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DC cyclist warns drivers about road safety by placing fake parking tickets

Navy Yard’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission also has safety concerns with unused “pedestrian activation spaces” in the area.

WASHINGTON — One Navy Yard street has a pretty unique set-up for parking when compared to the rest of DC and some locals say that is far from a good thing.

Most of First Street SE, from I Street SE to Potomac Avenue SE, is organized so that bike lanes are placed next to the sidewalk while parking spots for cars are located closer to travel lanes.

However, along parts of that stretch of roadway, the parking and biking lane orientation changes to include an extra lane between the bike lane and the sidewalk.

In 2020, The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) proposed that the lane, which is prohibited to use to both cars and cyclists, serves as a “pedestrian activation space” where parklets, planters, or other public items could be placed.

That vision still has yet to be seen on parts of First Street SE, however. Instead, some drivers use the lane as an additional parking lane, surrounding the designated bike lanes with cars.

The situation frustrates Capitol Hill resident Mark Sussman who bikes through Navy Yard daily.

“I just have no idea if there's a driver in the car that's about to peel out and not see me,” he said. “Because, if they were absent-minded enough to get in [to the lane] to begin with, what are they going to do when they pull out?”

So, on Wednesday, he decided to do something about the issue.

Sussman bought fake parking tickets he found online and placed them on cars illegally parking in the pedestrian activation space.

The fake tickets read “Not a Parking Spot. Unsafe for Bikes”. The tickets also claim to be issued by “Officer McBike”.

“Some people think is a little silly,” he said. “It wasn't meant to be a serious endeavor. Sometimes, you do things that are a little silly to get a little bit of attention to a problem.”

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Sussman posted his activities on social media where a passionate discussion ensued, soon after, Wednesday morning.

Many people replied in support of Sussman’s actions with claims the signage in the area, prohibiting parking, is misleading.

However, a few people tweeted that they felt Sussman had gone too far and that cyclists often break rules on D.C. roads too.

“Can I start ticketing all the bicyclists who run red lights, go [the] wrong way on one-way streets, etc., etc.,” one person tweeted.

But, Sussman defends his actions.

“We know that even this is probably the heaviest bike behind me that you'll ever see,” Sussman says while pointing to his E-Bike. “It weighs 65 pounds, right? Cars weigh at least two tons and we know that that is what's killing people on our roadways. Not the inconvenience of someone potentially rolling through a stop sign.”

It remains unclear if Sussman did anything that is illegal. The issuance of fake vehicular tickets in the District does not appear to be a violation of the DC Code. Both the Metropolitan Police Department and the District Department of Public Works have yet to clarify the matter either.

However, one thing is for sure, Sussman is not the only person concerned with the status quo on First Street SE.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D Chair Edward Daniels said the issue also inconveniences drivers, creating even more problems.

“We now have no access for deliveries to get to the curb,” he said. “So, delivery drivers are parking in the crosswalk [and] parking in the bike lane, in order to access the curb, which is a problem.”

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Daniels said his commission has made its concerns known to the District Department of Transportation for more than a year to no avail.

“The most frustrating part is that when the Mayor directed DDOT to install Black Lives Matter Plaza, that was done in a matter of days,” he said. “They had the installation, the painting of the new Black Lives Matter Plaza signage, which is a great statement to the world. However, projects like this one remain incomplete, and we can't get any finalization as to what's going on with them.”

WUSA9 reached out to DDOT to see what was being done to address issues along First Street SE. It has yet to receive a response.

Daniels, however, said he did get a response from the transportation agency when he asked for new signage to be placed in the area prohibiting parking in the empty lane.

“I asked DDOT to put up a sign that says no parking on the inner curb lane,” he said. “The response that we got from them was ‘oh, we requested that sign’, but it hasn't gone anywhere.”

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