“Hello! This here is a bike lane!”
That’s the rough translation of the white text in the photo above, “Halloå! Det där är en cykelbana“.
That is almost exactly the phrase that I yell at the top of my lungs as I ride my bike home from work in the city.
People in Stockholm like to park in bike lanes. A few stretches of Odengatan make me particularly crazy, where invariably a car or two is doubleparked in a loading section, or in that one stretch where the road narrows, causing car traffic to slow to a crawl and pinning me amid large metal objects, moving on one side and stationary on the other.
Inevitably, I am going fast enough that I don’t want to stop, and I might swing out into the car lane to avoid a parked vehicle. I always look and I usually signal, but that doesn’t mean that I am not taking chances. Sometimes I slip into the space between two cars moving forward, and those drivers may not see me. As a cyclist, I am relatively invisible, even if I am wearing my bright yellow vest with reflective strips and all my bike lights are blinking.
One evening last fall, Matt accompanied me home by bike, and he got mad at me for taking such risks. I seem to be used to it, or not really think about the possible consequences, as I yell at the top of my lungs and my level of frustration rises. I have promised him repeatedly that I will ride cautiously and won’t make dumb moves, and yet I know I will.
Yesterday morning, I felt slightly vindicated in seeing my frustrations shared, as my experiences were illustrated by the above photo and accompanying story inside Dagens Nyheter. The story, “Bad parking in the bike lane is a risk to safety,” is about Hammarby, a neighborhood at the southeast end of the city that is growing and trying to encourage cycling — and where drivers seem to be doubleparking all the time.
Here are two choice quotes from two different cyclists: “Många tror att de har rätt att parkera i cykelfälten genom ursäkten att de ‘bara ska in i affären’ eller hämta barn på skolan. Jag förstår om man ska lasta av saker men då kan man ställa sig på en tvärgata där man inte hindrar framfarten.” Roughly: “Many believe that they have the right to park in the bike lane with the excuse that they ‘only are hopping into a shop’ or dropping their kids off at school. I understand that people want to drop off things fast, but they could park on a side street and not be in the way on oncoming traffic.”
“Det är en slags krigszon där man ständigt tvingas ut bland bilisterna, vilket gör dem arga.” Roughly: “It’s a kind of warzone where people on bikes have to swing out into traffic, which makes drivers angry.”
Well, duh. It makes me, a bike rider, angry to have to do that too. Most drivers know not to park on a sidewalk because it’s a “pedestrian lane”; shouldn’t they know not to park in a regular traffic lane, too? I really want them to think that way about bike lanes.
So Matt’s brilliant idea this morning is that I ought to print out [many, many] copies of that photo and leave one on the windscreen of any doubleparked cars. It’s super tempting. But it might slow me down!