Problems with Bikers Going the Wrong Way on One way Bike Lanes

Photo by PoPville flickr user thepostalservice

“Dear PoPville,

While most biking problems involve cars and bikes, mine is different. I’ve noticed a lot of bikers going the wrong way down one way bike lanes. I routinely go out of my way to take one way streets with bike lanes and it drives me crazy to see someone coming at me head on. Tonight there was even a guy with no headlight riding at me so I almost hit him before swerving into traffic.”

I’ve definitely seen this a few times. How do you think the situation can be remedied? MPD enforcement/tickets?

83 Comment

  • Yes! Totally agree. I hate that.

  • I see this all the time on T Street. I always wonder what would happen at night with two bikes going in opposite directions. I just suppose the wrong way biker is the same type that blows through stop signs and rides on the sidewalk above Mass Ave.

  • I see it frequently when going up New Hampshire in the afternoon. The only problem is there is a bike lane on the correct side of the street. It happens on 14th by the Columbia Heights metro too.

  • I agree it’s annoying, but I’m pretty laissez faire about it, so long as they follow the #1 rule of going the wrong way down the bike lane etiquette – THEY have to get out of the way when they meet another biker.

    Related question: what about joggers in the bike lane? I actually find this even more of a problem because they’re going slower but they can’t see me coming.

    • Joggers should stay out of bike lanes. I bike and I jog, and there are appropriate places to do both. If the sidewalks are too crowded for a run, then the runner needs a new route.

    • yeah, I do not understand this. I saw some guy doing lunges down the middle of the bike lane on 15th street one day. he looked hilarious.

    • it’s actually illegal for joggers to be using bike lanes – shouldn’t be in a bike lane on a moped or scooter either. segways are for some reason allowed but i don’t like them.

      a few weeks ago a woman was jogging directly in the middle of the 15th cycletrack – making it difficult for a biker going in either direction to safely pass her. and she got pissed at me when i rang my bell and tried to pass.

  • there is no way to stop salmoning, bike lane or not, it’s a fact of life. it’s up there with sidewalk riding, probably the same people really.

    there’s just always gonna be people doing it wrong, whether they’re biking, driving, walking, crowdsurfing, etc. just gotta watch out for yourself when it come to stuff like this.

  • I see this all the time and most of the time the violators are on Capital Bikeshare bikes.

    • Really? I’d say 75% of the people I see are on personal bikes.

    • Capital Bikeshare does need to do a better job informing people of where bike lanes exist and which direction they go. Cycling newbies or tourists that want to take Capital Bikeshare for a spin have no way of finding out how to get from point A to B using bike lanes.

      I’m a more knowledgeable DC cyclist now, but when I was first riding around the city, I regularly took bike lanes the wrong way, roads without lanes, etc., just because I didn’t always map my trip out in advance on google maps (w/ bike lanes feature).

  • I would love to see a cop ticket for this – it would be amusing.

    One law I advocate changing: Make biking on any DC sidewalk illegal (caveat for children of course).

    Joggers in the lanes annoy me – but I understand why they jog in the lanes. I slow-down, but I ask them to step aside, as it is a bike lane, not a jogging lane.

    • Have you ever tried biking on Mass Ave? How about 16th St.? Or any other large street in DC? I’ve had drivers slow down to yell and honk at me for biking on the road (“Get on the sidewalk!”).

      Biking on the road can be dangerous since so many streets are designed in a bicycle-unfriendly way. As long as people are biking on the sidewalk slowly in a way that’s respectful to pedestrians, it should be legal.

      • exactly! i have had so many drivers tell me to get on the sidewalk. same people who probably scoff at sidewalk riders when they are walking down the street.

        [some] drivers don’t want bikes to follow the laws, they don’t want bikes anywhere, period.

  • How about they put in those things you see at some parking garages that pop the tires if you go over them the wrong way?

  • I’d be happy if people would use them in Columbia Heights instead of plowing through a crowded sidewalk. Really annoying around DCUSA.

  • I’m a bike commuter and normally I think this is fine. However, there is one spot where I have noticed going the wrong way in a bike lane is really dangerous – down the 15th street lanes the wrong way along Meridian Hill Park.

    Twice I’ve seen pedestrians crossing 15th get hit by bikers speeding down the hill. While walkers should be looking both ways, it is not natural to do so at that spot, since there ‘shouldn’t’ be any traffic coming southbound.

    The danger is compounded by the fact that bikers are getting a full head of steam going down hill.

    I wrote DCRA about it. They replied with some lame response about extending the 15th st contraflow lane all the way up to Euclid. While this may condition pedestrians to start looking both ways, I still think it is dumb to allow bikers to go the wrong way, down hill and around a blind curve. I’m all for more bike infrastructure, but sometimes it just does not make sense.

    Accident waiting to happen.

    • My street is a one-way street and runs perpendicular to 15th street above Meridian Hill Park. Automotive traffic is directed to make a right at the stop sign onto 15th St. The driver can visibly see pedestrian traffic while approaching the stop sign. That said, street parking on the right side of 15th street can hinder the motorists view of northbound traffic, so cars tend to pull out to see beyond the stop sign without looking to the right-side of the bike lane again. A few times a week, I see cyclists going southbound in the northbound bike lane. If a cyclist and a car were to collide under these circumstances, who would be at fault?

      • I would say the biker is in the wrong, because they are going the wrong way.

        It is confusing to have 2 bike lanes on the same street going in the same direction though.

  • I say something as I pass them (but not shouting or seeking confrontation). A simple “you’re going the wrong way” from more of us might reduce their numbers.

  • ledroittiger

    More double lanes like on 15th by Whole Foods!!!!!!

  • While it definitely annoys me, I think this falls into the category of “annoyance” more than “problem.” Have there been reported accidents, injuries, etc.? In a city with real problems, this doesn’t strike me as too widespread, or even really as dangerous as, say, cars turning into pedestrians, pedestrians ignoring cars, bikes blowing through intersections without looking, on and on. Sure, I see people doing it all the time, even heading into me, but they’ve always moved around. Also, count me as one of the annoyed when people ride on the sidewalk, especially really fast.

    Pretty much an example of “I do things the right way, why can’t everybody else?”

    But, yes, cruising down this hill on 15th the wrong way is really dangerous.

    • Agree completely.

    • i’m a cyclist, and i think riding the wrong direction is actually one of the more dangerous things you can do on a bike. no one else on the road is looking to see if anyone is coming in that direction. plus bike lanes are narrow – one of the bikers is going to have to swerve into traffic as they pass.

      the only accident i ever witnessed was when a woman crossing a one-way street stepped out from in between two parked cars, and a cyclist coming the wrong way down the street rode right into her. she had no reason to check in that direction because no one should have been coming from that way.

      • austindc

        Agree. Going the wrong way in a bike lane is dangerous to you and others. Be a grownup and go one block over to use the lane going in the direction you want.

  • Serious Question.

    Please don’t bite my head off . . .

    It seems TO ME that a huge percentage of people doing this are Hispanic males. I’ve just noticed the trends in my everyday experience.

    Is there a problem with outreach to non-English speaking communities re: bike laws? I sometimes wonder if they simply do not know the rules of the road because they can’t read the signs, etc.

    • Funny, I was debating sharing my observation–I mostly see middle-aged black males riding the wrong way in the bike lanes. Hispanic males I see on the sidewalk, usually not in lanes. And I see people going the wrong way in the bike lanes when there’s an option to use a lane going in their direction–on 11th & 14th, for example–this drives me crazy.

    • In a city where 37% of adults are functionally illiterate (according to D.C. LEARNs), I think a lot of driving/biking problems in general can be attributed to not being able to interpret road signs.

      • me

        But on the other hand, bike lanes on 15th have f-ing ARROWS on them showing which way to ride. There is no excuse for that.

  • I have noticed a recent uptick in this behavior as well.

    I don’t think it’s okay. It’s dangerous and wrong and puts everyone at higher risk. Either you have to swerve or stop suddenly or they have to. Agree. This is an accident waiting to happen. I would be all for enforcement of this issue by MPD.

    I’ve never lived in a place where as a biker one of your worst enemies were the other bikers!

  • My general rule of thumb is if you’re the one doing something the wrong way, it’s up to you to be extra careful. I don’t bike much, but if I did and had to, for some reason, ride on the sidewalk (really fast traffic, something was wrong with my bike, didn’t feel safe, I dunno…), it would be up to me to ride slowly and go around pedestrians and not expect people to get out of my way. Same if you’re going the wrong way in a bike lane. It’s up to you stay as out of the way as much as possible and move if someone comes close. I could see how this would be a problem though if both are riding fairly fast, since it wouldn’t be clear to the other rider if the other guy was going to move.

  • I find this annoying when I’m riding my bike, and usually when I see this and I’m in the bike lane I make the salmoner get out of the way.

    I was driving a zipcar down Euclid last night, and pulled to the right (into the bike lane) to make the right onto 16th just as someone came off the 16th street sidewalk into the bike lane going in the wrong direction. Could have been a bad situation but luckily we avoided each other.

    Personally I would rather people ride on the sidewalk (but ride carefully and with deference to pedestrians) than ride the wrong way in a bike lane.

  • This accident has happened and going up to Euclid is not far enough.

    I’m a cyclist but when I drive to work, I have to turn north onto 15th just south of Harvard. There is a huge blind spot and there is absolutely no way to see bikers who are going the wrong way down 15th.

    A few weeks ago, I was turning slowly onto 15th and a biker going south ran directly into my passenger door. Luckily there were no injuries but it is scary when that happens and I now double, triple check for any signs of a bike.


    • Glad to hear no injuries. Who was at fault in your case?

    • There really should be no contraflow lane on 15th North of V. It is just too dangerous – downhill, narrow road, curves, etc.

      Having two bike lanes on 15th only confuses the situation too. They need to remove one.

      Some signs or tickets may be in order.

  • I don’t think there’s any point in ranting about sidewalk bikers. The fact is that this city needs to become more bike friendly by adding more bike lanes! Or even having signs to alternatives to taking Mass Ave for example.

    You can’t blame someone for wanting to have a less stressful biking experience by using the sidewalk as long as they are not running over people.

    • Exactly – on certain streets where there isn’t space to bike in the road and let all lanes of traffic pass – its more convinient to all (cars, busses and pedestrians) if bikers use the sidewalk. This is usually uphill on busy streets (Mass, 16th…).

      Just remember that on the sidewalk pedestrians have the right of way – so ride at a speed that is appropriate.

  • Happens on East Captiol and there is bike lanes on both sides of the street! It drives me crazy and the person going the wrong direction never gets out of lane forcing me to go into traffic.

  • Riding on the street is dangerous, riding in bike lanes is not always possible, and riding on the sidewalk gets you cussed out. It’s very discouraging.

  • for me not riding through a stop light, and even safely riding through a red light, are like jay walking. jay walking is illegal but everyone does it. there is a right and a wrong way. some do it when the road is completely clear and they aren’t in the way of any cares (right way) and others casually stroll across a busy street forcing oncoming cars to slam on their breaks to avoid hitting them (wrong way).

    you can repremand me for “blowing” through stop signs when you can tell me that you’ve never jay walked.

  • I think this problem is more than a mere annoyance. I almost hit a cyclist going the wrong way in a one way bike lane. He was also going the wrong way down a one way street. I was looking to my right to watch for oncoming traffic before pulling out and just happened to glance left at the last minute to check for pedestrians and here was a cyclist bombing (the wrong way) down the bike lane. I would have smacked him pretty hard if I hadn’t looked. He was completely oblivious. Didn’t check to make sure I had seen him before proceeding or anything. So, when I see a biker going the wrong way in a one way bike lane, I remember this and say a little prayer for that person that their luck holds out because they are definitely an accident in the making.

  • These cyclists are simply tempting fate. They have it coming when they get into a serious or even fatal accident.

  • These cyclists are simply tempting fate. They have it coming when they get into a serious or even fatal accident.

  • Oh this is rich. Bikers complaining that other bikers don’t follow the law. Boo f’ing hoo! How about all the bikers who disobey stop lights, disobey pedestrian crossings, disobey stop signs.

    Seriously, bikers, get the hell over yourselves. You expect to be able to flout any and all laws you like, yet want to take the moral high ground when inconvenienced by the lawless culture you promote.

    Here’s the best solution: ban bikes from DC and everyone will be safer and happier.

    • I don’t see why bikers who bike safely and follow the law can’t complain about bikers who don’t and make them look bad. I’m certainly not going to defend a driver who does something reckless and illegal just because we happen to use the same mode of transportation.

    • Or, ban cars from DC and everyone will be safer, and most district residents would be happier.

  • I wonder if there’s some farm somewhere where children traumatized by bad bicycling experiences can be helped and slowly reintroduced to polite society.

  • I really can’t stand bikers going the wrong way in a bike lane. It turns into a game of chicken – which one is going to veer out of the lane? And then what happens if we both veery out of the lane at the same time? It would be like the Berlingen mid-air collision. Even worse are scooters in the bike lane.

  • F-U has a point…

    Also, just a couple of weeks ago I saw a girl run a redlight almost to be hit by the car with the right of way. The car had to slam on its brakes and stop (which could have resulted in it being rear ended, thankfully it didn’t), the girl slammed on her breaks and swerved falling over the side of her bike, (thankfully not hurting herself)…but all this could have been avoided if she had just stopped at the light like she was supposed to. It was pretty ridiculous how she didn’t even slow down to look first.

    • On two occasions, I’ve been sitting in my car, waiting for the red light to change.

      Once the light turned green, I proceeded driving forward into the intersection.

      Thankfully I always look both ways before entering an intersection, because on both occasions a cyclist ran the opposing red light by several seconds and passed directly in front of my car. If I had proceeded normally into the intersection, the cyclist would have struck my vehicle both times.

      The first time this happened I was simply in awe of the stupidity of the act I was witnessing, but I did give her the evil eye as she passed.

      Deciding to cycle or drive through a red light, or against the lane designations, are deliberate acts of recklessness and show a disregard for other members of society. Which is sad and scary at the same time.

  • I’m an avid bike commuter. I think bicycle etiquette in this town is deplorable. Police really need to start giving out tickets, especially to the egregious violations: running red lights and stop signs when there is oncoming traffic, riding the opposite direction in a bike lane, riding carelessly on a sidewalk.

  • Surely there are alternate routes to riding down some of the busiest streets in the district. I don’t want to sound patronizing, but usually there are good alternatives, it just takes a little research and perhaps a willingness to divert your route by a couple of blocks. But it will save headaches and apprehension in the long term.

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