Cycling is a great way to get around DC. Our neighborhoods are dense, our streets are crowded, and scooting by traffic with your kid on a long tail is a great way to get them to daycare and yourself to work on time. Bikes also mean fewer cars on the road. But the reality is that all of the new bike lanes can be confusing. Even to those of us who bike and drive. (Ahem, a certain bike lawyer might have recently been in an argument with her cyclist husband about who had the right of way in an intersection....and might have had to admit she was wrong. But I digress.) Here are three things that can be counterintuitive but that will help you be a bike-friendly driver. 

Merge into the bike lane to turn right.

Seriously. Think of a bike lane simply as a traffic lane. If a road had two lanes in each direction, you wouldn't turn right from the left lane, would you? Of course not. You'd turn right from the right lane. So do the same thing with a bike lane and merge on in. Don't cut off a cylist or anything - just use your turn signal and merge on over. David Alpert over at Greater Greater Washington gives a great detailed explanation

Stopping your car in the road to unload? It's legal in DC. Just stay out of the bike lane. 

DC bike lane diver

DON'T DO THIS

This is counterintuitive - your Uber Eats driver pulls up to run your dinner to your door, puts the hazard lights on, and leaves the car parked for 60 seconds.  It might be intuitive for the driver to pull all the way over to the side of the road, into a bike lane, so through traffic can keep flowing. In DC, this is incorrect. The correct move is for the driver to double park in the through lane of traffic and to leave the bike lane clear. 

The picture above is an example of what NOT to do. I ran into this while biking my kiddo to soccer. The car is parked in the bike lane. We had to cross the double yellow line and move into a lane of potentially oncoming traffic to pass.

DO THIS

THIS is how to double park correctly. Yes, right in the middle of the lane of traffic. Notice that a cyclist could safely proceed by this minivan in the bike lane without having to cross a double yellow into oncoming traffic. The flip side of course is that you, as a driver, might have to sit and wait for the car to move because you can't get around. Annoying from a driver's perspective perhaps, but cyclists are vulnerable users and the DC Council decided that in this situation, cyclist safety is a higher priority than driver convenience. As a cyclist who drives, I honestly think its really awkward to stop in the middle of the lane, but the law is the law. Leave those bike lanes clear! (I'm talking to you UPS/FedEx/Uber.)

What's the deal with advisory bike lanes?

And while we are at at it, what is an advisory bike lane anyway? These lanes are defined areas for bikes on a roadway, typically seen on narrow roadways shared with bikes. Advisory bike lanes have dashed instead of solid lines. DC is experimenting with them - you see them on Capitol Hill on E Street SE and Kentucky Avenue SE and more of them are on the way. The idea is that cyclists have defined space and cars slow down and share a single lane of through traffic. I live on a street with an advisory bike lane, and my own opinion is it makes cars slow down, which makes me happy. But what do drivers need to know? You can drive in an advisory bike lane if you need to, such as to accomodate an oncoming car. But if there is a bike in the lane, stay out of it! If the bike lane has a solid line, stay out of it unless you have safely merged in to turn.                                                                                

I am sympathetic to those who are annoyed by changes like these. It can feel sometimes like a LOT of deference goes to cyclists.  I am more sympathetic, however, to people injured by cars. Like the family of the 5 year old girl who was killed in a Brookland crosswalk in September, 2020. Or my newest client, who was hit on his bike when a car turned left from the right hand lane, hit him, and broke his ribs - and then yelled at him for having the audacity to be on the road. People are getting hit and killed on DC streets. The city is trying - some argue not hard enough - to get to Vision Zero, where zero people are killed on our roadways. We all play a part. So be careful out there!

1 Comments
Great article, Allyson. I'm a biker and driver and I can relate to the confusion everyone has over bike lane etiquette. An additional issue is the need for drivers to take care when opening doors into bike lanes - it is easy to do it quickly without checking for oncoming bikes, but the driver is in the best position to avoid a potentially serious bike/door collision.
by Peter Butcher November 11, 2021 at 11:59 AM
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