Dear WABA Members and Supporters:
Last Friday, we testified at Councilmember Mendelson's Committee Hearing on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety, calling for better enforcement, better training of police officers, and better laws protecting cyclists. For months, we have been sharing cyclists' stories of enforcement difficulties and unjust laws with the Councilmember and asking for the opportunity to tell these stories publicly and begin the process of change.
Last Friday, we finally got our chance, and for over three hours we heard and told stories of being forced out of bike lanes by double-parked cars and having police refuse to cite the motorist; of being doored and wrongly ticketed for passing; of being hit from behind yet still faulted; and of waking up in a hospital bed to learn that the investigation into the crash was complete without our side ever being heard. And, sadly, there were the cases in which others spoke for the cyclists and pedestrians because they did not survive to tell their own stories.
We hope that these stories resonated with Councilmember Mendelson as they did with those of us in the audience, and that he--as oversight committee chair--holds the Metropolitan Police Department responsible for improving. We will continue pushing him to do so, and we will be there, when Chief Lanier comes before the Council's committee for MPD's annual oversight hearing, to see what level of priority is given to cyclists and vulnerable roadway users.
But now is the time for DC cyclists to seize the opportunity and momentum created by this hearing.
In our testimony, WABA stressed the need to change the blame-the-victim contributory negligence standard that too often prevents vulnerable roadway users from receiving compensation, even to cover their medical bills. Most of the nation has already left behind this relic of English common law and adopted a more modern approach to assigning liability that takes into account the comparative levels of fault of the parties rather than simply denying all recovery for the slightest infraction.
Our focus in the coming weeks will be to change this law in DC, and we will need the energy and support of all of you to make it happen.
An effort to overturn longstanding legal doctrine that routinely allows the primary guilty party to avoid payment will not be changed without opposition. We are asking for your support to ensure that this campaign has enough resources to reach its goal: a liability standard that treats roadway users fairly, allocating blame according to actual responsibility, rather than simply preventing compensation for injuries due to minor mistakes or enforcement errors.
Once the District overturns this blame-the-victim liability standard we will be able to pursue other legal changes--such as the Idaho Stop Law mentioned by Councilmember Mendelson at the hearing--without fear that it would lead to automatic denial of recovery for cyclists struck in intersections.
We are ready to scale up our campaign to pass a Vulnerable Roadway User Law in the District that gets rid of this discriminatory, unjust standard.
Together, we have created the opportunity. Now we must deliver the hard work to drive the results. Please take a moment to contribute today, and forward this email to your cyclist and pedestrian friends and neighbors.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association