Bike lanes vs. street parking…a “bike war” in the making?

When cities choose to sacrifice on-street car parking in retail districts to install bike lanes, a common counter-argument is that removal of such parking spaces will impact businesses in a negative way. This argument has been proven again and again to be false (one such study here).

But what about replacing parking areas in a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood? How does this impact the neighborhood and the people living there? One such fight is brewing in Alexandria, Virginia, where resident F.H. Buckley recently wrote an op-ed piece (WSJ subscription required) for the Wall Street Journal on how such a move was tantamount to “war”. Here is a thoughtful and thorough response to Buckley’s piece in the Washington Times.

How to counter that argument? It’s easy to point naysayers and skeptics toward studies showing how bike lanes don’t impact businesses (and, in fact, may IMPROVE business, as we’ve written about here). But in a residential neighborhood? That’s a good bit more difficult. People tend to be protective of where they live (sometimes irrationally; see the NIMBY phenomenon for examples).

So how do bike advocates counter this skepticism? Do bike lanes represent a “greater good” that trump personal parking concerns? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.


  1. TBR

    You skip the bike lanes and ask for sharrows instead.

    And … ask for police enforcement of speed limits.

    And … push for publicity about the decision, about what sharrows mean and about how riders and, especially, drivers are to move along the no-bike-lane street.

    If you can keep the speeds under control, sharrows work very well.

    Sharrows (if the publicity does its job) help drivers make the transition from 20th century cars-rule mentality to the modern 21st century expectation of mixed use on every street.

    On residential streets, I much prefer the flexibility of riding in the road vs. using the bike lane, and if there is on-street parking, car speeds should be low.

    MAKE SURE THE SHARROWS ARE PLACED CORRECTLY — Do not let the traffic engineers put sharrows in the door zone.

    Sharrows need to go in the center of the travel lane — where cars are going to avoid getting doored.

    The national code recommends where sharrows should go, but this code will sometimes recommend poor placement (too close to parked cars). Insist that your local engineers do what is best for cyclists, which may mean setting aside the code recommendations.

    Done right, sharrows work well.

  2. Ghost Rider


    EXCELLENT argument! I took a look at the street in question on Google Street View, and the part I looked at is a four-lane road with double-center stripe. It looks fairly heavily-trafficked, but with two travel lanes in either direction, sharrows (properly placed) might just be the ideal solution.

    I am glad you hit on the “publicize” aspect of sharrows, too — too often, sharrows are painted on and motorists/cyclists are left to figure out (or not) how they are to be used. I feel they are fairly useless unless combined with a publicity campaign and a bit of police “show of force”, at least initially, until everyone is clear about how the sharrow lanes work.

    Bike lanes are NOT the solution for every application — there seems to be an unusual focus on them (or completely separated bike lane/path facilities) here in the U.S., when other tools in the box might work better for certain applications. Kudos on a great response!

  3. Raiyn

    A reasonable response. Well said.

  4. listenermark

    It’s not a war. Change is hard and slow…speed up the process by showing empathy towards people who genuinely piss you off.

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