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D.C. empowers bike lane enforcement officers to issue photo tickets to drivers

The city is also deploying 26 new officers to keep bike lanes clear of cars

A city road that has a two-way bike lane and a couple of lanes for vehicular traffic.
A cycletrack in NoMa

Starting this fall, city workers who police bike lanes and curb space for parking violations will begin issuing citations based on photographic evidence. These parking enforcement officers, as they’re known, can now “photograph vehicles blocking bike lanes and mail those citations to vehicle owners if they leave before the ticket can be directly presented to them,” explains Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office. The change stems from new language in D.C.’s current budget.

The city’s public works department is also dispatching 26 additional parking enforcement officers to ensure bike lanes stay free of cars—a perennial issue faced by cyclists. Over 270 officers currently patrol more than 100 locations across D.C., and Bowser’s office says they will prioritize locations “based on surveillance and 311 requests.” At least one officer at each location will focus on blocked bike lanes, it adds. The enforcement push comports with the District’s Vision Zero program to end traffic deaths and major injuries in the next five years.

In 2018, the directors of the city’s public works and transportation departments sent letters to mail carriers whose drivers are frequently reported to obstruct bike lanes. “[I]t seems this problem has reached an alarming and widespread scale,” they wrote, calling such blockage “dangerous.” Road safety advocates say that when drivers block bike lanes, it forces cyclists to swerve out into vehicular traffic, putting all road users at risk of collision as well as injury.

In a statement, Chris Geldart, the head of the Department of Public Works, said the change will help strengthen enforcement. “The new law will give us an opportunity to take a photo and mail it to the [illegally parked] resident ... and, hopefully, change the behavior,” he said.