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Legislation would impose tougher fines for motorists who park, drive in bike lanes

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But would the law be widely enforced?

Newly installed bike lanes along Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta.
An example of an unblocked bike lane downtown.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta

Anyone who’s cycled around Atlanta—or any major city, for that matter—has likely encountered a motorist using a bike lane as a parking spot or loading zone.

Sometimes it’s an Uber driver waiting to pick someone up or deliver lunch; other times, it’s a big-rig truck delivering food or liquor to a local bar or restaurant.

Should newly proposed Atlanta City Council legislation become law, those drivers could be slapped with tougher fines for blocking the bike lane.

If the proposed ordinance passes a council vote and earns Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s signature, people who drive or park personal vehicles—cars, light trucks, SUVs, or motorcycles—in bike lanes would have to pay a $100 penalty. That’s a spike from the current $25 fine.

For those who leave tractor-trailers or semi-trucks blocking bike paths, a $1,000 fine could be imposed.

There is a caveat: Motorists would be barred from such behavior “except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with the directions of a peace officer or official traffic control device,” according to the legislation.

This raises questions about how enforceable the proposed law would be, and how easy or difficult it might be to fight the fines.

For instance, if a streetside restaurant doesn’t have a loading dock or parking for a delivery truck, where should it go?

Sometimes, truck drivers will just park in a center turn lane. But is that better or worse than blocking the bike path?

An Atlanta Bicycle Coalition report released in February 2018 shows that “common violators” of bike lane blockage laws are driving food delivery trucks, mail trucks, and police cars.”

The legislation passed the council’s public safety and transportation committee earlier this week and is expected to go before the full council for a vote on Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.