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Car-filled bike lane photo sparks cyclist anger

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Posted at 2:54 PM, Jun 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 14:56:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond cyclists reacted unhappily when local artist Doug Orleski (aka RVA Coffee Stain) posted a photo he took Sunday of cars parked all throughout a bike lane on Hermitage Road, feeling it represented a lack of regard for cyclists.

Commenters called for action from the city such as ticketing the cars or towing them.

“Tow them all!!!!” said one commenter.

“I think they all need to be ticketed and towed. This is ridiculous,” said another, and someone else described the clogged bike lane as “Despicable.”

While the photo sparked some outrage on social media, parking in this particular North Side bike lane is neither prohibited nor illegal. And, some who live nearby say that such disregard for bike lanes is not a common occurrence.

“It’s highly unusual to see anybody park in those,” said Lisa Wood, who lives directly in front of the photographed part of the road. “Those bike lanes are well-trafficked by cyclists. My neighbor across the street just passed away last Saturday, and has a large family. If this was taken right out front here, then that could explain it.”

Cars parked in bike lane (PHOTO: RVA Coffee Stain)

Cars parked in bike lane (PHOTO: RVA Coffee Stain)

“I’m stumped, I really am, because I don’t see people doing that,” she said. “I don’t recognize any of these cars in the photo.”

Same bike lane on Tuesday afternoon. (PHOTO: Diana DiGangi)

Same bike lane on Tuesday afternoon.
(PHOTO: Diana DiGangi)

A local cyclist, Larry Jones, said that he frequents this exact bike path and doesn’t usually have issues with cars taking up space in it.

“These lanes are usually clear. I use them in the early morning, but at lunchtime also,” he said. “It hasn’t been much of a problem. I’ve noticed quite a few bike lanes popping up, I haven’t noticed problems with cars parking in them but I know that other people have… I think ultimately that drivers and cyclists can peacefully coexist.”

Richmond cycling groups emphasized their desire to better educate drivers on the necessity of bike lanes being clear, and that they want to partner with the media and the city of Richmond to raise awareness of this issue. For their part, the Richmond Police Department did issue a statement with Orleski’s photo attached.

“Motorists are urged not to park in bike lanes,” stated the department’s Facebook page. “Keep the popular lanes free for cyclist use.”

Max Hepp-Buchanan, the director of Bike Walk RVA, expressed confidence that the problem of cars in Richmond bike lanes can be resolved by educating drivers and letting Richmonders know that biking is for everyone.

“We’ve only just recently started building bike lanes, and this is the beginning of a roll out of a citywide bike lane network,” said Hepp-Buchanan. “There’s going to be some growing pains. We kind of want to show Richmond that bike lanes are for anyone with a bike in Richmond, if you’re interested and want to just try it out. We want bike lanes to be a safe space for people to run errands, take their kids to school, et cetera. We don’t want it to be a fringe activity.”

Ed Mekalian of RVACycle agreed with him on the importance of educating drivers and doing so with the help of the city of Richmond.

“While we’re gaining acceptance in Richmond for biking as an alternative means of transportation, there’s still a good number of drivers who aren’t aware that [bike lanes] aren’t to be treated as alternative parking,” he said. “As the bicycling community we just need city officials and the police to help us make these things clear. We don’t want there to be altercations between biker versus driver.”