If you’ve spent any time off-campus in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, you’ll have noticed the bright green cycle track along Broadway and perhaps the bike lanes on 12th and other nearby streets; Seattle has a whole network of shared lanes, dedicated lanes, and physically separated tracks. But space in Seattle’s central region is tight, everyone is in competition for each millimeter of asphalt, and it’s tempting to expand into areas not in active use, such as, for example, parking in dedicated bike infrastructure.
Don’t. Do that.
First off, it’s just phenomenally rude. Yes, compromises have to be made when space is at such a premium, and I’ll extend tolerance for vehicles performing public services, like USPS vans, delivery vehicles, large utility and construction trucks; there aren’t a lot of other options and they serve a public good. But on an individual level if you hang out in your idling car, half in the bike lane and half in the designated bus stop zone, you’re just being lazy and selfish. Take the extra minute or two to find an actual side street. I know it’s irritating to circle multiple blocks just trying to get out the way; trust me, I’ve done it myself. But do it anyway. That’s just basic respect for your fellow road-users and it’s part of both the social contract and the legal one as exemplified by your revocable driver’s license.
You don’t want to be that person; it’s a lot paperwork. And I don’t want to be dead.
Secondly, a cyclist merging into the car lane to go around you is in more danger than getting to stay in their lane and it also slows car traffic down, a ripple-effect of your entitlement. Especially if multiple cyclists have to take the car lane in order to get around your car, other car traffic might be slowed for the whole block, and drivers that are insufficiently impatient will still attempt to pass the cyclist even when there isn’t room. All because you couldn’t be bothered get out of someone else’s legal and dedicated right of way, you increase the risk of injury or death and spread inefficiency and irritation. Go, you. You must be very important.
Thirdly, it’s not legal. You’re eligible for a ticket if one of the many, aggressively opportunistic parking control officers happens to pass by, and if I come across you first I will be more than happy to take advantage of Seattle’s Find It, Fix It app to snap a photo of you, your car, and your license plate and send it in for immediate inspection. I am definitely that petty and I will absolutely make the time. If thoughtfulness of other people or care for their safety is not enough to motivate you to better behavior, maybe punitive fees will.
This basic respect for bike lanes and other infrastructure goes beyond just not parking in it; please don’t drive in it either, and that includes using a bike lane as a turn lane. I almost can’t believe I have to say this one out loud. Especially intersections that have the giant green “bike boxes” and multiple “No Turn On Red” signs are designed to prevent a very common and extremely dangerous-to-fatal cyclist/car interaction known as the “right hook”, which occurs when a driver turning right plows right over a cyclist who is going straight. You don’t want to be that person; it’s a lot paperwork. I don’t want to be dead. The bike boxes have a great big old white stop bar in front of them; that is for you, Dear Reader, the driver. Stay behind it. Cyclists will congregate in the box and have the opportunity to go once the light is green, and you can then make your right turn, while of course checking for additional cyclists that may be approaching from behind, since they do still have the right of way.
intersections that have the giant green “bike boxes” and multiple “No Turn On Red” signs are designed to prevent a very common and extremely dangerous-to-fatal cyclist/car interaction known as the “right hook”
And hey, while we’re on the topic, try not to walk in the bike lane or cycle track more than you have to either. I can’t stress this one enough. I’ve more than once given audible warning to someone obliviously sauntering down the middle of the broad, lime green, bike-silhouetted path only to have them jump a mile and sling profanities as I pass slowly and carefully. The sidewalk is literally five feet away. Please walk on it. It was put there specifically for pedestrians, so that they won’t be at risk from being hit by cyclists weighing in at one to two hundred pounds and travelling at 10 to 25 miles per hour; more than enough momentum to do serious damage to everyone involved. Do everyone a favor and stay out of the goddamn bike lane as much as possible. If, to get to your parked car or whatever, you must cross the bike lane, check both ways just as if you’re crossing a street and cross perpendicularly, rather than walking along it for any distance. You’re traversing lanes of traffic. It’s not a safe zone for you. Be alert and be respectful, get out of the way of oncoming cyclists, and minimize your time there. It’s really not hard to figure out.
The sidewalk is literally five feet away. Please walk on it.
We all have to share this city. As a cyclist, I have stay very aware of the space I take up, when I’m in someone’s way, when I’m in danger, when I’m endangering someone else. You, Dear Reader, however you get around, whether you drive or take mass transit and walk or use those electric scooters or a bike share bike or some combination thereof, you also are required to pay attention. You also should use the infrastructure meant for you, and behave as a considerate guest when out of it. Keep your head up and your eyes off your phone, and at least pretend like you give a damn about the people around you.