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January 18, 2017

Motorists increasingly ticketed for parking in bicycle lanes

The number of citations has skyrocketed since 2014

Transportation Bicycling
01-100515_BikeLane_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A cyclist navigates around vehicles parked in the bike lane on the 1800 block of Spruce Street.

Philadelphia has some 230 miles of bicycle lanes lining its streets.

But as nearly any bicyclist can attest, those lanes often become blocked by motorists making unauthorized stops in them. Such violations become a safety hazard as bicyclists must then enter a driving lane to steer around a parked vehicle.

Motorists with such habits should beware, however.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority and Philadelphia police have made greater efforts to issue tickets for such violations in the last two years. They issued a record 4,524 violations last year, a 127 percent increase from 2014.

That also marked a 5 percent jump from the 4,302 violations they issued in 2015, the same year Philadelphia launched its Indego bike share program.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia heralded the increased enforcement, noting it came after conversations between its members and the PPA in 2013 and 2014, when only 1,991 citations were issued.

"We're definitely glad to see some changes being made," said Randy LoBasso, communications director for the bicycle coalition. "As good as it is that there's an increase in enforcement, the increase in enforcement is not the solution to this problem. It is more of a symptom to the problem. Either way, it's good to see that they're getting some stuff done."

About 70 percent of the 2016 violations were issued on Spruce and Pine streets in Center City, LoBasso said. The bike lanes on those streets are among the most popular in the city. But too often bikers are forced to swerve around parked vehicles.

"Spruce and Pine are still kind of a mess, especially on weekday mornings," LoBasso said. "I recently made a video about that. It's still pretty bad but, obviously, they're putting more people on those streets."

Violations also increased along Lombard Street, 13th Street and portions of both South Street and Fairmount Avenue. But LoBasso said he'd like to see more enforcement in West Philly, particularly in some areas around the University of Pennsylvania, where motorists gain substantial speeds.

Though enforcement helps, LoBasso said he still sees plenty of vehicles parked in bike lanes. He said protected bike lanes, which can create a physical barrier between motorists and cars, offer a better solution.

"That, in the long run, is really going to make it safer for everyone," LoBasso said. "It will let people bike and walk without really having to worry about a car blocking them or pulling up in front of them."

Mayor Jim Kenney has pledged to install more than 30 miles of protected bike lanes while in office. The city opened its first protected bike lane last summer along Ryan Avenue in Mayfair.