I recently read a post on ibiketo.ca that spoke of some new promises to crack down on people who park in bike lanes. I've got nothing against bike lanes where they are practical, but I don't think it is as simple as painting some lines and saying "don't stop or park here". When you put bike lanes all over the place, you effectively make all curb sides a no stopping zone, so here's my question: where are cars supposed to pull over for a second? Where the alternatives to parking in the lane are limited, the temptation to use them for quick stops will be very hard for most to resist.
It is easy for people who never drive to answer "I don't care where they stop, so long as it is not in my bike lane". Should people who need to make a delivery or run into a shop in a downtown core go find a full-blown parking spot and pay for it? It simply isn't practical, and the lengths people might go to in order to stay out of heavily policed bike lanes could cause different kinds of traffic snarls that are just as bad for everybody.
How would us cyclists like it if we were only allowed to lock our bikes to designated racks because they were getting in the way of pedestrians? No poles, no sign posts, nothing like that. It would greatly reduce the wonderful flexibility of our vehicles. Would that be cool with everyone? Cars are inflexible to begin with, and not being allowed to pull over for short periods makes them even more so.
Regulars on this blog know that I ride my bike to work and back every single day. I am not "pro car" by any means. Cars and trucks, however, aren't going away any time soon, and making it harder for people to move around and conduct their business just doesn't make sense to me. In an ideal world there would be way fewer cars, more transit and cycling and walking, lower speeds and increased civility. Even when we get there, however, vehicles are going to need someplace to pull over once in a while.
In a great many areas of most cities, there will often be an alternative to blocking a bike lane, and where alternatives exist, drivers should be penalized for being lazy or selfish by blocking the lane. In areas like Toronto's downtown core, however, I just don't see any value in it or, frankly, the bike lanes themselves. Downtown traffic is slow. Cyclists don't need bike lane protection in downtown cores (or anywhere else, for that matter, but that's another, bigger, issue). They can find greater safety riding in and among traffic, especially if they avoid messenger style riding and behave like the cars, or more accurately, behave like cars driven by law abiding, civil drivers.
That's it, I've got to pull over and mellow out.