DC is home to over 47 miles of bike lanes, and an ever-increasing number of residents are choosing to bike around the city. But ride around the city on any of these bike lanes, and you’ll see more than just cyclists taking advantage of them. Tourists on segways, people riding motorcycles, parked or stopped cars– they all feel at home taking advantage of our city’s bike lanes. But bike lanes are meant for just bikes, right?
As it turns out, bike lanes aren’t just for bikes. Legally, plenty of other things are allowed to use the bike lanes. So next time you’re biking down the street and your lane is blocked by one of these, here’s a quick guide to who is breaking the law:
Segways: Allowed in Bike Lanes
Believe it or not, all those tourist packs on Segways clogging up the bike lanes near the FBI building are doing so legally. Segways are not considered motor vehicles in DC, but they’re generally not allowed on sidewalks in the Central Business District either. So that means they’re stuck in the bike lane with you when they’re downtown.
Scooters/Mopeds/Motorized Bicycles: Allowed in Bike Lanes
Any type of “motorized bicycle” is allowed to use the bike lanes here in the District, but they’re not allowed on sidewalks. They’re considered motor vehicles, so they must pass inspections, be driven by somebody with a drivers’ license, and be registered to a state. Helmets aren’t required for these. They’re legally allowed to be parked in bike racks or on the curb, as long as they’re not impeding pedestrian traffic. Update: The definition of a ‘motorized bicycle’ is a vehicle that has wheels larger than 16 inches in diameter, with an automatic transmission, that can’t go faster then 35 mph. If it is faster than 35 mph or has piston displacement of more than 50 cubic centimeters, you’ve got yourself a motorcycle.
Motorcycles: Get Out!
Motorcycles are not allowed in bike lanes in DC. They’re considered motor vehicles, and drivers need to get a particular type of drivers’ license in order to operate them. Helmets are required for motorcycles in the city, and they’re not allowed on sidewalks. And as for parking them? They should be treated just like other motor vehicles– no bike rack parking here! Update: Many new mobility scooters and Vespas are considered motorcycles and fall into this category.
Pedestrians: Get Out!
I typically bike down the lane on T Street on my way to work, and several times I’ve caught a pedestrian walking down the bike lane, completely ignoring the fully-functional sidewalk a few feet away. Random T Street Pedestrian, get out of the damn road! A bike lane is not a safe place for a pedestrian, and pedestrians should stick to sidewalks and crosswalks in traffic.
Parked Cars: Get Out!
Bike lanes are not parking spaces, and they’re not loading zones. Realize that if you’re blocking the bike lane with your car, you’re forcing a cyclist to weave into traffic in a narrow space, potentially putting him or her at risk. So please stop doing this, or you’ll end up being called out on MyBikeLane.
General Bike Laws
Bikes are obviously legal in bike lanes, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. Bikes are generally allowed on sidewalks in the city outside of the Central Business District, but it’s generally frowned upon to ride on the sidewalk if you’re older than 10. If you’re riding your bike at night in the District, you need a front headlight and a back reflector or light. Helmets are required for anyone under the age of 16, and every bike should have a bell on it. Cyclists generally have the same rights as any other motor vehicle operator in DC, and that means they also have the same responsibilities.
So believe it or not, bike lanes are not just for bikes. Many thanks to the folks at DDOT for helping me bust this myth. Segways and scooters, welcome to the bike lanes. Everyone else, please stay out.