How to deal with bike lane blockages and other road obstacles



Riding your bike through the city streets is exhilarating and fun, no doubt. But it can also be filled with the daily obstacles and chaos that unfortunately come along with traffic everywhere…like this:

Photo credit: Greg Billing, Twitter (@gregbilling)

(Photo credit: Greg Billing via Twitter @gregbilling)

or this…

Photo credit: Ursula Sandstrom

(Photo credit: Ursula Sandstrom)

or even this…

In the protected bike lane?! | Photo credit: Ursula Sandstrom

Yes, even in a protected bike lane! (Photo credit: Ursula Sandstrom)

Mayhem, right? Here’s how you as a cyclist can safely and effectively maneuver through blocked bike lanes and other obstacle-filled circumstances on the road!


1. Be a PAL, especially when moving out of the bike lane to avoid an obstacle. Make it a point to be Predictable, Alert, and Lawful while you’re riding. This is especially important when passing into a traffic lane from a bike lane to avoid an obstacle, such as a parked car. When you notice the obstacle:

  • Slow down
  • Look over your shoulder and make sure the driver of the car behind you is aware of your attempt to pass, getting eye contact if possible.Image via BikeSense
  • Signal your intent.
  • Pass confidently, merging back into the bike lane once you have passed the obstacle.


2. Be careful with buses! Sarah Goodyear of The Atlantic‘s “City Lab”explains the complicated relationship that bicycles and buses share on the road:

“It’s one of the most disconcerting interactions on urban and suburban streets: the uncomfortable, out-of-sync dance between bicycles and buses traveling in the same direction. Often, the person riding a bike will have to leave the bike lane and go out into car traffic to pass a bus that has pulled into a stop—only to be quickly passed again by the bus driver, who then has to pull in for the next stop just as the cyclist is coming up from the rear again.” (Full article here.)

As the cyclists, you can make this dance a little smoother by making yourself as  visible to the person driving the bus as you can by making eye contact,  staying out of their blind spots, and not trying to pass too closely or dangerously.

Image via

Image via TriMet

You should also follow the same signaling and predictable behavior as mentioned  above. Be patient and don’t try to rush by with risky or dangerous moves.


Reporting parked cars, debris, or other obstacles in the bike lane is important! For one, it helps get things fixed – the city cannot do anything about a road problem if they don’t know it exists, and they certainly cannot have eyes and ears everywhere, all the time. Reporting issues also helps add to data that can help track the frequency and scale of problems, again, helping them to be noticed and (eventually, we hope) get fixed!


1. Debris: If there is debris – like glass, litter, branches or whatever else – in your path, immediately call 311 to report it. Additionally, f it is possible and safe to do so, you can take action yourself by removing the branches or picking up the litter.

Image via Flickr user Mr.TinDC

Image via Flickr user Mr.TinDC

2. Parked cars: If driver of the car is present, kindly inform them that they are blocking the bike lane and ask them to park somewhere else. While it is frustrating when a car is parked in the bike lane, it’s best when confronting the issue with a driver not to be aggressive or disrespectful.

(Photo credit: Ursula Sandstrom)

(Photo credit: Ursula Sandstrom)

*In fact, many people are not even aware that it’s illegal to park in the bike lane!

If the driver isn’t present or you do not feel comfortable confronting them, call 311 to report it.

Indeed, riding in the city can be difficult and full of obstacles, but knowing how to deal with the mayhem safely and effectively will help you continue to enjoy your rides and make the streets better for everyone!

Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates, Chipotle our delicious dinner party sponsors, and we’re supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.

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