CM Mendelson had a hearing on Friday about the enforcement of traffic laws, specifically with an eye on keeping vulnerable users safe. He heard some stories where vulnerable users were hurt or killed, but the driver was not even ticketed, or worse, the cyclist or pedestrian was without being interviewed.
Sometimes, victims testified, they haven't been interviewed about the accidents in which they were injured.
Washington Area Bicyclist Association Executive Director Shane Farthing said the city's police officers "often lack a basic understanding of cycling in the District." He cited examples of a cyclist fined $100 after a taxi rider opened his door into the biker.
There were some calls to action
Families and friends of victims urged more traffic cameras to deter drivers from speeding. Others urged the enforcement of the existing laws -- such as making sure that vehicles don't block existing bike lanes.
Accident forms are written for vehicles, witnesses said.
Greater Greater Washington founder David Alpert said other countries and communities, such as Sweden, don't assume that traffic fatalities are inevitable and have started "vision zero" initiatives in which they create goals to reduce deaths by looking at road design.
Others suggested new laws, such as what's known as the Idaho Stop. The law in Idaho lets bikers yield at stop signs instead of having to make a hard stop. Red lights can be treated like stop signs.
And some calls for action that won't actually make people safer.
But Anthony Muhammad, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 8, said that bicyclists should be required to have collision and liability insurance just like drivers.
Because....how will that make people safer?
He also questioned why the city allows riders to ride without helmets, horns or using hand signals.
You don't need a horn if you have a bell, but I'm highly skeptical that either item makes anyone safer. Helmets...well, y'know. Yes, cyclists should use hand signals and it is already the law. I suspect that is enforced just as much as turn signal use by drivers. And I'd be fine with both being enforced more.
WTOP has more quotes from him
"You don't have a helmet on, you don't make signals when you turn, you don't have a mirror on the bicycle, you don't have a flashlight on the bicycle, but you want to be considered a vehicle that the cars drive in," said Anthony Muhammad, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 8A in Southeast D.C.
Has he ever tried to use a mirror on a bicycle (it makes me sick, but I know some people love them)? And they aren't required. He's right that those riding at night (and I would recommend the day) absolutely need a light. But he's wrong that we want to be "considered a vehicle that the cars drive in," by which I assume he means we want to be considered a vehicle that can ride in a lane the cars drive in. We ARE a vehicle and we already have the right to ride in a lane cars drive in. Nobody wants something they already have. What we want is for drivers to follow the law and treat us the way they are legally required to treat us. If his point is that not having a horn negates your right to the road, he's wrong.
Muhammad said he'd be more inclined to be sympathetic to cyclists if they took those safety measures - and if they stayed off the roads at rush hour.
The hearing was a positive development, though I suspect that some will take issue with this statement.
Mendelson said, "It's clear from this hearing that there needs to be much more robust enforcement — not just against drivers of automobiles, but pedestrians and cyclists as well."
Which is true, as long as it focuses on the right things.
The WTOP story is longer and has some new facts
Mendelson also heard from people like Douglas Kandt,
Kandt says he was hit by a taxi in an intersection in Northwest D.C., and he was taken to the hospital before police ever took a statement. When he called police to make a statement and to recover his damaged bike, he was told he'd been cited for running a red light.
Kandt told police it was the cabbie who ran a red light. He appealed his case and it was thrown out because the officer didn't show.
Kandt says he doesn't know what would have happened had the officer come to court. He says while the citation was thrown out, he was left to cover much of the cost of replacing his bike and medical expenses, "because of the erroneous police report which was I was never successful in getting changed, I had to cover those bills."
And I can't let this go
Mendelson also heard from people like Douglas Kandt, a D.C. resident whose story was first reported by WTOP.
Oh really? [Kate, you know I'm just kidding and that I love you, right?]
Photo of Ruth Rowan, Alice Swanson's mother, testifying. By Jay Mallin