Greeson: You're going to respect the bike lanes or you'll pay for it

Judy Scoggins, an art student at UTC, uses one of the bike lanes on Broad Street on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. After a grace period, the Chattanooga Parking Authority will begin ticketing businesses and vehicles that violate the new downtown bike lane policy.
photo Jay Greeson

Hey, bike lanes, we almost forgot about you.

Thanks to reporting from TFP ace David Cobb, we now know that city officials are going to use extra resources to protect the hollow and holy trails that are the Broad Street bike lanes.

Yes, the Chattanooga Parking Authority - the ambassadors in green who patrol the city's streets and wait for your parking meter to hit 0:00 - have been called in to protect the half-mile of road that most of the biking community still ignores.

The enemy now is those pesky delivery trucks - you know, those folks actually trying to make a living - who fill the Mellow Mushroom with mellow mushrooms and keep the drink river big at Big River.

The trucks now will be required to use the tight loading zones or, come January, face the financial repercussions of, for all intents and purposes, doing their jobs.

Meet Bobby, who was hustling in the misting rain Wednesday morning downtown to deliver a popular soft drink to various businesses on Broad Street.

He has lugged and loaded, driven and dragged, the popular soda - one that has a certain connection to our town, and in a lot of ways indirectly helped to construct the downtown linchpin sitting between the end of Broad Street and the Tennessee River - for almost 30 years.

Like a lot of the people who have lived and worked here since the mid-1980s, Bobby remembers the days when biker gangs were downtown concern and bike lanes were a fictional vision somewhere between unicorns and Tinkerbell.

Now, he's every bit as concerned with the bike lanes, which in a lot of ways are like kudzu determined to encompass our downtown streets.

"I haven't seen anyone use them, but I have seen people trip over them," Bobby said about the bike lanes that in a little more than a month will become a bigger headache in his job.

The city wants loading and unloading to happen in the designated zones. OK. We're good with that. Rules are rules, except of course when they're not, like the parts of the bike lanes that slide onto the sidewalk.

But that's semantics right? This is a bold new idea that will make us even more like Boulder, Colo., or Seattle or wherever.

Awesome. Unless you are Bobby or like him.

With the increased focus on issuing more and more tickets downtown - and in turn giving more credence to the conspiracy theorists who say the bike lane adventure is another cash grab for the city by maximizing bike rentals or issuing citations - this pits the interest of one group against that of another.

Now it's potentially pleasing bike riders vs. policing folks trying to make a living downtown.

"I have to pay those tickets; my company won't," Bobby said, "and you get a few of those, and I couldn't afford to do this job."

This is not as easy as, "follow the parking" rules and everything will be fine. The city changed the landscape of downtown with those lanes, and with it, the ability for Bobby and his 25-foot truck - and all those like him - to do their jobs.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343. His "Right to the Point" column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.