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Silly me. I always thought chaining a bike to a street sign was against some law but from what I'm hearing is that it is commonly accepted practice. My understanding is is based on nothing specific just folklore I guess.

Or is it just one of a thousand of rules/ordinances that is never enforced?

DC law specifically gives cyclists the right to chain to any vertical object on the sidewalk. It's very much a local matter, check your local codes.

any vertical object except...
(a) Fire hydrants;
(b) Police and fire call boxes;
(c) electric traffic signal poles;
(d) Stanchions or poles located within bus zones or stands;
(e) Stanchions or poles located within twenty-five feet (25 ft.) of an intersection;
(f) Trees under ten inches (10 in.) in diameter.

Another interesting constraint is the 12-hour rule:

A person may secure a bicycle to a stanchion for a period of not more than the twelve (12) consecutive hours, by means of a lock or similar device, in accordance with the requirements of §1209.2

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