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What should drivers do to avoid blocking bikeways – especially bike-share workers?

What would you do if you were in this Divvy worker’s shoes? Photo: Kyle Lucas, Better Streets Chicago

Hard-working delivery drivers, and other workers who need to visit multiple locations by car, van, or truck in the course of the day, help keep Chicago running. (Of course the more of these kind of trips that can be replaced by bicycles, electric cargo bikes, and other space-efficient, sustainable modes, the better.)

Our streets should be designed to safely, legally, and conveniently accommodate short stops with at least one designated loading zone on every block. That would be a win for all concerned.

As it stands, it’s pretty much impossible to do these kind of trips all day in our congested city without occasionally bending or breaking traffic rules. It’s common, and understandable, for professional drivers to briefly parking in illegal curbside spots or double-parking in a travel lane with their flashers on if no curb space is available anywhere near their destination.

But when motorists park in bike lanes, it’s at least an annoyance for so-called “strong and fearless” urban cyclists who are comfortable merging into the adjacent travel lane to get around the vehicle. And for less skilled or confident bike riders, it can be downright hazardous to be forced to detour into the mixed-traffic lane, and a major deterrent to on-street cycling. That’s enough of an issue that there’s a nationwide, Chicago-based website dedicated to documenting and advocating against bikeway obstructions called Bike Lane Uprising.

Moreover, when the person clogging the bikeway is employed by a city-owned bike-share system, an entity whose entire purpose is to make bicycling easier, this kind of blockage can feel like a betrayal. Earlier this week Kyle Lucas, cofounder of the sustainable transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago, tweeted out a photo of a Divvy van parked in the curbside, non-protected bike lane on Orleans Street, on the west side of the Merchandise Mart, sparking an in-depth discussion of the issue.

Steve Lucy pointed out that if Chicago had European-style separated or raised bikeways all over the city, this sort of thing would be a non-issue.

And Streetsblog Chicago editor-at-large Steven Vance proposed a good near-term solution: Add physical protection to the curbside bike lane, and then convert the travel lane to the left of it into a dedicated loading zone.

Divvy rebalancing and maintenance workers, if you’re reading this, thanks in advance for viewing blocking bikeways as a non-option in the future, instead parking in the adjacent travel lane. And thanks for keeping Chicago’s bike-share system rolling. We appreciate you.

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