News & Politics

Say Goodbye to Turning Right on Red in DC

Proposed changes to DC road laws are being driven by a need to increase cyclist safety.

The intersection of Van Ness St. and Connecticut Ave., NW, already has "no right on red," to protect bike-lane users. Photograph by Keely Bastow.

Changes are headed to DC roads this fall—the District is expected to soon follow New York City’s lead in banning right turns on red lights.

As the DC Council reconvenes after a summer break, council member Mary Cheh’s proposed Safer Streets Amendment Act of 2022 is scheduled for its first reading tomorrow.

The amendment would restrict right turns on red lights and also implement the Idaho Stop, which allows bikes, e-bikes, and scooters to treat stop signs as yield signs. Currently, cyclists and other riders must legally behave as cars on the road and stop fully at stop signs. The Idaho Stop is supposed to increase cyclist safety by increasing their visibility and allowing them to get ahead of traffic and maintain their momentum.

Two vehicles block a bike turning lane on the corner of Van Ness St and Connecticut Ave NW. Photograph by Keely Bastow.

Residents may not be surprised to see the proposed changes to traffic rules—three cyclists were killed in July alone, prompting protests over the ineffectiveness of DC’s road safety initiative, Vision Zero.

Passing the amendment also would mean that cyclists would not be ticketed for what they already do, a practice that disproportionately affects residents of color; in 2020, over 87 percent of cyclists stopped in DC were Black. The council’s transportation committee report stated that decriminalizing this common behavior would minimize the need for stops and encourage ridership.

Other changes have been coming to DC roads as well in an effort to increase safety. Speed limits were recently reduced on Connecticut Avenue, Northwest, and New York Avenue, Northeast, with reduced speeds on more corridors to follow suit.

You can still turn right on red for now. Cheh’s amendment must go through this week’s reading, plus one more scheduled for October 4 before the council votes on it. It’s widely expected to pass, though, so you might want to get used to the new rules now—once enacted, there will be a $150 fine for turning right on a red light.

Correction: This post originally reported that Cheh’s bill would allow the Idaho stop at red lights as well as stop signs. In July, however, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment changed the legislation to say that while the Idaho stop would still be allowed at stop signs, it will be allowed at red lights only in limited circumstances and when posted.

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Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local D.C., national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.