Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

WAMU: Poorly Designed Roads Help Create Conflict

I did a radio interview with WAMU’s Elliot Francis yesterday, and it resulted in this two-minute piece this morning.  It was a nice change of tone from the usual Cars v. Bikers! approach taken by the general media, and I’m glad I did it.  Unfortunately, I think the piece leaves readers with an incomplete understanding of an important point in the law – that cyclists need not be riding at the speed of cars in order to take the full lane.   As I wrote to Mr. Francis after it aired:

“I do want to point out one small, but important, piece of missing info. You wrote that “In fact, laws in D.C., Maryland and Virginia allow bicyclists full use of the travel lane when they can match the normal speed of traffic.” This is correct, but it’s not the only time that cyclists may use the full lane. The other circumstances are what seem (to me) to be a mystery to many drivers, and that leads to impatience when they don’t understand what the cyclists is doing is perfectly legal and safe. Cyclists may also use the full lane when it’s too narrow to share, when there are road conditions that make it impractical to ride to the right (think debris, grating, car doors, etc.), and when they are preparing to make a left turn. The Code of Virginia § 46.2-905 provides for these exceptions (http://leg1.state.va.us/000/cod/46.2-905.HTM).  There are variations in the language in MD and DC’s laws, but the fundamentals remain the same.”

That said, I’m still encouraged by this kind of reporting, and I look forward to more.

While I’ve got you reading about cycling and road safety, please go take a look at this fantastic letter from Maryland’s Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, Michael Jackson. Jackson’s responding to a citizen letter complaining about the “arrogance” of cyclists who use the full width of a lane or decline to ride on parallel trails instead of the road. Jackson methodically goes through the reasons a cyclist would (and should) make those choices. As WABA board member Jim Titus puts it – that’s safe cycling, not arrogance.


We Should All Be Ashamed


City Limits (Timelapse Art)


  1. And here I was thinking cyclists could use the full lane anytime they wanted to use the full lane. It seems especially dangerous for cyclists to weave in and out of parked cars on the side.

    I understand the frustration of being caught in traffic, but life is simply to short to let it ruin one of the few days you may have on this Earth.

  2. MB

    Well, the cyclist is really the one in the best position to judge when the circumstances permitting use of the full lane exist, so it’s essentially “anytime they wanted to use the full lane.” That’s wouldn’t really fly if you wanted to ride in the middle of the lane on 50 from Arlington to Fairfax, though (and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to).

    And I agree – traffic isn’t worth stressing over.

  3. Bilsko

    Another wrinkle I’ve been thinking about lately – and meaning to look up in the DC driving regulations: are vehicles (cars, bikes, etc.) allowed to travel in a lane that is exlusively for parking (ie. parking is permitted at all hours)?

    If you don’t expect a car to travel in a parking lane when there happen to be no cars parked there, then you can’t expect a bicycle to do the same.

  4. oboe

    It’s the roads not the cars that pose a danger to cyclists. Except that the cars think nothing of driving 15-25 mph over the already excessive posted speed limit, and pass when it’s not safe, forcing cyclists into the crumbling, broken shoulder.

    You’re right, in this case, it is the road; but the road is the way it is because of lobbying by drivers. Anyone who’s ever ridden here knows that the “bike lane” on River Road is a cruel joke.

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