Wednesday, June 16, 2010

128/1095ths of a Bike Lane Does Not a Habit Make

128/1095ths of a Bike Lane

For four hours during the day, from 7 to 9 am, and 4 to 6 pm, there's no parking here and it's a bike lane. The other 5/6 of the day, 20 hours, it's permitted to park here. OK, since Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are also excepted, I think this works out to (assuming 5 holidays not on a weekend) 128/1095 or about .117 of a bike lane. This sharer of the road is parked illegally because it was between 7 and 9 am on a non-holiday week day when I took this picture, but this post isn't really about him. If I posted a Rainman-style "serious injury" item every time I ran into to something like this on my commute, this blog would be saturated with "Item #71: date 16-June-2010 time 07:15 am gray Audi parked in bike lane during posted non-parking hours. Stopped to discuss situation with owner. He grabbed and twisted my neck. Ow ow ow." I don't really blame Mr. Audi here (see below), I just merge gradually out and around this one single car, and it's not like there's parking wardens patrolling up and down the bike lane seeking out violators and issuing stunningly large citations to same to deter him/her from repeating this. Since I am reading Arizona Bicycling Street Smarts by John S. Allen now, this is an interesting opportunity to evaluate and apply what I'm learning. What I am mainly interested in here is the Arizona law behind this situation, ARS 28-815(c), which I quote in all its carrot-and-stick glory: "A path or lane that is designated as a bicycle path or lane by state or local authorities is for the exclusive use of bicycles even though other uses are permitted pursuant to subsection D or are otherwise permitted by state or local authorities."

Here's a chocolate chip cookie. It's for your exclusive eating, except for the .883 of it that state and local authorities have permitted for other uses, and the part you get has been chewed on by a dog. Enjoy!

I'm not here to complain about this .117 of a bike lane. I love and embrace every inch of bicycle infrastructure as if it were my own only child conceived, carried, and birthed with/by Claudia Schiffer. No, I come here curious and full of questions about the public policy and road design decisions behind this arrangement. "Bikes get a lane during rush hour time. Other than that, they can darned well weave through those parked cars." Was that part of the conversation? "...or are otherwise permitted by state or local authorities" would seem to leave the door pretty far open (extended well into the path of any oncoming bicycles brash enough to be riding along) for state and local authorities to permit anything they want in this space, to the extent that it ends up having a stripe and some helmeted bicyclist symbols painted on it, but doesn't really function as a bicycle lane at all. Because, when you get down to it, you can park your car here randomly, and only have .117 of a chance of breaking the law. If we assume a parking enforcement rate of .01, you have odds of .01 * .117 = .00117 or let's just call it one in a thousand of getting a ticket for it.

But this isn't about vanishingly small odds of getting a ticket, either. It's about driving habits. My real question is: how are bicyclists and car drivers (and parkers) going to learn successful habits about how bike lanes work if they only work in some places, .117 of the time? Not very well, for cyclists and drivers in general, off-hours, on weekends and holidays. In fact, the only road-sharers they are intended to help is commuters, right? In other words, me. To me, they look like full, warm chocolate chip cookies served up by Claudia. But kids in the neighborhood on summer vacation? No cookie for you! People who work the night shift? No cookie for you! Retirees who ride their trikes to the grocery for the weekly gin? No cookie for you! As a commuter, I appreciate it. Mmmm, Claudia cookie. Yummy! The rest of you? The dog ate it. Sorry. Get up. Go ride.


  1. Personally, I think this stuff gets done to keep JRA on his toes. It's the bicycling equivalent of the simulators commercial aircraft pilots "fly." Those simulators come up with devilish failure sequences just so those pilots get better at dealing with "aw poop" moments.

    Those with "the right stuff" will get that cookie regardless...

  2. But Steve, that sort of implies that what I experience as "reality" is a simulation, controlled by some Supervisor who is throwing failure sequences at me just to get me to go "aw poop" to better prepare me for...harder failure sequences ahead? I think I'll go proof test my brain. :)

  3. I have many similar feelings to you.

    On the other hand, I realized that the streets are in flux, and we share all the space on the road, we own none of it. Once I began to focus on how my riding style was affecting both my internal emotions and my external relations with others: cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians (who dart out in front of me), I became happier.

    Thanks for this wonderful post. I wish you the best.

  4. Thanks Leroy Grinchy! The riding style affects the emotions which affect the riding style which affects the emotions...downwards to a dark spirally place? Or upwards, to ride happy? It's up to us, I think, each one of us, solely and wholly responsible for the result. To find the quiet oneness somewhere in the flux. I think.


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