Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

WABA is reporting that the Department of Motor Vehicles isn’t upholding tickets for U-turns across Pennsylvania Avenue.

When an MPD officer writes a ticket, the person ticketed has the opportunity to challenge that ticket through adjudication.  This process is handled by the DMV, not the police.  And on this issue, the DMV adjudicator has interpreted the laws in a way that does not prohibit mid-block U-turns across the cycletrack.  Thus, MPD is reluctant to ticket motorists when the agency adjudicating the tickets has deemed such a ticket invalid.

Rob Pitingolo asked on Twitter, “If [DDOT] designs a street and decides certain turns are unsafe, why does [the DMV] get to decide whether said unsafe turns are punishable? The whole thing calls into question whether any traffic sign in DC is actually legally binding or just a suggestion.”

In the camera debate, MPD has been saying that they enforce the speed limits that are posted. Anyone want to look through the DC code to figure out if posted signs like “no U turn” actually have the force of law?

Perhaps Mary Cheh could introduce some emergency legislation to fix this problem, but Rob’s point is a good one—we shouldn’t have to rely on legislation to clarify every element. Unless the law really has a big hole that makes it impossible to enforce, a “no U turn” sign should be enough to make U turns illegal.

WABA’s Shane Farthing added,

We do not know DMV’s detailed legal reasoning, but it is possible that the same interpretation that would find U-turns across Pennsylvania Avenue to be legal might also find left turns by motorists who skip the “mixing zones” and cut across the cycletrack through the intersection on L to be legal.  (That is speculation, but it sufficiently concerning speculation that we need to move quickly to find a solution so that MPD can enforce the rules of the cycletracks in a way that is consistent with their design.)

So far, we know that many drivers are not obeying the rules in the cycletrack, though DDOT’s Mike Goodno has been urging people to be patient as DDOT finishes up paint, signs. and bollards. The Express’ Vicky Hallett interviewed some truck drivers who are, so far, just refusing to pull a little farther to an actual loading zone, and Nicholas Donohue sent over some pictures of trucks parked in the cycletrack.

Photo by Nicholas Donohue.

Cycle tracks, separated bike lanes, or whatever you call them can work wonders for bicycling, but only if drivers respect them and District officials can properly enforce rules against unsafe driving and parking.

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.