Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

DC’s police have gotten some deserved criticism for misunderstanding bike laws and misapplying them in a few recent crashes, but that’s not always the case. Some officers get it just right. Reader Corey wrote in:

My friend Abe and I went for a ride yesterday. We were in the bike lane on 4th St SW between M and I, Abe in front and me trailing, when a guy in a crossover SUV tries to make a right turn into the Safeway parking garage straight into the two of us.

Both bikes were a little bent, but we were willing to let bygones be bygones if the guy had been cool about it. Then the guy sees where my shoulder left a dent in his car and our handlebars left marks, gets righteously indignant about the fact that he had his turn signal on (claiming repeatedly that this means it was OK for him to turn into us), so he calls the cops.

When the officer gets there and hears both side of the story, she immediately cites the guy for illegally changing lanes into traffic. I have no idea what made the driver think that calling the cops after hitting two cyclists in a bike lane was a good idea.

In any case, it was really encouraging to have an encounter with MPD in which the officer very clearly understood that the rules of the road still apply when bikes are involved. Urban, multi-modal transportation can only take root in the community when the law is applied fairly and folks know they’ll be protected no matter how they choose to get to and fro.

Thanks, officer! Nice work.

Image from the Oregonian.

Added: For those unfamiliar with the law, when there is a bike lane, the rule is that drivers should look to be sure nobody is in the lane, then merge into the lane before turning.

Essentially, drivers should treat the bike lane just like another standard travel lane; if you’re turning right and there’s another lane to the right, you change lanes into that lane before turning right. A bike lane works the same way, just narrower, when turns are involved.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.