ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A city-appointed cycling advisory group is calling for changes to city code to target cars parking in bike lanes and end a longstanding roadside problem.
While drivers can be cited if they block a bike lane with their car, some cyclists say the problem is continuing to grow while enforcing lags behind.
In response, the city’s “Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee,” or GABAC, is asking for a city council to consider a new ordinance that clearly spells out the rules when it comes to parking in a bike lane and makes the action punishable by fine.
The problem is obvious in various parts of Albuquerque, including downtown on Fourth and Fifth Streets.
Along Fourth, the city recently built a physical barrier between the vehicle and bike lanes between Central and Copper Avenues after months of seeing cars park in the bike lane. That barrier cost the city about $8,000.
On Fifth Street, the city has also dealt with drivers parking in the bike lane after it re-striped parking spaces along the road.
Walking along Campus Boulevard near Monte Vista Boulevard, GABAC committee member Ed Gerety also found it easy to spot cars parking in the bike lane.
“When I’m riding, yes is bothers me a little bit, but you know, we’re just getting started with bicycling as a movement,” said Gerety. “It will take a while for people to adjust to recognizing that bicycle lanes are travel lanes.”
While Gerety still has patience, he believes the city needs to do more to address the problem across the board.
“The principle problem is one of safety,” said Gerety.
Gerety and fellow members of the GABAC are now asking the Albuquerque City Council to amend city code in order to specifically address bike lane parking. The recommendation came during the GABAC’s December meeting, where the advisory group unanimously agreed to recommend that the city’s “parking ordinance be revised to prohibit parking in bicycle lanes and be punishable by fine.”
While it already illegal to block a travel lane or park in a “no parking zone,” the GABAC believes that a specific city ordinance banning parking in bikes lanes would create more awareness and enforcement.
“I think this is all a part of establishing bicycling as a legitimate mode of transport,” said Gerety.
However, not everyone thinks drivers should be limited so much. Downtown on Fourth Street, restaurant owner Susan Baca has seen the parking in front of her business go away.
The city added a bike lane on Fourth Street over the summer through re-striping, but that lane had no barrier.
“As an open bike lane, we were able to pull our cars in to unload certain things for short periods of time which is necessary for a business, any business, and it’s especially necessary for a restaurant,” said Baca.
Baca says she’d prefer to see an open bike lane in front of her business, but the city chose to put in a barrier, physically blocking cars from parking along the curb.
“I’ve only been here a year and I’ve seen my business on the weekends drop in half since they put this bike lane here and don’t allow parking,” said Baca.
Baca says she isn’t against bike lanes, but with her business in mind, she believes there needs to be a more careful consideration for where the lanes are placed and the effect they’ll have on parking.
“I’m not opposed to bike lanes, I think this is not the right street for this bike lane to be on,” said Baca of Fourth Street. “We have to share the roads around the whole city.”
Still, cyclists advocate for the separation and hope the city will make the rules more clear, soon.
“Explicitly outline exactly what it is we’re trying to do with bicycling as a mode of transportation,” said Gerety.
There’s no timetable yet on when a possible “no parking in bike lanes” ordinance may come about, however, City Council staff is working to research and develop a possible ordinance and what level of fine would go with that.
Currently, drivers who park in a bike lane are often cited for “parking in a no parking zone,” which carries a $30 fine in the city of Albuquerque.
Since the summer, the city has cited 150 drivers for “parking in a no parking zone.” Most of those citations are thought to be for parking in the bike lane, but it’s unclear exactly how many. In total, 119 citations were levied in downtown Albuquerque, while 31 citations were written outside of downtown, mainly around the University of New Mexico along Girard Boulevard.