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D.C.: Car U-Turns Through a Bike Lane Are, In Fact, Illegal

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 01:55 PM

Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane (photo by Elvert Barnes via flickr)

Almost 80% of bike crashes on Pennsylvania Avenue -- home to the city's only center bike lane -- are caused by cars making U-turns. But until recently, there was some confusion over whether the maneuver was illegal or not.

Earlier this month, DCist reported there were apparent inconsistencies in D.C. law regarding when and where U-turns are permissible.

On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray ordered an "emergency rulemaking" to leave no doubt: cars can't drive across a bike lane to turn around.

"This is an effort to ensure the safety of our increasing numbers of cyclists in the District by closing a regulatory gap,” Gray said. “This action is in line with my efforts not only to protect public safety, but also to encourage a greener, healthier, more sustainable District through my Sustainable DC plan.”

(As he put it in a tweet, "U-turns across bike lanes are illegal. Fine=$100.")

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, said "in 2010 and 2011, 11 of the 14 bike crashes on Pennsylvania Avenue involved vehicles making those U-turns."

Mid-block U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue are one of the biggest safety concerns in the District. Dave Salovash bikes on the street every morning with his ten year old daughter. When he noticed the frequency of the mid-block U-turns, he decided to bring his camera one day.

"So I picked one spot and just stood there for half an hour and counted U-turns made across the bike lanes. I saw about 25 people doing it and managed to get pictures of about 20 of them," Salovash says.

The bike lanes have been in Pennsylvania Avenue's center median since 2010.

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