The Council just passed on second reading the bill to raise the fine for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians from $50 to $250 and add points on the driver’s license.
Tommy Wells reintroduced his amendment to add another fine for blocking bike lanes, currently an illegal act but one with no fine. Before the recess, Wells tried to introduce the amendment, but some other Councilmembers wanted to first hear more research on the appropriate size of the fine.
Wells spoke with DDOT about the appropriate fine and compiled information on the level in other cities ($100 in San Francisco, $115 in Chicago and New York, $150 in Oregon). He settled on $65, just above the level of the double parking fine, but not so high as to create a financial burden or deter enforcement.
Drivers who blocked a bike lane while double parking would probably not receive two tickets, since according to Wells, most of the time MPD officers write only one ticket for the “primary infraction”, but may (though usually do not) write both tickets. Since not all bike lanes parallel parking lanes, Wells pointed out, we need a fine for parking in the bike lane especially for those instances when the officer couldn’t write a double parking ticket, but also to make clear that blocking a bike lane is more hazardous than just double parking in a vehicle lane.
Graham accepted the amendment as friendly and Phil Mendelson, who had raised some of the questions before, spoke up to praise the new amendment (and the bill itself). Mendelson specifically cited a recent case where a police officer killed a pedestrian on Wisconsin Avenue, but was not punished because the area had poor sight lines. As Mendelson pointed out, poor visibility is not an excuse for drivers to drive too quickly for conditions and hit pedestrians.
Carol Schwartz supported the bill but also took the opportunity to chide pedestrians and bicyclists who cross against lights.
The bill passed with no opposition on voice vote.