- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) later this month will begin issuing $150 fines to motorists who stop or park in bicycle lanes.

Bicycling advocates called the move a welcome Band-Aid, but a regional automobile owners club called it “another stupid idea.”

Starting Feb. 28, DPW parking enforcement officers will take photos of vehicles that are stopped in, parked in or leaving a bike lane and will mail the photos with a $150 citation to the owners, the agency said in a press release on its website.

However, the press release has been removed because the agency is “working through some administrative processes.” Officials did not elaborate.

“The District’s nearly 90 miles of bike lanes help to expand transportation options and boost connectivity to the city’s vibrant neighborhoods and commercial corridors,” DPW Director Chris Geldart said in a written statement. “As we enter into the next stage of our bike lane enforcement program, the issuance of tickets will incentivize motorists to help keep lanes clear of obstructions so that bikers can safely share the road with vehicles.”

John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, described the change as “gangsterism in the name of traffic safety” and “another stupid idea.”

The District’s poorly designed streets force taxis and deliver trucks to stop in bike lanes because stopping anywhere else would be unsafe for drivers and pedestrians, said Mr. Townsend, a longtime critic of automated traffic enforcement.

He noted that the city issued more than 2.7 million traffic tickets totaling more than $324 million in fines in fiscal 2018.

“If tickets made the city safer, then the city would be the safest place on earth,” Mr. Townsend said, adding that delivery companies like FedEx and UPS probably will be able to absorb some fines but smaller businesses could be hurt by the change.

Colin Browne, a spokesman for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, described the DPW plan as a Band-Aid for the “chronic problem” of drivers parking in bike lanes, which creates hazards for cyclists.

“But at the end of the day, enforcement is a clunky, inequitable backstop against bad design,” he said. “For some folks, $65 is a nuisance. For others, it’s groceries.”

Mr. Browne agreed with Mr. Townsend that the city’s infrastructure is an issue, saying a well-designed, protected bicycle lane is difficult to block.

“Only about 40% of people in D.C. even drive on a regular basis, but we devote huge swaths of every block to storing private cars at the expense of safe, convenient places to drop off passengers, make deliveries, ride the bus or bike,” he said.

Since November, DPW has mailed “warning” photos without fines to owners of vehicles that blocked bike lanes; the warnings will end at the end of the month.

Mr. Geldhart said in his statement that parking enforcement officers also can issue tickets in persons but noted that motorists tend to drive away when they see the officers.

Mayor Muriel Bowser in November added 26 parking enforcement officers to focus on bike lane safety. DPW now has almost 300 employees who can photograph bike lane violators.

The parking enforcement team covers more than 100 locations across the city with at least one officer in each location focusing on bike lane safety.

This effort is a part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative to end all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024.

When the first year the initiative was implemented in 2016, the city had 28 traffic-related fatalities. Over the next two years, the number went up to 30, and then 36 deaths. In 2019, the number of fatalities fell to 27.

Five people have died of traffic-related fatalities this year as of Feb. 3, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

By 2022, the District Department of Transportation aims to add about 20 miles of bikeways, some of which are already being built on Alabama Avenue SE and Stanton Road SE, according to the DDOT website.

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