Rebecca Serna happened to be on her way to a meeting Monday when she saw several cars parked in bike lanes along Edgewood Avenue.
Serna thumbed through several photos in her phone of cars parked in bike lanes, including a vehicle parked on the sidewalk.
“You can’t make this stuff up,”Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Atlanta officials hope to solve the problem with a new $100 fine for drivers parking, stopping or driving in bike lanes. Those driving tractor-trailers could face a $1,000 fine.
The proposed fine was approved in the public safety and transportation committee meetings this week. The Atlanta City Council will vote on the item Monday.
Drivers who park in bike lanes now are fined $25 under the “improper use of lane” law.
If the law passes, it means commercial truck drivers can’t park in bike lanes. Truck drivers must sign a form indicating they understand the city’s unloading and loading regulations, which allows them to park in a loading zone, as long as they don’t block bike lanes.
Councilwoman Carla Smith had worked on the proposed law for the past year after residents complained people were parking in bike lanes on Berne Street near Grant Park.
“When (bicyclists) have to go around a car, that’s not fair,” Smith said.
Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd commended the efforts to protect bicyclists, but said the proposed law poses an issue for residents who only have street parking in their neighborhoods such as those living on Dill Avenue in southwest Atlanta.
“If we put penalties on it, I’ve got to figure out a way to find parking for people,” she said during the meeting. “We have to look at this more comprehensively for what that means for people who don’t have parking.”
For Sheperd, that means looking at streets and assessing areas where this is potentially a problem.
“It’s great we’re putting in bike lanes,” she said. “...but if you go on Piedmont Avenue or Ponce de Leon, the streets are wide enough for that.”
In 2016, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition launched a crowd-sourcing campaign to track the number of vehicles blocking bike lanes. Through the campaign, people uploaded photos to a map, which showed the date, time and location of offenders.
Users reported 692 such incidents between May 11, 2016 to June 21, 2017. Eighty-two percent of the reports were from streets in downtown Atlanta, including Edgewood Avenue, which had 87 reports. Fifth Street had the most bike lane offenses of any street, with 212 captured in photos.
“I hear from a lot of people who do want to ride a bike, but said it isn’t safe,” she said.
Part of the new law would include a ticket diversion program through the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and city solicitor’s office. The one-time, annual program would educate drivers on existing bicycle safety and traffic laws. Once violators complete the program, their ticket would be waived.
“We want to create empathy on what it’s like to ride a bike,” Serna said.
Similar issues prompted Chicago to fine drivers $150 for parking, sitting idle or driving more in bike lanes. Violators are also at risk of having their vehicles towed. Boston banned parking in bike lanes two years ago. Violators face a $50 fine.
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