Media Note: On Feb. 26, the DC DPW updated the start date to Saturday, Feb. 29.
WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, February 26, 2020) –– Photo-enforced ticketing begins in earnest this week in the District’s honeycomb of bicycle lanes. Starting Saturday, nearly 30 deployed bike lane Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs) will issue “live” $150 tickets, now one of the District’s priciest parking citations, to any driver they spot and photograph improperly blocking bike lanes and cycletracks. AAA is urging motorists to share the road with cyclists and to shun parking, standing or stopping in bike lanes.
The PEOs’ duty stations encompass 90 miles of bike lanes in Washington, D.C. Strapped with cameras, their targets will include any vehicle entering or stopping in a bicycle lane, even temporarily. Their dragnet extends to operators of personal vehicles, cabs, government cars, commuter buses, postal trucks distributing mail, and panel vans “delivering goods and services to thousands of District residents and businesses every day.” Officials say the tougher enforcement will “improve bicycle and passenger safety.”
PEOs are also armed with hand-held electronic issuance devices. Meanwhile, legislation crafted to train 80 District residents to take photos of their neighbors and other motorists engaged in various parking and traffic violations is likely dead in its tracks. But there is now an app for that. With eyes on the streets apps like this, some are touting these times as “the self-surveillance era of traffic safety.” It rubs others the wrong way.
Click. Freeze frame. As the photo-ticketing ensues, some drivers are wondering if they will be ticketed for straying into designated bike lanes or while stopping temporarily in marked bike lanes or paths to drop-off or pick-up passengers or personal property at the curb. To clarify this, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has promulgated guidelines, rules and regulations on bike lane enforcement.
“To protect the lives and limbs of cyclists and e-scooter riders, to make the city safer for all, to reduce car-cycle collisions, crashes and conflicts, and to avoid tickets, it behooves drivers to eschew blocking bicycle lanes,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The road rules are clear. For safety’s sake, always abide by bike lane regulations. ‘Don’t drive in a bike lane except when making a turn, entering or leaving an alley, private road or driveway, or when you need to cross the bike lane to park near the curb.’ Click on the turn signal before pulling over to park or to drop off passengers.”
Stung by 16.6 million parking tickets in the past decade, drivers ask what proof they must proffer to legally fight an erroneous photo ticket snapped in a twinkling of an eye when their tires inadvertently crossed into a bike lane for a second or two. Like red-light and speed camera tickets, bike lane-blocking citations will be mailed to the registered owners. No one will be spared during the stepped-up enforcement, including drivers for taxi services, Uber, Lyft, FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service. In 2018, “City Hall” sent a letter to the Postmaster General taking the Postal Service to task for parking in bike lanes. It called upon USPS drivers to “cease this dangerous practice and refrain from parking in the District’s bike lanes.” Drivers moan the city has too few -only 5- all-day pick-up and drop-off zones for delivery vehicles and ride-hailing services.
Under the District’s Vision Zero Initiative the fine for stopping, standing or parking in a bike lane or a
protected bike lane escalated to $150. That is up $95 from the $55 fine for such infractions back in 2013, comprising a 173% increase. In fact, bike lane fines are now 200% higher than the fines for parking within 10 feet of a fire hydrant ($50), which can delay and deter firefighters rescuing someone trapped in a fire, or for parking or stopping in a fire lane ($50), or for parking while obstructing a fire escape ($50).
Bike lanes are exclusively for bicycle use. The District issued bike-lane citations to 2,420 motorists from January-May 2016. This compares to 3,218 drivers in fiscal 2017; 1,723 drivers in FY 2018; plus 2,310 in FY19. In May 2019, volunteers fanning across the city espied almost 700 bike lane violators in one day. Now residents will use an app to report common traffic violations. The city boasts 89 miles of bike lanes. It plans to build an additional 20 miles of protected bike lanes within two years, by 2022. The city’s Vision Zero Initiative (Title 18 DCMR) limits the situations when a motor vehicle is allowed to enter a bike lane, such as:
“Turning onto a cross street or following a police officer’s directions or traffic control device.”
“Stopping is allowed when necessary to enter a legal parking space or follow a police officer’s direction.”
“Stopping and standing to unload passengers or freight at other specific locations. Parking is prohibited.”
Competition is stiff for every square inch of streetscape in the District. “Bicycle trips account for only 1% of all trips in the United States,” according to research. However, the rate is much higher in Washington, D.C. It witnessed 20 million bike share trips from 2010 to 2018, before sliding in 2019. Each year, the nation’s capital experiences nearly 693.5 million vehicle trips, or 1.9 million per day, around town and in and out the District. Each workday 300 commuter buses enter the city. The city boasts “50,000 odd businesses,” including tens of thousands of restaurants, bistros, eateries, pubs, bars and taverns. “Nearly 99% of goods destined for 60,000 locations in District arrive by truck.” Truck freight traffic volume in the nation’s capital tops 27.1 million trips in any given year, as was the case in 2011. “By 2040, truck volumes are expected to grow 70 percent for inbound shipments and nearly 140 percent for outbound trucks.”
The $3 million budgetary expansion of the District’s parking enforcement team to 40 more Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs), including 26 bike lane enforcers, brings the ranks of PEOs to 272 strong. PEOs and meter mavens slapped 1.5 million parking tickets on vehicles across town in FY19. In FY 2020, the city’s peripatetic parking enforcers issued 385,615 parking citations, and 470 bike lane tickets, as of January 15.
The newly commissioned bike lane PEOs will comb 109 locations in the city for violators along with nearly 150 Traffic Control Officers (TCOs) stationed in intersections and traffic hotspots. Although their ranks have increased, Traffic Control Officers (TCOs) appear to be issuing fewer tickets these days. While directing traffic around town, TCOs also issued 8,518 citations in FY 2019. The tally includes 1,815 tickets for disobeying official signs; 1,470 citations for parking in bus zones; plus 1,193 tickets for “No Standing Anytime” violations. TCOs only issued 1,213 citations in the first quarter of FY20. In contrast, TCOs issued 292,898 citations in FY 2012. On top of that, TCOs wrote 331,601 citations during FY 2013, according to DDOT’s database. By 2016, TCOs handed down only 106,898 citations. The city meted out 2.9 million traffic and parking citations in FY19. Ticket fines double after 30 days.
Even so, the District wrote 16.6 million parking tickets from FY 2010 to FY 2019. The avalanche of parking tickets carried $800 million in revenue value for the city’s coffers. Drivers in the city cope with 182 different types of parking tickets, which typically cost $25-$100, with the exception of the $250 tickets issued only during snow emergencies. The $150 bike lane-blocking fine is now the city’s second most expensive parking ticket, raising concerns about ticket cost proportionality. Yet the fine is merely $50 for parking within 20 feet of a fire station entrance or within 10 feet of a fire hydrant. During a blaze that left people trapped in an apartment building in Southeast D.C., the District’s Fire and EMS Department warned by Twitter: “This is why you CANNOT park next to or block a fire hydrant. Any delay in getting water at a fire can have deadly results. This was on 37th Place SE this morning, at a blaze where people were reported Trapped.”
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