THE BRAVE souls who make their way around Philly on two wheels get some peace of mind from the city's growing number of bike lanes, strips of road that cars can't touch.

But cyclists have complained recently about cars parking in these safe havens. That usually costs the driver a ticket, but what happens when police cruisers and other city vehicles are the ones occupying the lane, as is the case on 13th Street near the Criminal Justice Center?

Not much, according to the Police Department.

"Where would you like them to park?" said Lt. Ray Evers, a police spokesman. "If an officer is called in by a judge while on patrol, he has to park near the courthouse. That means they're gonna find spaces on 13th Street even if it inconveniences other people."

The problem is most common on 13th Street between Arch and Filbert, a block that also includes a lot designated for city and police vehicles. According to Evers, this facility is usually filled to capacity, forcing officers to find other spaces.

"Look, this is Center City Philadelphia - parking is always gonna be a problem," he said. He stressed that civilian cars found parked in the lane get ticketed.

The 13th Street bike lane (which runs north-south between Hamilton and South streets) was made permanent in November after a trial run.

"Cars parking in bike lanes have long been a problem throughout the city," said Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. "There is some enforcement, but it doesn't feel like it has an impact because parking still continues."

Stuart said her office has received numerous complaints about the lane between Arch and Filbert, and identified other "hot spots" for makeshift police parking, including the lane outside of the 7-Eleven convenience store on Lombard Street near 22nd.

"This makes riding in the city more dangerous," she said. "If the bike lane is blocked, a cyclist has to move into the lane of traffic, sometimes pulling out in front of a car traveling there.

"The whole point of these lanes was to make riding safer for both drivers and cyclists."

Giulia, 28, an outpatient counselor who asked that only her first name be used, often bikes to her office from her home in West Philly and has seen the congestion near the 7-Eleven, which she said includes both cops and civilians.

"When people see cops parking in bike lanes, they think it's OK to do that, too," she said. "Cops lead by example, and they need to be aware of that."