AUSTIN, Texas — When cyclists come across cars parked in bike-only lanes, it's not only dangerous for them, but it's also frustrating for the City of Austin. That's why the City is enforcing ticketing and towing cars parked illegally.
"Even if you think you're there for five minutes, you know, even if you think nobody's going to mind, it is inconveniencing somebody," said Chip Dennison, a Barton Springs Bike Rental tour guide.
Dennison is used to seeing cars parked in bike-only lanes when cycling around Austin.
"A lot of times the bike lane is where delivery trucks are parking or construction vehicles are parking, and so that makes it more problematic. They take up other parking spots, so then regular traffic has two parking places that wouldn't usually be because the spot they would like to park in is no longer available," said Dennison.
Austin Transportation has begun assigning parking enforcement officers to ticket and tow vehicles illegally parked in designated bike-only lanes, according to a City press release.
"Parking in a bike-only lane compels cyclists to enter general travel lanes, which greatly increases the chances of a deadly or serious crash," said Robert Spillar, the director of Austin Transportation. "Keeping our bike lanes clear makes our streets safer for both cyclists and motorists alike."
Dennison said he does several bike tours per week and Barton Springs Bike Rental and Tours guides usually modify tours hoping to avoid inconveniences, like cars parked in bike lanes.
"That's something you get to do second-nature when you've biked quite a bit. But for a new cyclist, it all feels a little bit intimidating, and sometimes it keeps people from actually starting to cycle," said Dennison.
Dennison said talking about the issue might get people to stop and make Austin a more bike-friendly city.
"You wouldn't like it if your form of transportation was being blocked and your ability to get to the store or get to work or get home was inhibited," said Dennison. "It's really a question of sharing these limited resources in a way that we can all get along and not replicate some of the issues that other cities have where they end up fighting against one another, which is totally counterproductive to enjoying Austin."
According to Austin 311 data, parking in bike lane inquiries used to be tracked under the bicycle issues service request. In 2017, 237 complaints came in. It went up to 310 in 2018 and reached 478 in 2019.
In mid-December, the department changed how it tracked parking in bike lanes. A transportation department spokesperson told KVUE the new enforcement will also apply to delivery trucks that are temporarily parked blocking bike lanes.
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