CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Warmer temperatures mean more people are getting out across eastern Iowa, including bicyclists.
Among them will soon be Benjamin Kaplan, the co-founder of Corridor Urbanism, a group that advocates for walkability and bicycling in Cedar Rapids.
“In the summer, I try to get on my bike every day and use it for transportation,” he said.
But when Kaplan rides, he said a lot of the times, he comes across cars that are partially or fully blocking the bike lanes in downtown Cedar Rapids.
“Then I have to move out to the actual travel lane, the actual traffic lane that’s normally for cars, and that’s a scary place to ride a bike,” he said.
Kaplan said Cedar Rapids' 3rd Avenue Bridge is a particular problem because drivers have to diagonally park short of the curb to keep the lane open. In most other situations, drivers parallel park next to the bike lane.
In the past, there have been signs along the bridge, warning drivers to keep the bike lanes clear, but those have been taken down. Kaplan said that’s due to road work.
“Right now, because it’s under construction, they’re not enforcing that bike lane,” he said.
On Sunday, Cedar Rapids resident Mike Jackson had parked his car on the bridge.
“I have no problems with the bike lanes,” he said. “I think bike lanes are fine.”
But he believes there needs to be more clarification on how those lanes work.
Even Jackson’s car was partially parked in it because he said it’s tough to see where it is.
“Signage and public education might help a little bit because I feel like we’ve been left to our own to figure out how they’re supposed to work,” he said.
Kaplan agreed that both are necessary, but that enforcement of the rules would be even better.
Drivers who park in the bike lane can face a $25 fine, according to Park CR. Kaplan says if that were issued more, people wouldn’t park in the lane as much as they do.
“Right now, there’s no consequences to parking in the bike lane really, and that, I think has to change,” he said.
Kaplan said the lanes and the rules around them need to be respected.
“When that infrastructure is misused or abused by cars just taking it over, it ruins biking for people who are more casual cyclists,” he said.
Kaplan said another solution to the problem could be permanent barriers between traffic and the bike lanes. But he said this is not only more expensive, but it also makes it more difficult to plow the lane and keep it clear during the winter, so he believes education and enforcement are the better options.