The multipurpose bike lane

When I ran video Wednesday morning of my ride across San Jose on the brand new bike lanes on 3rd & 4th Streets, I didn’t have this in mind.

I just wanted to document how pleasant the new bike lanes are and didn’t really think about the routine obstructions we always bypass in these lanes dedicated to bike traffic. But then I read this post about bike lane violations from a cute new San Francisco blog:

I began whining about all the drivers out there who feel it’s OK to store their cars in the bike lane, to which my lovely non-cyclist friend replied, “Well, to be honest, until now I’d thought of the bike lane as the Do Whatever You Want Lane.” In her defense, the police in San Francisco seem to have a similar attitude, so I can see where she might have become confused.

Shortly afterwards, I read Aaron Bialick’s quick and dirty case study in San Francisco: How long do those cars with the flashers on stay double parked in the bike lane?

Contrary to what the name implies, bike lanes in San Francisco have cars in them all the time. Presumably, a car left with blinking hazard lights on means the driver is just “running in for a minute,” as if to minimize the impact of endangering people on bicycles.

Maybe, after biking into traffic around one of these blinking cars, you’ve wondered how long the scofflaw driver actually leaves the vehicle there, but you never have time to actually wait and see. Personally, being a (perhaps naïve) optimist when it comes to human decency, I’d expect the car to be gone within a few minutes.

Here’s the punchline.

In this one case, here’s the short answer: The driver left 20 minutes after I arrived, and only when a parking control officer arrived to issue a ticket.

Something [the parking control officer] noted: Her database categorized the driver under “scofflaw” status (yes, that was the actual term), meaning he’d already committed five or more parking violations.

As I edited Wednesday’s video, I noticed that, yeah, there are multiple uses for the bike lane.

To be fair to the driver of the pickup truck who used the bike lane as a passing lane: these lanes are still under construction, so all of the bike lane signage and pavement stencils aren’t in place yet.

I realize some of the examples aren’t the best in the world, but we’ve seen those construction signs, dumpsters and trash bins taking up the entire bike lane.

After I posted the video to YouTube, I realized there’s one use for the bike lane I forgot to mention in the video. Does anybody know what that could be?


  1. Bingo!  You got it.

    Yep, I saw other cyclists on 3rd. One of them is in the video at 20 seconds in — he’s the guy going the wrong way on the sidewalk.

  2. Bike lanes are where you sweep, and store, the glass from off the regular road.

  3. Also, it’s where the guy with the leaf blower sends all the landscaping debris.

  4. It looks like much of that lane is in the door zone.  Seriously, I wouldn’t even ride in it where that’s the case.  Looks like you’re leaving some room to start with but towards the end of the video you get closer than I would be comfortable with.

    I went into the edge of an opening door once (while riding in a marked lane where I live in the UK).  It really hurt, and I got off lightly, just avoiding a broken shoulder.  These kind of lanes should be illegal.

    Take care on that bike…

  5. That lane is eight feet wide.

    I’ve noticed the video makes it look like I’m within the doorzone, but trust me, I’m well aware of the danger and I don’t ride there. On that street in the video, _nobody_ looks back before opening their doors. When it happens in front of me (which I can count on a couple of times per week), it’s never even a close call for me.

  6. Sorry if I was teaching Grandmother to suck eggs.  I felt better to be warned unnecessarily than not to be warned at all (for other readers as well). 

    I would never have guessed at that width.  At 40 seconds I would have put it at about three feet, although looking again I can now see it’s a similar width to the parking zone – at least a car width.

    You guys are spoiled!  We’re lucky if we get three feet of lane in Manchester –  or maybe unlucky to get three feet of cycle lane in the door zone ( ) – so maybe my estimate was based on what I’m used to.

    With all that space maybe they should mark the door zone so people would know to avoid it, as you obviously already do.

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