Downtown parking challenges drivers and cyclists

WASHINGTON – Finding parking in any downtown can be a chore and not just for drivers.

Noting the increased cycle traffic on L Street NW, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, which includes 43 blocks of the District’s central business area, unveiled a new artistic bike rack designed to make it easier for those on two wheels to find parking.

But drivers also face the frustrations of moving through congested roadways to find a place to park, and that can lead to some traffic conflicts.

During the unveiling of the new bike rack, which feature bright red bird cutouts, as many as 15 cars cut through the barriers that separate the L Street cycle track from the lanes for motor vehicles.

One man stopped and rolled down his window to answer a reporter’s question: Did he know he was in the lane designated for cyclists? “Yeah” he said. When asked why he stated simply, “Because I’m parking in this garage.”

He motioned to a parking garage on his left and moved on. But had he travelled a few more feet, he could have made his turn legally. The bike lanes feature broken lines to indicate where drivers can cut in to make their turns.

D.C. Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, a cyclist herself, noted that the driver had Virginia plates. But he wasn’t alone. She watched as a number of cars did the same thing — cutting through the flexible bollards, crossing over a solid line to get into the cycle track.

Seeing another large white truck make the same move she said, “It’s happening again!” and then spotted the bright red “D” logo. “Now, see, that’s completely unacceptable! Our own government truck?”

It was a D.C. vehicle.

Cheh says the continued conflicts between motorists and cyclists are a sign of the District’s transition from a car-centric downtown to one where “pedestrians have their sidewalks, cyclists have their cycle tracks, cars have their lane.”

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

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