Gear Prudence: Is there a way to (successfully) report cars parked in bike lanes? I typically just ignore them and ride around, but sometimes it’s so egregious that I feel there should be consequences. I recently snapped a picture of an offending vehicle with the license plate visible and reported it to 311. The response I received a few hours later: “Officer went to location and the vehicle was gone.” So I guess they can’t or won’t ticket based on the picture I provided? —Tried Indicating Concern, Knowing Enforcers Tarry
Dear TICKET: Successfully report? Sure. You very successfully reported to 311 that a driver blocked the bike lane, which is the proper way to call out this kind of violation. GP uses the 311 app, but you can also tweet at @311DCGov or call it in (311’s phone number is 311). But if what you’re hoping for is punitive measures against the driver, that’s a different story. GP hates to be this cynical, but your experience is far too common, and D.C. has yet to invest in a rooftop spotlight that summons a caped bike lane crusader to bring about swift, brooding justice. While reporting the issue to 311 creates a record of the infraction and notifies the parking enforcement officers (managed by the D.C. Department of Public Works) to come, they will only issue a ticket if they catch the scofflaw driver in the act. They won’t issue a ticket on the basis of your photographic evidence alone. Since there’s almost always a lag between reporting a blocked bike lane and when parking enforcement arrives, this leaves ample time for the offending driver to get away.
There is, however, one reason to keep up with the Sisyphean efforts of continued reporting of these kinds of infractions and the logic goes like this: If people continuously report each and every infraction then perhaps the powers that be will begin the see the full extent of the problem and make adjustments to address it based on the volume of complaints. So if you can accept that justice will not be doled out immediately, but that eventually enough data will be compiled and used to change policies in the long term, then this provides sufficient reason to continue reporting blocked bike lanes. That’s the theory, anyway.
In the meantime, continue to be careful when exiting a blocked bike lane. In many cases, drivers will also see the obstruction and accommodate you, but this isn’t a given, so stick out an arm and look over your shoulder before moving over. —GP
Gear Prudence: Am I an asshole for locking my scooter to a bike rack? —Very Envious. Scooter Parking Allowed?
Dear VESPA: Yes. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who writes @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.