A new rule of the road: Don’t block the bike box

A view of a painted bike box. Not all of them are painted green. Drivers are supposed to stop at the broad white stop bar, just as at any intersection. (Courtesy of the National Association of City Transportation Officials)

WASHINGTON — The rules of the road aren’t really changing, but the design of the roads might look different.

One of the latest tweaks to traffic patterns is the introduction of bike boxes in Arlington and in the District of Columbia.

Charlie Richman, a bike commuter from Montgomery County, says he understands how drivers might be confused by the new road configurations, but says he was surprised to see a WTOP traffic vehicle sitting in a bike box on a recent morning commute.

So what is a bike box, and how does a driver approach and move through it?

“A bike box is a place designated for cyclists, between the crosswalk and the stop bar,” says Greg Billing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

The bike box will either be outlined in white or filled in with green paint. It is located between your car and both the intersection and the crosswalk.

Cars must not cross into the box while stopped at a light. Consider it a safety zone for cyclists, Richman says. It puts them in the line of sight of drivers as bicycle users prepare to turn left or right, or go straight.

“Pedestrians really like bike boxes, as well, because they don’t have to weave around bicycles,” Billing says.

“The city is definitely testing out different types of bicycle infrastructure.”

In the mean time, some drivers remain confused.

“It’s not uncommon for drivers to encroach on those bike boxes and to drive right up to the beginning of the crosswalk, as though all that lovely green paint wasn’t there,” Richman says.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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