HOUSTON – It’s shocking how easily a cyclist can get sideswiped by a car parked in a bike lane while the vehicle is trying to pull out of the lane. Our traffic expert Anavid Reyes got the opportunity to get a deeper perspective on how this issue is impacting cyclists day-to-day as she spoke with a frustrated Houston bicyclist who has to dangerous dodge parked cars in bike lanes throughout the city of Houston, even though it is now illegal to do so.
The bicycle lane violation was approved by City Council last October. Initially, warnings were issued during a 90-day grace period, before Park Houston officially began giving out tickets, which started January 14 of this year, but according to Wilson Calvert, even though the rules have changed, cars are still illegally blocking the bike lanes.
“Most people would choose not to ride their bike if they don’t feel 100% safe of the time and a big part of that are cars blocking the road. People have to swerve into the main high-speed traffic,” said Calvert.
This is what Calvert often has to do while riding his bike on Polk and Wyatt near TSU. If you see a car parked in a bike-only lane, residents are asked to dial 311 or submit a service request online, which is exactly what he did. Calvert urges cyclists not to expect a swift response time. In his experience, it took several days before someone was sent out to investigate.
When I spoke with Maria Irshad with Park Houston, she told me they’re doing their best to implement this new ordinance, according to Irshad they have a bike squad dedicated to monitoring dedicated bike lanes.
“...we’ve also had mobile units, so officers in vehicles driving adjacent to the dedicated bicyle lanes to monitor these instances,” Irshad, Park Houston.
While on this shoot, we saw a truck parked illegally in the bike-only lane , and most vehicles who do the same, don’t know they are doing something wrong. After speaking with residents and of course avid cyclists like Calvert, the core issue here is education.
“people have been accustomed not receiving any parking tickets, for more than 15 years and so they know there’s no consequences. Well, now we have consequences, and that started in October,” said Calvert.
To help spread the word and educate drivers about the new rules, Irshad recommends cyclists to print flyers Park Houston has issued 21 warnings and a total of two citations for vehicles parked blocking a bike lane for the months of January and February of this year. You can find the flyers here.
Park Houston has issued 21 warnings and a total of two citations for vehicles parked blocking a bike lane for the months of January and February of this year. It’s a $100 fine for parking in the bike lane but first time offenders can take an online class to skip the fine which is the city’s way to help educate drivers. If you would like to learn more about the ordinance, click here.