South Shore Snafu: Bike Lane Parking Is Also Causing Problems for Drivers, Buses

Illegal parking in the bike lanes at 75th and South Shore Drive creates headaches for all road users. Image: Google Street View
Illegal parking in the bike lanes at 75th and South Shore Drive creates headaches for all road users. Image: Google Street View

According to South Side bike advocates, illegal parking in the bicycle lanes on South Shore Drive isn’t just making the bikeways impassible, it’s also obstructing CTA buses and private cars.

Many portions of South Shore Drive have curbside buffered bike lane and, although there are No Parking signs posted, it’s common for motorists to ignore them and use the lanes for short-term parking. Since the drive is a relatively narrow two-lane street, the parked cars sticking out into the travel lanes create an obstacle for motorized traffic as well as bike riders.

The problem is especially bad at 75th Street and South Shore, near Excel Academy of South Shore, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Paideia Academy, and Powell Elementary because many parents are using the lanes to drop off and pick up their kids before and school, according to nearby resident and bike commuter Waymond Smith. “It’s just a really messy spot,” he says.

In particular, cars curb side near the intersection are an issue for the several CTA bus lines that pass by, Smith says. They’re especially problematic for #71 buses that have to make a turn at 75th Street. “Sometimes when the light changes, the bus is still stuck at the intersection,” he says. “Because no one’s moving, it’s just a big knot.”

Smith brought up the issue at last month’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council Meeting last month. The response from city officials at the meeting was “an unsatisfactory non-answer,” according to Streetsblog freelancer and Beverly resident Anne Alt.

Smith says he hasn’t reached out to local alderman Greg Mitchell’s office yet, because he believes Mitchell’s staff is currently focusing on recent gun violence cases in the 7th Ward. He has discussed the traffic problem with MBAC’s South Side community representative Deloris Lucas, who told me she plans to get in touch with Harris’ office soon.

The 7th Ward, the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the CTA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the meantime, if you encounter problems with illegally parked cars in the South Shore bike lanes, you can contact the city’s 311 non-emergency help line to document the issue. The city recently added a “Vehicle Parking in a Bike Lane” category to the 311 system, which makes it more likely your call with be processed properly. At the recent MBAC meeting, a staffer from the Department of Finance, which enforces parking, said that the department will be adding bike routes to patrol maps and using the 311 reports to identify streets that need more enforcement of illegal bike lane parking.

Obviously, bike lane enforcement is not one of the most pressing issues in communities that have major public safety issues to address. However, the situation at 75th and South Shore isn’t just endangering cyclists, but creating major issues for all road users, so the city should prioritize working with the schools to find a solution.

  • rduke

    Some short concrete barriers would probably do a lot to stop parking.

  • crosspalms

    I’ve ridden South Shore Drive often on my way to NW Indiana, and each time there’s been someone parked somewhere in the bike lane. I don’t mind when it’s next to a nursing home (there are a couple on the west side of the street), but the rest of the time it’s dangerous. Actually it’s always dangerous, just more understandable near the homes.

  • Dan Korn

    Schools and churches seem to get away with as much parking in bike lanes as they want. Perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between property taxes and improper use of public space.

  • planetshwoop

    The traffic created by schools is significant and it’s rarely systemically addressed. I think it’s an undercounted aspect of “rush hour” since that’s typically assumed to be job commuters.

  • John

    This has always been a very common situation on South Shore Drive. Just requires enforcement.

  • Dan Korn

    Here in Little Village, this is a big problem in the Marshall Boulevard and 24th Boulevard bike lanes. Every school day, in the morning and the afternoon, there are dozens of cars parked in them, with people dropping off and picking up kids, mostly from Saucedo, but some from Spry as well. The people at Saucedo actually think this is safer than having the cars use their giant parking lot.

  • Dan Korn

    Also, about once a week, there’s a huge line of cars in the 24th Boulevard bike lane, lined up for funeral processions from the Kolbe Assumption church. Even if the archaic funeral procession laws let cars drive en masse through red lights, I’m pretty sure they don’t let them park in bike lanes for hours.

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