Vote coming on bike-lane parking law 

City Council is considering legislation that would make it explicitly illegal to park in a bike lane, and Council members will most likely vote on the law during their meeting Tuesday night.

Drivers who park in bike lanes are already breaking the law in most cases; the lanes typically are situated between vehicle travel lanes and parked cars, or they pass through existing no parking zones. But nowhere does existing city law spell out that it’s illegal for drivers to park or stand in bike lanes. Cycling advocates say a specific parking ban is both an educational and enforcement tool. Advocates, city officials, and police and parking enforcement officers can easily explain to drivers that parking in the lanes is illegal, and that it’s illegal because it is a safety hazard. The law would make parking or standing in a bike lane a ticketable offense, in the same category as parking or standing within 20 feet of a sidewalk.

The parking ban, advocates have said, would help make the city more bike-friendly.  When drivers block bike lanes, they create a safety threat, since cyclists using the lanes often have to move into traffic or onto sidewalks, sometimes suddenly.

Motor vehicles parking or standing in bike lanes are a serious problem, as was shown in recent reports from Brett Dahlberg, a reporter for CITY’s news partner WXXI. Dahlberg commuted by bike for eight weeks and documented his experience. He recorded more than 200 cars, delivery vehicles, and police cars parked in bike lanes.

The parking law is part of a broader package of proposed changes to the city’s bike law, which hasn’t been significantly modified in four decades. The legislation would modernize the definition of a bicycle and add language defining bike lanes and cycle tracks. It would also strike out a section of city law that says cyclists can’t ride two abreast and adds a new provision allowing the practice; state law allows two cyclists to ride next to each other.

The legislation also would change city laws applying to bicyclists under 12. Current city law prohibits children under 12 from biking in the Central Traffic District unless they’re accompanied by an adult. (The district is bordered by the Inner Loop, North Union Street, South Union Street, Howell Street, and I-490.)

The new law, however, would allow children under 12 to bike anywhere in the city — including in the Central Traffic District — without an adult. Cyclists under 12 would be required to use the sidewalk. The change recognizes that families and children live downtown, and that downtown has family- and child-friendly destinations such as the Strong National Museum of Play, says says Council member Mitch Gruber.

Many of the proposed changes came out of a working group Gruber assembled, though Mayor Lovely Warren submitted the legislation to Council. The group included city staff, cycling and transportation advocates, and representatives from the Center for Disability Rights as well as Healthi Kids.

“This is part of the work I think needs to be done to build a bicycling culture in the city,” Gruber says.

The group was also working on laws governing the use of electric scooters and electric bikes on city streets. Those changes are on hold until Governor Andrew Cuomo signs a bill passed by the state Assembly and Senate to legalize the use of e-scooters and e-bikes on public roads.

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