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Police Complaints Board Releases Follow-Up Report on MPD Enforcement of the District’s Biking Laws and Bicycle Safety

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Police Complaints Board Releases Follow-Up Report on MPD Enforcement of the District’s Biking Laws and Bicycle Safety

MPD makes strides in educating officers, ensuring the safety of bicyclists

(Washington, DC) – Cycling is growing in popularity in the District.  Three percent of city residents biked to work in 2010 and there were 56 miles of designated bike lanes as of 2012.  As the number of bicyclists increase in the District of Columbia, the number of bike crashes has also grown.  According to the District Department of Transportation, District of Columbia Bike Program Fact Sheet, there were 264 reported bike crashes in 2006 and 435 reported in 2012.

In September 2011, the Police Complaints Board (PCB) issued a report to Mayor Vincent Gray, the District Council, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier recommending that the Department modify how it investigates bicycle-motor vehicle crashes in the District.  The Board also urged MPD to improve officer training on the District’s biking laws, and increase Departmental involvement with the city’s Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC), a task force created to address bicycling issues in the District.

Today, PCB issued a follow-up report to Mayor Gray, the District Council, and Chief Lanier acknowledging MPD’s progress in addressing and implementing the Board’s 2011 recommendations.  In the follow-up report, PCB also specifically assessed whether, over time, MPD officers have been properly citing bike riders for “riding abreast” violations and whether officers have improved their investigations of bike-motor vehicle crashes.

Overall, the Board found that MPD had implemented many of the 2011 proposals.  The Department strengthened its crash investigation policy and provided officers with better guidance on how to identify “riding abreast” infractions committed by cyclists.

In addition, PCB determined that the Department has improved its training for officers on the District’s bicycle laws and increased its involvement with BAC.  MPD members now frequently attend BAC meetings and actively participate in BAC-hosted online discussions. 

With respect to the Board’s more specific review of riding abreast citations and crash investigations, PCB recommends that officers document the basis for the riding abreast infraction in their notes to help ensure that such tickets are issued properly.  The Board also proposes that MPD officers provide better reporting of the accounts given by those involved in bike-motor vehicle crashes.  Finally, to foster transparency and accountability within the Department, PCB urges MPD to review and publicly report certain categories of information concerning bike-related citations and bicycle-motor vehicle crash investigations.

“We commend the Metropolitan Police Department on its work to address the concerns of the cycling community,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director.  “We hope that the Department builds upon the recommendations made in this report to help facilitate more positive interactions between police officers and bike riders, thereby allowing safe biking to flourish even more in the nation’s capital.”

To view a full copy of PCB’s 2013 follow-up report and set of recommendations, visit our website at www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.