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D.C. Council weighing fines for drivers who drift into bike lanes

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Local,Taryn Luntz
The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would impose a $100 fine on drivers who infringe on bicycle lanes and would mandate a 3-foot clearance between cars and cyclists.

The bill’s introduction comes three months after 22-year-old Alice Swanson was struck and killed by a garbage truck in Dupont Circle while riding her bike to work, an event that intensified advocates' calls for increased city measures that protect cyclists and pedestrians.

“Alice was doing exactly what we encourage residents to do — get out of their cars in favor of healthier, lower-cost, environmentally friendly transportation options,” said D.C. Council Member Jim Graham, who introduced the bill. “We are not doing enough to protect people who make that choice.”

D.C. law prohibits cars and motorcycles from using bicycle lanes but does not impose a fine on violators, the lack of which discourages enforcement, Graham said.


Washington Area Bicyclist Association director Eric Gilliland said the law would be a big step in the right direction for a city with such a large number of walkers and bikers.

“I think it’s a great bill,” he said. “I think this will help address part of a problem that we see.”

But Gilliland said the measure would be toothless without the help of D.C. police, who are often criticized for failing to enforce traffic laws.

If passed, the law would be the second this year to impose increased fines on drivers who endanger pedestrians or bikers.
The Council last month approved a $250 fine for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians and a $65 fine for double parking if the violation occurs in a bicycle lane.

The new bill would also require that city-owned, heavy duty vehicles be quipped with blind spot mirrors, reflective blind spot warning signs and side-underrun guards to prevent crash victims from sliding under the vehicles’ rear wheels.
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