Saturday, June 15, 2024

Detroit Doesn’t Explicitly Prohibit Parking In Bike Lanes. That’s Weird.

Awhile back, I spent some time going back and forth with the Detroit Police Department over a request for data about the number of cars that had been ticketed for parking in bike lanes. I had been frustrated with Ford’s security team for the not-train-station parking their vehicles in the bike lane in front of the Ziggurat of Moblity, a.k.a. the Bagley Parking Structure, and had also encountered similar occurrences on Michigan Avenue, so I was curious to know whether the Detroit Police actually ever ticketed these people. The department was cagey and initially suggested that they wouldn’t be able to provide the information, and then, after weeks of e-mail exchanges, they sent me a positively dubious Word document with some not-completely-plausible numbers in it. I was curious to know what section of city code actually deals with the bike lane question. Turns out? There isn’t one! That’s a little weird, right?

That the code doesn’t explicitly have its own category for bike lane violations doesn’t prevent traffic enforcement officers from writing tickets for this. It just means that there’s not a separate code. Bike lanes could then be considered either “parking in prohibited area” or “improper parking.” These fall under Sec. 46-1-32, 801-802 (“Schedule of fines for parking violations”). The city might argue that most of the Michigan state laws dealing with the roles of bicycles in traffic preclude the need for local ordinances. But state laws establish things like the right of bicycles to use a full travel lane, something the hideous drivers of this state seem to generally forget; they do not deal with local parking enforcement. So, why should they have their own category of violation?

Because in a society of laws, the written word of the law signals to the people what the State is interested in, and in this case, the State is interested in cars, not bikes. It’s a really simple policy line item that would take five seconds to assemble (plus however many hours it would need to go through whatever Roberts Rules of Bureaucracy are actually required to amend municipal code). The city needs to signal to the people of Detroit that it’s committed to transportation alternatives. Proper enforcement and codification thereof would be at least a tiny step toward realizing that goal.

In the meantime, maybe we should hook up with the Bike Dashcam people and see if they can integrate a plate reader feature into their app– which turns any phone into a bike dashcam.

an isometric rendering of a bike lane
Midjourney provides another hilariously bad illustration of infrastructure– ranging from the crosswalk between nonexistent sidewalks, the arrows facing different directions. You don’t even want to see my attempt at sharrows.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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