This is a Bike Lane, Not a...
Arlington’s got some fairly crowded streets, which requires a good bit of sharing by all. Unfortunately, some users take that sharing a bit too far by using the bike lanes for all sorts of things.
As an initial matter, let’s review what a bike lane is – it’s “that portion of a roadway designated by signs and/or pavement markings for the preferential use of bicycles, electric power-assisted bicycles, and mopeds.”
Seriously, that’s the law in Virginia.
Yet some folks in Arlington have very curious ideas about the proper use of our bike lanes.
Some drivers have developed a habit of pretending that bike lanes are turning lanes, for instance.
Yes, a car may have to cross a bike lane to turn right. No, a driver should not cruise along - half in the lane, half out - before making the turn. Just using a turn signal and making sure no one is there before starting the turn would be great, thanks.
Note, too, the delivery drivers who appear to think that bike lanes were developed to save them the time they’d spend using the loading dock that’s located at nearly every one of their destinations.
Now, in the middle of the day at a random destination for a single package, it’s quite understandable that a FedEx driver would rather run in, drop the package and go. However, parking in the middle of the bike lane, every evening, in front of the FedEx Kinko’s in Courthouse? Sitting in the middle of a bike lane when there’s an open spot right in front of them? Not so understandable. One would think they’d be easy pickings for Arlington's otherwise aggressive parking enforcement, but I’ve never seen a ticket given.
Speaking of loading and unloading – my favorite repurposing of bike lanes occurs on Thursday and Friday evenings along Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon.
At a certain point in the evening, some patrons of the local entertainment establishments decide that it’s just easier to walk along in the bike lane instead of the sidewalk. Whether because of the evening’s drinks, or just not being that comfortable in heels, many of them teeter along like newborn baby giraffes on asphalt. The entertainment factor would be more appreciated if it didn’t force cyclists out into the path of the tunnel-visioned taxis that tend to make a beeline for these prospective customers.
Finally – and more seriously – my very least favorite abuse of Arlington’s bike lanes are by a few fellow cyclists who treat them as contraflow lanes down Wilson Boulevard from Courthouse to Rosslyn.
Whatever precious seconds saved by not simply going over to Clarendon Boulevard and riding there cannot possibly be worth the great danger this stupidity presents to both the wrong-way rider and other users of the street. If I see a rider doing this, and pass a cop soon after, you can bet I’ll point the cop in that rider’s direction. Absolutely unacceptable.
Mark Blacknell is chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, a member of the board of directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.