On any given day, riding in the bike lane, I have to swerve out and into traffic because someone is double parked or a truck is making a delivery, and instead of finding a proper parking spot or idling in the main traffic lane, they decide to pull into and block the lane designed for bike travel.
In the U.S. laws governing cyclists and bike lanes vary by state. In most states though, where bike lanes are present, cyclists are required to travel in them, except when riding in the bike lane presents a safety hazard, or they are planning to turn.
The trouble with this wording is that people differ as to what constitutes a safety hazard. Clearly, no one can ride through the back of a vehicle that’s double parked. And if there’s a big vertical crack in the pavement, or some glass or the bike lane is precariously close to parked cars, any one of which could swing a door open at any moment, I’m not going to ride in the bike lane. But just because I perceive these as safety hazards doesn’t mean that a police officer is going to agree with me (although I’ve never been issued a ticket).
Check out this video of a NYC cyclist who was ticketed for riding outside the bike lane. It’s a great demonstration of why cyclists should be given a little leeway when it comes to that law.
I guess the take home lesson is that if you’re cycling, don’t feel obligated to stay in the bike lane – ride where you are safest. And if you’re driving, just don’t park in the bike lane. If you need to stop, just stop in the traffic lane. Block other cars. Don’t block the bikes, forcing cyclists to swerve around you into traffic.