Tip List: Beware parked cars in bike lanes

December 23, 2010 

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SUN-STAR PHOTO BY JAIME OPPENHEIM A car and tractor block a large portion of the bike lane on McKee Road.

JAIME OPPENHEIM — Merced Sun-Star

This holiday weekend, if you're seeking a rest from holiday feasting or an escape from your Aunt Mae asking you about your job, try taking a leisurely bike ride.

But potential dangers to watch out for include parked cars taking up too much space in bike lanes. These "lane hogs" can present issues such as causing bicyclists to veer into traffic or dodge people opening their car doors.

A Tip List reader called last week and said she was concerned about cars parking along McKee Road between Bear Creek Road and Yosemite Avenue. She said she felt it was dangerous for bicyclists because some areas of the road are narrow. Students biking to UC Merced could be the victims of accidents because of greedy drivers who take up most of the bike lanes, she added.

I drove to McKee on Wednesday and saw that it was mostly free of cars, save for one car and a tractor. The two vehicles took up most of the bike path, leaving a little less than a foot for bikes. That could present a problem for careless bicyclists or drivers.

People parking along McKee aren't violating any city ordinances, according to Merced police Sgt. Jay Struble. They are well within their rights to park there, but if people notice cars blocking the bike lane, they should call police and report the problem.

Struble added that he wasn't aware of any bicycle accidents along the roadway related to cars parked in the bike path. That doesn't mean bicyclists and drivers shouldn't be aware at all times.

Hope for better bike safety for the city is on the horizon, said Mark Hamilton, city planner.

Plans are under way to restripe all of the bike lines within the city limit; separate stripes would be used to denote where people can park and where cyclists can ride.

Hamilton is working on a redesign of the stripes, which may be completed by spring. The actual striping of the streets is dependent upon funding, so a date has not been determined.

Tractors, or any vehicle weighing more than 20,000 pounds, should not park on any municipal roadway. "If there's a residential street, then there shouldn't be a commercial vehicle there," he said.

John Bramble, Merced's city manager, said the city recently received a grant toward the creation of a new bike path from Mckee all the way to Lake Road. There are some tight spots, he said, referring to McKee, but the new trail would stop all that.

The bike trail would extend the Black Rascal Creek bike path east from McKee and connect to the Lake Road bike path, Hamilton added.

What's the problem: Cars parked in bike lanes could present problems for people on bikes, forcing them to ride in the roadway, increasing their risk of accidents.

Who's responsible: Drivers who take up too much space in bike lanes.

What's being done: Plans are in the works to improve bike safety throughout Merced. If people notice cars blocking the bike lanes, call the Merced police.

Tip off the Tip List!

If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Jamie Oppenheim, with your tips at (209) 385-2407 or e-mail joppenheim@mercedsun-star. com.

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