Whether you bike, walk or drive around DC, it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is a traffic enforcement problem on our streets. Traffic laws are routinely violated by everybody, without repercussion, making everybody less safe. At WABA, we take the safety of bicyclists very seriously, and we’re not very fond of endangering pedestrians or drivers either. So we were thrilled to help DDOT train some of their Traffic Control Officers in bike safety and the finer points of the District’s bike laws.
DDOT’s Traffic Control Officers (TCOs) “prevent congestion through enforcement and traffic control services” and have the authority to issue citations (write tickets) to offenders. This puts them on the front lines, and with the help of a bit of bike education, makes them a powerful force to protect cyclists’ rights on DC’s streets.
WABA’s Bike Ambassador, Daniel Hoagland, has taken two full “classes” of TCOs through a condensed version of our Confident City Cycling classes, focusing on vehicular cycling and DC traffic laws regarding bicycling, as well as the District’s bike infrastructure, common enforcement errors and practices that marginalize bicyclists. After that, they saddled up and went on a 7-mile bike tour of the city. The tour included a wide variety of bicycling infrastructure and facilities, emphasizing the issues bicyclists face with current traffic enforcement in the District. Key issues included cars parked in bike lanes, driver aggression and harassment, sidewalk cycling downtown and the enforcement issues surrounding new infrastructure like the 15th St. cycle track. We’re hopeful that these men and women will start to address the lack of enforcement out on our streets, inspire bicyclists to bike safely, and promote bicycling among public officials.
Additionally, the TCOs will use their new bike skills to be more mobile, improving their response times to emergency calls and enabling them to more effectively get from the Reeves Center to their deployment locations and back. And, of course, there is one more benefit to getting these men and women onto bikes. When we asked them what they were hoping to get out of the training, their number one answer was “exercise”.
This TCO news is wonderful indeed. I simply hope that DDOT TCOs, MPD, and USPP use some simple judgement and reason, fairness and consistency when enforcing road and traffic violations. USPP gave me this ticket at Hains Point (http://tinyurl.com/3vkzt79) for ignoring a stop sign when there were no other moving vehicles in sight (aside from the two parked USPP vehicles of the officers issuing a ticket to pedaler #! who apparently almost hit their vehicle according to USPP). Pedalars #2 & 3(me) weren't endangering anyone; the 10-15 cyclists behind us who did the same maneuver didn't get ticketed. Pedaler #2 was much more upset even after another lap around Hains Point. I only felt the impetus for the ticket was over the top when the officer stated that if I was stopped again for such a violation it would count against my (non-existent) driver's license. We need to have enforces out on the street who don't let power go to their heads. If this is the precedent, then DDOT TCOs, MPD and USPP should start issuing tickets consistently to all pedestrians who j-walk -- on top of the cars who still buzz through stop signs and lights. Before 7am on a Sunday morning, I probably *slowed* and rode through 20+ signs and lights and saw no more than 10-15 cars on the road between my house and Hains Point. Some try to split hairs, but I think that if pedestrians got ticketed for crossing against a light, when no traffic was present, there would be be a greater call for reasonable enforcement.