KUNM

Will Bike Lane Parking Tickets Protect Cyclists?

Jun 26, 2019

For a few months now in Albuquerque, the city has been ticketing people for parking in bike lanes. That’s after the city changed an ordinance so that bike lane stripes count as 'no parking' signage.

But enforcement has not been consistent throughout the city, and cyclists, business owners and residents are raising questions about whether the parking tickets are keeping bike lanes clear.

Lee Anne Ratzlaff has been a cyclist and bike advocate for most of her life. KUNM went on a ride with her through Nob Hill to see her typical day-to-day commute.

It didn’t take long before they came up on a moving truck parked in the bike lane, facing the wrong way, right in front of them. Ratzlaff said it’s situations like this that pose a risk to cyclists and drivers. To Ratzlaff, bike lanes are an essential part of commuting in Albuquerque.

“However, there are definitely some bike lanes in town that are tricky, that are not that well designed, or aren’t very utilized," said Ratzlaff. "And there’s plenty of them especially in the downtown area that are inaccessible because of cars parking in them constantly." 

Cyclist deaths are on the rise in New Mexico. They went from two in 2017 to nine last year. Ratzlaff said it’s unacceptable for streets here to be so dangerous. She said it’s easily preventable.

“I think that we really need to focus on our roadways as a public health and safety issue and making sure that everyone recognizes they need to slow down, pay attention, share the roadways and just recognize that people are traveling," she said. 

Albuquerque officials determine the best and safest places to put bike lanes. Paula Dodge-Kwan is with the city’s engineering division. She said they use data and input from residents, including the Greater Albuquerque Bicycle Advisory Committee

“They’re a city advisory board. They have members from each district," she said. "They’re all bicyclists and avid bicyclists at that."

Dodge-Kwan said the city has several other advisory boards who help work to make streets accessible for everyone. “Including bicycles, pedestrians, transit and regular vehicular traffic." 

There are more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails in Albuquerque according to CABQ.gov, but the city is only ticketing people for parking in bike lanes in certain streets like Osuna, Pennsylvania and Girard. According to a public records request, the city wrote fewer than 100 tickets in the first three months after the new ordinance went into effect. 

The yellow on this map shows where there are the highest number of bicycle accidents. The dots represent where people have been ticketed for parking in bike lanes. We've also included multiple bike paths and lanes on the map. Check out and explore the data we used for this map. 

“With only five parking enforcement officers, we don’t have the ability to patrol the entire city and to enforce parking around the entire city," said Johnny Chandler, spokesman for the Albuquerque Department of Municipal Development. He said they’re prioritizing ticketing in areas where there are parking meters like Nob Hill and downtown over bike lanes. The Albuquerque Police Department also writes parking tickets. 

“We work in conjunction with APD when it comes to enforcement. We have to maximize our resources to focus on the areas where the economic activity is," Chandler said. 

But what about all the other residential and commercial streets in Albuquerque that have bike lanes where people are used to parking? 

Sydney Counce is the manager of a local band. She works from home with eight other band members, but there’s only room for two cars in her driveway. And there’s a bike lane in front of her house.  

“I feel torn because I bike on this street all the time," she said. "We take our kids down to the Bosque right here several times a week.” 

She said there’s nowhere else to park except in the bike lane. 

If they were to come ticket, that’s eight people in our band. We’re not wealthy, we’re musicians. We can’t afford that type of hit,” Counce said.  

So far, she hasn’t seen any tickets for parking in bike lanes in her neighborhood.

“I certainly wouldn’t be happy to see a ticket on one of my vehicles or one of my guest’s vehicles," she said. "I also am not happy when I am out with my kids on my bike and I have to figure out how I’m going to navigate through parked cars and traffic.” 

Thats not the only dilemma here. If the city isn't writing many tickets, won't people keep parking in bike lanes? That could mean it really comes down to drivers themselves, choosing to keep bike lanes clear by finding other places to park.