Changing the Behavior of Bike Lane Violators, Part 2 of 2

Please read Part 1.

I know from direct experience and friends’ anecdotes that police rarely ticket bike lane violators. This is too bad, because without enforcement people will continue to put others lives in peril just to have a free or convenient place to store their car awhile. To some this is not a big deal, but in reality it is. One selfish person can deprive society of a Public Good – a vehicle travel lane – with police sanctioned impunity.

Tickets get people’s attention. I don’t often drive, and I rarely get tickets – but on occasion when I’ve let the meter run out, my heart jumps a beat when I see the neon orange glow of the ticket envelope…

And that phenomenon gave me a ‘bright” idea.

I have designed what looks like the printing on one side of a typical bright orange parking ticket envelope. It even uses some of the language of the Boston parking ticket envelope, which spells out in some detail the penalties for failing to pay the ticket. This design, if printed on obnoxiously bright paper (which is surprisingly expensive and difficult to source, cough cough), looks like a parking ticket envelope.

The other side of the paper will be a note educating the driver about culturally acceptable ways to use a bike lane (which never includes storage of an automobile).

1. I have the “fake ticket envelope” completed, and have printed it on some blazing orange paper. It looks like a real ticket envelope!
2. I have several ides for notes to leave on the other side of the paper. This is where I will try to get through to the scofflaws.
3. With front and back designed, I print the file two-sided, and use one of those paper slicers (remember from art class in grade school?) to cut out 3 tickets per printed page.
4. I will carry some at all times and leave on appropriate windshields.

Protocol, etiquette and social responsibility: I want to share the work I’ve done but I insist on a few things for those who do:
1. You are leaving a note for someone who is demonstrably either blind (“didn’t see” giant bike lane icon and no parking signs) or doesn’t care. You won’t win behavioral change with swears and/or anger.
2. No vandalism! Scofflaws make you angry; else you would not be reading this. Leave the bright orange note tucked under the windshield wiper and move on. Don’t harm the scofflaw’s property, it’s a crime and sets a bad example.
3. Try to target the worst offenders. Please read Part 1 of this blog post. Targeting the worst offenders gives us the moral high ground.

Pick an appropriate message: I’m no psychologist, but I’ve read a lot about how some ways of communicating are more effective than others. I plan to try a variety of messages, and have copies of a bunch when I ride. Then I can leave a note most appropriate to the context. Here are some ideas… I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts in the comments.
1. Use shame. Shame is a powerful motivator. “Shame on you, your selfish act of blocking the bike lane is causing people – including children – to ride out into traffic…”
2. Use fear of a future, bad outcome. This sounds a bit like shame, but it’s not. “Shame on you, your selfish act of blocking the bike lane is causing people – including children – to ride out into traffic. Somebody might get severely injured or killed because of your illegal act.
3. Use facts: If the police so choose, police can ticket bike lane violators. Bike lane violations are a “marked lane violation” which is a $100 fine. So maybe an effective message is just the facts: “This is just a note. You are parked in a bike lane. If the police choose to ticket you, it would be a $100 fine for ‘marked lane violation’. Consider this a friendly warning…”
4. Call the police. Sooner or later someone will complain to the police about these bright orange notes. Get one step ahead of them! Combine the following with the text from #3 above: “…. Consider this a friendly warning. Also, I’m calling the police to ask them to ticket cars illegally parked here.”
5. Personally I’ll do anything within reason to get through to people. I’ll even beg a bit. Like this: “You are parked in a bike lane. Its intended purpose is to make a safer place to ride a bicycle than in the main motor vehicle travel lane. But when even just one car is parked in the lane, people have to cycle out into traffic around you. Don’t force me and people like me into harm’s way. I’m simply trying to get to work. Please store your car somewhere else.”
You get the idea… But again, I’d love to see suggestions in the comments below!

A Microsoft Word version of the file is available for download below. I make it freely available for people who want to buy their own brightly colored paper and print out notes for people, but under some conditions!
1. Read, understand and follow the rules of Protocol, etiquette and social responsibility, above.
2. You print and distribute these tickets at your own risk. It’s your own responsibility if:
a. If you jam up the laser printer at work –
b. An angry driver catches you leaving a note and punches you in the sternum –
c. The police stop you and trump up charges that a bright orange piece of paper somehow means you’re impersonating an officer of the law –
d. You are struck by lightning while doling out vigilante notices onto illegally parked car windshields.

The Microsoft word template file is here: Tickets.  It has two pages, one with 3 smaller ticket envelopes per page and one with two larger ticket envelopes.  They can be re-sized.

I leave it up to you to write a message for the back.  Hand write a note for personal effect, or print double-sided with a typed message (positioning your words is also left as an exercise).  Notice, the result looks pretty good.  Below, one of these is my ‘note’, the other is a genuine ticket envelope.


Full disclosure, I have not begun placing these on scofflaws cars.  I will, and my thoughts on the matter will be shared via a future post.

Changing the Behavior of Bike Lane Violators

Part one of two.

I’d like to change the world in profound ways, but in the near term I’ll settle for small change in just my community.

So let’s start small.

I seek to change the behavior of people who park in bike lanes. Starting small means I’ll focus my efforts on only the most egregious violators. In my opinion, the most egregious bike lane scofflaws are:
1. Those who, by parking in the bike lane, force cyclists to ride out into traffic on roads with fast moving or otherwise perilous traffic.
2. Those who, by choosing to block bike lanes, completely deprive cyclists of the lane’s use. This is different from the above type insofar as it’s not clear what happens to the displaced cyclists. Do they take an alternate route (perhaps on a dangerous road)? Do they – after chronic misappropriation of their safe route – stop cycling and turn to driving or taking the T?

All bike violations are created equal in the eyes of the law. Each makes the driver eligible for a $100 “marked lane violation” fine. But the impact of the lane-block can be markedly different depending on the greater context: violation location, time of day and other context.  Context is important.  Sometimes a blocked bike lane creates little danger to cycling and is a minor inconvenience to get past.  Elsewhere, a blocked bike lane can cause great peril for cyclists.

I’ll try to clarify through examples below:

Example 1: Atlantic Avenue in Boston heading northbound from South Station.
There are three relatively narrow (10’-11’) car lanes and a 6’ bike lane. Drivers occasionally block the bike lane, and many of those blockers don’t stay long. Some for as short as a minute (e.g., dropping off a passenger), and others longer: the taxi queue in front of the Intercontinental Hotel for example.

These drivers used to upset me greatly until I realized they pose little danger to me (granted they might make a big difference to another cyclist). This is because the roadway and lane width combine to force a certain behavior on drivers: When one motorist pulls into the bike lane blocking the curb, the rightmost road lane is effectively blocked. The roadway itself is still only 3 car lanes plus about 6’ wide. 99% of the time, I simply ride around the bike lane blocker in the remains of the right most car lane. It helps greatly that traffic on Atlantic Ave moves slowly because lights are spaced so close together, making it pretty comfortable to ride out into the vehicle travel lane to get around a bike lane blocker.

Atlantic Ave Bike Lane
Relatively safe to pass the parked car

Example 2: No specific location. Here is the context: Driver is using the bike lane for ‘long term’ parking (I’ll define as: greater than 5 minutes). Road is 15 or so feet wide, which encourages drivers to travel at 40 MPH or greater regardless of the posted speed limit. The cyclist puts him or her self in great danger to get around the illegally parked car.

Bad lane violation
Cyclist is in great peril when passing this lawbreaker’s car

I want to target these drivers for behavioral change. These are the ones putting people in greater peril.

Part 2 will introduce how I intend to compel some behavioral change.