time that cyclists are forced to impede other drivers is when other drivers are in fact impeding them; i.e. blocking a bike lane, illegally parked on the side of the road, etc.

    A driver can make up those thirty seconds with the press of a pedal, so I don’t understand your characterization of impediment; really, you’re making it seem as though drivers are suffering en masse from cyclists blocking road lanes.

    I have rights on the road and I have an obligation to myself to keep safe, and that includes taking the lane when appropriate. It’s a similar issue at intersections, when right-turning cars honk at me to move to the curb. I am protecting myself from right-turning cars, and not a peep would be made if it were another car in that lane.

    Also, pedestrians don’t belong in bike lanes, whereas bikes do belong on the road. Your analogy makes absolutely no sense.

    And I’d have to agree with Alan that cars only travel faster than me at about midnight. At every other point I’m moving at a faster speed on the road.

  17. this comment is in response to luis from april 17, 12:44 i wish i had a camera every time a cyclist went through a stop sign with stopping i would run out of film space and cameras. idiot

  18. I hate nothing more than when i see bikes in the middle of the road, or if im stuck behind one and can’t pass.

  19. A tad old but thought I’d mention this.
    Jacob, Darren and other drivers who think cyclists ‘impede traffic’,
    Under the law cyclists ARE traffic. When a cyclist is on the road he/she has a right to a full lane and is part of traffic. Don’t complain about cyclists in the middle of the road as if they don’t belong there.

  20. I generally don’t have any annoyances when I cycle downtown.

    I usually go faster than everyone else and I just go around anything that is blocking me.

    I don’t make blind turns, I don’t block cars. I only go in front of cars if A. I am going as fast as them, or B. they aren’t going anywhere anyways.

    Biggest peeve is pedestrians who don’t look both ways, and also that don’t look enough! They should be looking back and forth constantly.

    Also, if they are gonna jaywalk… can you at least make an effort to jayRUN ? Why should I slow my precious momentum down so the pedestrian doesn’t have to break a sweat? I wish they’d realize that, and there’s no easy way to communicate it as I speed by.