Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The PPA Wants You to Tweet at Them About Cars Parked in Bike Lanes

See a car parked in a bike lane? The Philadelphia Parking Authority will now be monitoring a Twitter hashtag you can use to report that car.

Tweet the location of the car to @PhilaParking and use #unblockbikelanes.

From today's PPA blog post announcing this new social media reporting technique:
"We’ll keep close watch of this hashtag to help us identify chronic problem areas throughout the city and make plans for the future. While we can’t promise that enforcement can be dispatched for every single tweet we receive—the logistics of that are just too complicated since cars often move before our parking enforcement officers can get to them—we are committed to working closely with the cycling community on this issue."
This initiative is one outcome of an ongoing conversation with the PPA about blocked bike lanes, and we thank them for recognizing the issue and taking this step. A bike lane is only a bike lane if it is unblocked and for the exclusive use of bicycles. And since the research supports the conclusion that bike lanes make streets safer for everyone, drivers included, we see no constituency rallying behind the disregard of bike lanes.
Should you encounter the new wave band The Cars blocking a bike lane, or know someone with even a child's
understanding of Photoshop who might want to assist this blog with dumb visual jokes, send an e-mail to

It's worth noting (with a sigh) that this does not mean the PPA will start ticketing cars parked in the Pine and Spruce lanes on Saturdays and Sundays. The understanding between Spruce and Pine religious congregations, the City, the Police Department, and the PPA that permits cars to park in the bike lanes on certain blocks during religious services is a separate issue and remains in effect.

So, when is a car illegally blocking a bike lane?
Seems like a good spot to review the laws. The distinctions between "parking" versus "standing" versus "stopping" are arcane and migraine-inducing. But here are the rules:

If the bike lane is adjacent to parked cars (example: Baltimore Ave, Fairmount Ave):
  • Blocking the bike lane is considered double parking, which is illegal.
If the bike lane is adjacent to the curb (example: 22nd Street, Spruce Street, 13th Street): 
  • "No person shall park a vehicle within a designated bike lane." [Philadelphia Code, Chapter 12 § 913(1)(c)(iii).]
  • Where signs prohibits parking, cars may still stop to load/unload people or goods. [Chapter 12 § 904]
  • "Operators of commercial vehicles shall be permitted an additional period of 20 minutes after loading or unloading to transact business incidental to such loading or unloading." [Chapter 12 § 904(2)]
Chapter 12 § 913 addresses the various circumstances in which stopping, standing, or parking are not allowed. It provides that there is "no parking" in bike lanes. Consequently, "stopping" and "standing" are not prohibited. In other words: both regular drivers and commercial vehicles are allowed to stop in a bike lane to load or unload stuff or people.

The difficulty, of course, is determining whether that car has been there for 3 minutes or 30 minutes. (Drivers, take note: flashers help explain your intentions and head off bicyclists' ire.)

The other variable is whether a street's parking signs say "no parking" versus "no stopping or standing." The PPA tells us that they ticket cars stopped in "No Stopping" areas, and give 20 minutes to cars stopped in "No Parking" areas, whether they are stopped in a travel lane or a bike lane.

12/18/13 4:40 pm): We received the following clarification on stopping vs. standing vs. parking from Charles Carmalt at MOTU:

A “No Standing” zone is different than a “No Stopping” zone.
  • In a “No Parking” zone, you can leave your vehicle to unload your groceries and bring them inside in an expeditious fashion. 
  • In a “No Standing” zone, you can stop against the curb to pick up or discharge someone, but the driver must remain with the vehicle. 
  • In a “No Stopping” zone, you shall not stop moving unless ordered to do so by a police officer or directed to do so by a traffic control device –(Sign or signal) or of course if the travel lane is blocked or if a pedestrian is crossing in a crosswalk.


Our Voices said...

So, if people are allowed to stop, what would be the purpose of tweeting pictures to the PPA?

andrewlevitt said...

This development risks disappointing a lot of Philadelphia bicycle riders. Bike lanes are unloading lanes, and so cars will be parked (in the ordinary sense of the word) in them any day of the week until the law changes.

You'd think the recent Complete Streets bill would have fixed this, but in fact it did the opposite: it quietly legalized bike-lane "loading" while loudly prohibiting bike-lane parking:

"[Bike lanes] should not be treated differently from conventional traffic lanes with respect to the need of motorists to lawfully stop, stand, and load or unload passengers;"

Derek said...

@Our Voices: There is no purpose, just like there are technically no bike lanes for bike use. Take your college degree and wage tax to a city that cares.