Bike lanes as contested space

Headed for a meeting this morning at Albuquerque’s downtown Hyatt, I came across this:

Albuquerque city planning department pickup, parked in a bike lane next to a
Albuquerque city planning department pickup, parked in a bike lane next to a “no parking bike lane” sign

It was an Albuquerque City Planning Department truck, parked less than a block from City Hall, next to a “No Parking Bike Lane” sign. Literally right next to the sign. With, as you can see in the picture, empty parking spaces available immediately across the street.

When I politely but with clear irritation shared my dismay, the truck’s operator explained that the building’s owner had told him to park there.

The notion of property has crisp lines in legal documents and surveyors’ reports, but is less clear in our lived experience of the spaces around us. As a person who rides a bicycle, I feel a sense of ownership over that itty bitty strip, but so apparently do the owners of the Hyatt. “Sure, just park in the bike lane.”

In their 2011 book Sidewalks, my University of New Mexico colleague Renia Ehrenfeucht and her co-author Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris talk about the history of sidewalks as contested space. One of the central problems is the tension between abutting property owners, who tend to see sidewalks as “theirs” and would prefer to control their use, and others in the community, who have their own ideas about a sidewalks’ best use.

Here, that tension has spilled into the bike lane.

3 thoughts on “Bike lanes as contested space

  1. We need to provide a solution for drivers too, and right now we don’t try. Perhaps AVs will be it, eventually, but is there something else for now? 5 minute parking zones maybe?

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    1. There’s a giant two-story parking garage a hundred feet away that always has vacant spaces. There were empty street parking spaces *right across the street*. The space is dominated by solutions for drivers, space set aside for them to park their cars.

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