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Parking Allowed in Buffered Bike Lanes

I did a double-take when I happened to drive past the relatively new bike lanes painted on 1st Avenue S. Here’s a couple pictures of what I saw:


1st-Avenue-Bike-Lane-Parking-2 by VeloTraffic, on Flickr


1st-Avenue-Bike-Lane-Parking-1 by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

Initially, I was blown away when I saw literally dozens of cars parked in the bike lane, none of which had received tickets. Then when I noticed that the buffer area was about 5′ wide, wide enough to just be a standard bike lane (although squarely in the door zone), I began to wonder if the contractor had installed the striping correctly; maybe it was actually supposed to be a bike lane and a parking lane.

After doing a little research, I learned that it is striped as intended as a buffered bike lane, and that the city has decided to allow vehicles to park in the bike lane on weekends in response to neighborhood concerns about weekend parking. The city specifically mentions “religious parking needs”. The decision to install bike lanes along 1st Avenue required the City to apply for a design exception, since state-aid standards require one-way streets to have at least two lanes of traffic.

This configuration isn’t likely to cause safety or traffic problems – only problems relating to people not understanding when or why parking is allowed (for example, there are no signs indicating when parking is allowed EDIT- 8/15/11 12:22 PM – As per the comments below – there apparently are signs indicating that parking is allowed on weekends, but I didn’t see them, and I failed to capture them in any of the dozen or so photographs I took).

How do you feel about the City’s decision to allow cars to park in the bike lane on weekends? Have you had a chance to ride in these buffered bike lanes yet?

10 comments to Parking Allowed in Buffered Bike Lanes

  • I don’t believe in on-street parking or bike lanes.

  • Brent Johnson

    If you own a car, then you should also be responsible to pay for where you park it. On street parking is a hand-out of public space.

  • Todd

    Until planners/implementations stop elevating the convenience of drivers above all else including the safety of all other modes of travel we’ll continue to enjoy the confusing variety of ad-hock solutions that plague the Twin Cities.

    We keep looking for cheep solutions that only require paint instead of recognizing that people walk, run, ride, skate, etc and that these are increasingly becoming intentional modes of travel and investing accordingly. The midtown greenway and river roads are examples of what I’d like to see more of. Non-standardized solutions that are simply painted on force drivers to try to figure out what is going on while driving/parking which they aren’t very good at. It’s inconvenient for them and deadly for cyclists.

  • Parking has been allowed in the contraflow bike lane on 5th St SE in Dinkytown on Sundays for a long time, but it’s restricted to about a block (between 12th and 13th Ave SE where the church in question is located). I’m not really a fan of it, but I suppose it’s an okay tradeoff to allow parking in specific spots like that, but a general weekend exception seems a bit overkill. How many churches or other places of worship are along 1st Ave? I’ve only found one so far.

  • @Mulad – Interesting. I wasn’t aware of the situation in Dinkytown. Also, we should point out that this is certainly not unique to bike lanes – many general purpose lanes allow parking at various times. I don’t know how many churches there are in the area…

    This configuration isn’t likely to cause safety or traffic problems – only problems relating to people not understanding when or why parking is allowed (for example, there are no signs indicating when parking is allowed..)

  • It’s a really insensitive solution considering all the problems with educating drivers not to park in bike lanes. That said, car traffic volumes on 1st Ave S are extremely low – basically the morning rush is the only time this street sees even moderate use, and that’s only between 38th and 36th. So in practice the through lane will almost always be available for cyclists to use comfortably. Of course the design actually encourages cyclists instead to weave in and out of the bike lane to avoid parked cars, which could be a dangerous situation depending on how far they have to weave.

    My guess is that the city will avoid this stretch when they’re taking the League of American Bicyclists inspectors on their certification tour.

  • Shaun Murphy

    This was a complicated issue to sort out during the public process. The compromise we came up takes into consideration a lot of concerns. Intially there was some interest from neighborhood reprensentatives to add parking in the bike lane area on 1st Avenue all the time. Had this idea been implemented, the bike lane would have been in the buffer zone. We heard from many people who bicycle that being in the door zone would not be desired. So understanding that, we did not want to add parking all the time. The parking removal was sensitive in this area less because of church parking and more because of parking due to the tennis center at MLK park. So in the end we decided to recommend leaving the parking as is to take into consideration all perspectives. We agreed with several of you that parking in bike lanes is not ideal, but that traffic in this section of 1st Avenue S is relatively light and safe.

    Also a correction, the parking restrictions are signed (just like they have been for quite a few years). There is no parking allowed Monday – Friday between 36th and 40th Streets, and no parking allowed Monday – Saturday between 33rd and 36th Streets.

    For more information visit the project website which has a lot of documentation on how the design got settled: Contact me if you’d like to discuss further or have questions: Shaun Murphy – 612.333.2450,

  • @Shaun – thanks for joining the discussion.

    I agree that traffic volumes are low enough that it’s not a real safety concern, & I understand the City’s reasoning behind the decisions they’ve made about this corridor. I am concerned, however, that the general public won’t understand how or why the parking situation is in place.

    If I can offer a suggestion: I would recommend replacing the existing parking signs with larger, more visible signs, explaining that parking is allowed in the bike lane on weekends. Otherwise, I would worry that cyclists would make the same mistake I originally did of assuming that the vehicles were parked illegally. And if folks don’t realize that parking has always been allowed in the general purpose lanes on weekends, then they will view this as a “new” decision by the City.

    So it’s not a safety problem, but it could quickly become a PR problem if a local Casey Neistat copycat decided to make a big deal out of it. Is the City worried about this at all?

  • When I look at that picture I think, “Why don’t they just make the buffer area the bike lane and keep parking on both sides?” I generally support protected, dedicated bicycle facilities, but on this particular street it seems the common sense solution would be to do the usual bike lane between the parking and car travel lane. There are always trade offs in allocating limited road space. I think the clarity and consistency of a typical bike lane would be better than the confusing weekday bike/weekend parking lane with varying rules.

    I’m concerned that the design and rules of some Minneapolis bike facilities frequently can’t be understood intuitively just by looking at the layout. You shouldn’t have to stop and read a paragraph of signage every other block just to understand where and when parking/driving/cycling is allowed. The experience of 1st Ave downtown shows that half the road users won’t notice the signs anyway until significant enforcement measures are implemented. If additional bikeways need the same enforcement, eventually there wont be enough traffic cops to go around and enforcement will simply be ignored.

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