Iowa City City Council cracks down on parking in bike lanes

A new city ordinance will enforce a $15 citation for drivers parked in bike lanes in an effort to ensure increased biker safety.


Gabby Drees

A car is seen parked in a bike lane on North Clinton Street in Iowa City.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

Iowa City is cracking down on parking in bike lanes, which the city says will increase safety for cyclists, vehicles, and pedestrians on the street.

The Iowa City City Council passed an ordinance with these enforcements, which will be given by City Parking Enforcement Attendants. Violators will receive a $15 citation and their vehicles could be towed.

“The intent of the code amendment is to give the Parking Enforcement Attendants, who monitor downtown parking, the ability to write citations for cars that park in the bike lanes. They were not authorized to do so until a few weeks ago,” Iowa City Transportation Director Darian Nagel-Gamm wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

City Councilor John Thomas said ensuring clear bike lanes will keep cyclists from steering into dangerous traffic, especially on busy streets.

“If the bike lane is kept clear of parked vehicles, that’s certainly preferable for the bicyclist because they don’t then have to ride around the vehicle into the traffic lanes,” Thomas said.

Currently, Iowa City code states that no cars, trucks, or food delivery vehicles can park in the bike lanes.

The new ordinance will ensure safety on the streets during peak traffic hours for both cyclists and drivers, Thomas said.

Iowa City Assistant Transportation Planner Sarah Walz said it is important to keep cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians safe.

“Those lanes are reserved for bicyclists to keep bicyclists safe and to make them feel comfortable,” Walz said.

Delivery drivers can often be seen parking in bike lanes in front of downtown restaurants.

“I think [the ordinance] helps to raise awareness that those lanes are there for bicyclists to use. They’re not parking lanes,” Walz said.

Thomas, who was a supporter of the ordinance, said cyclists run into conflicts with drivers and vehicles at intersections and on downtown streets.

“Once it starts entering downtown, you know, that’s where the conflicts begin, and you also run into the conflicts meaning signalization at the intersections,” Thomas said.

The size of Iowa City makes it an ideal biking city, Thomas said, and he wants to encourage more people to bike in the city.

“T​​his is not a large town,” Thomas said. “You know, in my view, it really lends itself to being a bicycle-friendly city. It’s pretty easy to get around town by bicycle except in certain locations.”

Ahead of the City Council’s strategic plan discussions next month, Thomas hopes the council will have discussions on the biking community and how to keep cyclists safe.

“My goal going into the strategic plan with this next month is I want our bike bicycle network to be safe and comfortable for everyone,” Thomas said. “I’m not convinced that it is, at least in certain locations.”

Making sure streets are walkable and not just designed for drivers is something the council wants to accomplish through its Capital Improvement Plan. The City Council allocated 45 percent of the Capital Improvement Plan funds to street redesign.

“I think we need to evaluate those locations and see if we should come up with an alternative,” Thomas said.