This was intended for last weekend, but unfortunately my laptop is on the way out and I believe I’ve damaged the wifi antenna cable.
This topic has been a gripe for a while now.
Our delivery service was born out of a desire to help improve congestion, air pollution, parking issues and road safety. This is all well and good, but when there isn’t a level playing field it can really rub you up the wrong way.
I’m talking about vans and cars parking in bike lanes. One of the great advantages of our delivery service is being able to use the cycle lanes to under cut traffic and congestion, meaning we can be 25-30% faster, more efficient and reliable than van delivery within Oxford.
However, if a van decides to park in our cycle lane, slapping on hazard lights for what seems like a free pass, it slows us down, and if it’s grid lock congestion we have to stop and wait to merge with road traffic. This isn’t on. It’s not just affecting us, though: it also means the main flow of traffic has to overtake, causing tail backs, and it also pushes any other cyclists into main road traffic. It’s one of the reasons I’m reluctant to take my little brother and sister cycling in Oxford.
I had been contemplating ways to fight back when I came across a campaign from Canada literally called “I Parked in a bike lane”. To quote their site:
#IParkedInABikeLane was started out of frustration for the blatant disregard for cyclists and cycling infrastructure in Toronto. The concept is simple – you see a vehicle parked in a bike lane, you slap a sticker on it. The intention isn’t to cause damage or vandalize (the stickers don’t damage anything anyway) – it’s to get drivers to think twice about what they are doing and perhaps change their actions in the future. Parking and driving in bike lanes is not only inconsiderate and selfish, but also incredibly dangerous, especially for cyclists who are not comfortable integrating with the flow of traffic.
I thought this was a great idea that would actually begin to change behaviour in Oxford.
For the last two weeks, I have been photographing when people park in bike lanes, just to show there is a problem in Oxford while I get the stickers made up and our online shop working for them. (We intend to sell the stickers at cost price.)
I had an interesting conflict with one van driver parked in the bus lane outside Gee’s restaurant on Banbury road who saw me photographing his van. Objectively, he was in the wrong, but the justifications he came up with for his actions are what interested me because this is how he justifies his behaviour to himself.
“I’ve been doing this for years!” “Why don’t you pick on the bin men, they’re always in bus lanes?” “There’s nowhere else for me to park.” “I’m just doing my job.”
This is what I want to tackle with this campaign: behaviour. Below is a list of reasons we use to justify our own dishonest behaviour – it’s why you drive at 30 in a 20 zone, or lie on a dating profile, etc.
I believe the van driver had a conflict of interest: he needed to get the job done and parking in the right place would hamper that; he believes it’s a social norm, as he’s been doing it for years and other people do it a lot (like the above-cited bin men); and he doesn’t think he’s hurting anyone, even though he is, without realising it, hurting cyclists.
I think this sticker campaign could tackle van and car drivers behaviour head-on. It raises awareness and changes the social norm so it isn’t acceptable anymore. It gets people who park in a bike lane to face the impact of their actions. This isn’t going to be without conflict, but I’m tired of vehicles getting away with this – I’m half tempted to cycle and park in the middle of the road and see how they like being blocked. But, I was raised to believe that two wrongs don’t make a right, so a harmless sticker will do.
What’s the way to avoid this conflict? DON’T PARK IN A BIKE LANE… simple.
As a full disclaimer: we are a company and have a clear bias towards wanting to remove vans from the city, but I don’t feel this is an issue because of the clear public benefits in improved air pollution levels, congestion issues, parking issues and road safety, and helps us all move towards a more sustainable and liveable city centre for the future.
Here are some more photos for good measure. These are only the ones we passed on our deliveries, at various times of day between 7am and 5pm; I can imagine there are lots more we simply didn’t catch in the act.