In DC and around the country, motorists continue to park in bike lanes, despite the fact that the practice is both illegal and unsafe. When a car is blocking a bike lane and a cyclist is forced into lanes of traffic, this disruption clearly presents a dangerous and avoidable situation for the cyclist as well as the drivers on the road.
As the District Department of Transportation continues to invest in cycling infrastructure, it also needs to continue to focus on enforcement. Here in the DC metro area, we are fortunate to have a growing network of bicycle lanes that makes traveling by bike safer, and helps to improve traffic congestion for all road users. However, the benefit of these bike lanes is negated if motorists violate the law and use the lanes as parking lanes, turning lanes*, or shortcuts.
*In certain areas, cars may merge into a bike lane to make a right or left turn. In these 'mixing zones,' both drivers and cyclists need to be very aware of the overlap.
According to the Washington Post, the number of tickets issued in the District has increased significantly over the last few years, jumping from approximately 730 tickets issued in 2010 to approximately 4,200 tickets issued in 2013. This nearly six-fold increase is certainly an encouraging sign, but if you ride regularly in the DC area, you know that we have not yet solved this problem. Take a ride down L Street on any given day and count the number of cars and delivery vehicles parked in the cycle lane. For many drivers, including commercial drivers, the $65 fine is well worth the risk of using a conveniently car-free bicycle lane as a temporary parking solution.
We need better enforcement by the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Public Works, and the District Department of Transportation. We need stiffer penalties for repeat offenders so that using bike lanes as parking lanes is not a financial risk worth taking. And we need drivers to understand that when they do block a bicycle lane, this decision forces cyclists into the road and puts both the cyclist and other drivers at risk. Be considerate, respect the law, and we can all travel safely and more efficiently on our shared roadways.