D.C. Takes to Twitter to Shame Cars in Bike Lanes

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To the delight of D.C.'s cycling community, the District Department of Transportation is photographing -- and tweeting -- pictures of scofflaw cars that use dedicated bike lanes as parking spaces.

Reggie Sanders, the DDOT's director of communications, said his office routinely gets an earful from frustrated bicyclists. "It’s a daily complaint," he said. "Daily, daily, daily, that cars are not complying (with the law.)"

He said the DDOT gets between five and ten such complaints each day, and they take them seriously. "It's a safety issue," Sanders said. "They cannot compete in the open street with cars. That's why we have protected bike lanes."

D.C. has over 50 miles of bike lanes, and expects to end this year with 60.

Which is why, Sanders said, the motive behind the tweets is educational -- not punitive. "We want to achieve awareness," he said. "We also understand that it's a learning situation -- bikes are learning to get along with cars, and cars are learning to get along with bikes."

(This is one of the ingredients in New York's street safety record.)

While Sanders wouldn't say who at DDOT is behind the tweets, it appears that traffic control officers may be doing the photographing.

"One of our TCOs must be a @washcaps fan," reads one tweet accompanying a picture of three illegally parked cars. "Scored a hat trick catching several cars offsides in our 15th St Cycletrack."

"Thank you DDOT for staying on top of this issue," reads one response. "Kudos DDOT," writes another. "Keep up the ticketing."

E-shaming bad bike lane actors is not new -- witness the "Who's Blocking the L Street Bike Lane Today" and the "Cops in Bike Lanes" Tumblr pages, to name two. (And public scolding from city officials has a long and storied tradition -- the longtime WNYC listener may remember "The John Hour." Look it up.) But is this the first officially sanctioned city twitter account to do so? Let us know in the comments.

Meanwhile, says Sanders, cars that block bike lanes will continue to be routinely ticketed. The tweeting of the violators -- with license plates blurred out -- is just a side benefit.

@DDOTDC has over 17,000 followers.