Bicycle advocates are celebrating a new statewide law that prohibits motorists from “standing” or parking in designated bike lanes, a practice riders say puts them at risk by forcing them into the flow of traffic to avoid a vehicle in their path.
“It’s definitely good news,” said Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, one of the advocacy groups that pushed for the legislation. “If you’ve never biked, you don’t understand that being stopped . . . in a bike lane can be really dangerous, and that momentary action of a cyclist pulling out and around a parked car and into moving traffic can cause serious injury — or worse.”
Governor Charlie Baker signed the so-called “Bike Lane Bill” into law Friday afternoon. The law makes it a fineable offense for drivers to “stand” — sit in the car while parked — or leave a vehicle unattended in a marked bicycle lane.
It does not prohibit motorists from “stopping” in a lane, according to State Representative David Rogers, the lead sponsor of the bill, who defined that as pulling over briefly to pick up or drop off a passenger.
“People park in the lanes, and bikes have to swerve into traffic . . . and it’s a public safety issue,” he said. “This is just one more step forward in getting the public to realize that these bike lanes are important, and the law protects cyclists.”
Senator William Brownsberger, who helped shape the legislation, said the law sends a clear message to motorists. “Bike lanes are travel lanes, and one should not casually park in them,” he said.
A violation of the law carries a $50 fine. Receiving a ticket is not a moving violation, and will have no impact on a driver’s insurance rates.
It will be up to police departments in individual cities and towns to enforce the measure.
Boston already bans bike-lane parking — and the city levies a much higher fine of $100.
Wolfson, of the cyclists union, said enforcement will play a key role in changing the habits of drivers, and reminding them that parking in a bike lane puts cyclists in danger.
“The absence of enforcement can lend itself to apathy,” she said. “No one is going to magically stop doing it without repercussion.”
She said a short period of increased education is key, so that people don’t feel like they’re being blindsided by the regulations.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.