On Nov 2nd, CM Mendelsohn and the Committee on the Judiciary will host a public hearing on Enforcement of Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Bill 19-475, Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011.
Those who wish to testify should contact Ms. Jessica Jacobs, Legislative Counsel, at (202) 724-8038, by fax at (202) 724-6664, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide their name, address, telephone number, organizational affiliation and title (if any) by close of business Monday, October 31, 2011.
In the District of Columbia it is already illegal to use a vehicle to threaten and assault bicyclists. You can go to jail for such behavior.
No. No you really can't. You can hit someone on purpose, have them record it and walk away without so much as a ticket. You can hit a cyclist on purpose, be charged, have the charges reduced, leave town, have the charges dismissed and then later get hired in DC's Summer Youth Employment Program (true story). But one thing you can't do is go to jail. No one - and I mean no one - in the history of this fine city has ever gone to jail for a crime like this. I'm sure of it.
You can also be sued.
You can, but the hurdle is so high that almost no one ever is. It's very difficult to get a lawyer in this situation.
Shane Farthing does a great job of explaining the legal aspecs of the law
It is true that there is an existing civil tort cause of action. However, like most torts, the ability to secure legal representation to bring such a case depends–due to the contingency fee system–on the extent of the injury rather than the egregiousness of the conduct. This law will allow egregious conduct be to be addressed in civil court by changing the economic incentive for attorneys to represent assaulted cyclists.
It is true that the fee-shifting is relatively uncommon, but fee-shifting is an available mechanism that is frequently used in cases where injunctive relief is sought. Roadway assault cases like those at issue here–in which the attacks and harassment are often enabled by the inherent vulnerability of the bicyclist as compared to the motorist–have some interesting parallels to the circumstances that led to the body of civil rights law, where such fee-shifting is most common. Certainly the situations are not the same. It would be a stretch to argue that cyclists, as a group, fit the traditional definition of a protected class. But cyclists are, in the context of the roadway, inherently vulnerable, and it is that vulnerability–combined with an element of minority–that underlies and justifies the civil rights-style remedy proposed.
Chuck goes on
Under their proposal if a motorist assaults me as a pedestrian and you on a bike, I pay my attorney but the motorist pays yours. Does that seem fair?
No, but pedestrians aren't assaulted by drivers the way that cyclists are. Can Thies find an example? And this is a red herring. WABA's not saying that pedestrians are unworthy of this kind of protection, just that they don't need it - and I suspect WABA would be fine if the law wound up protecting both groups in the same way.
Thies resorts to exaggeration (this will "upend our legal system") and the slippery slope argument ("Will the Council designate bicyclists a protected class? Or perhaps an endangered species?"). Both of which are, like the idea that gay marriage will open the door for incest, intellectually bankrupt.
No one questions the dangers associated with riding a bike in traffic. Crossing the street as a pedestrian is also dangerous. Attending an NFL game in Philadelphia decked out in Redskins attire is risky, too.
Oh, is that a joke. If so, it is well-placed because people being run over by cars is hysterical. [BTW, I'd love to see Thies cite one case of a Redskin being assaulted by Eagles fans in Philadelphia. Doesn't happen].
Yes, the behavior of the driver in the YouTube video is reprehensible. But no, we do not need new laws that create incentive for lawsuits and do nothing to further protect people.
Clearly we do, since the driver will suffer no consequences. How does that protect people? Having drivers get sued, and lose, in these kinds of cases will protect cyclists. At the very least, from those very drivers.
If WABA wants to have a discussion about new bike laws, I have an idea: require bicyclists to purchase liability insurance. If a motor vehicle injures you, insurance mandated by law covers medical costs and perhaps more.
So...cyclists should pay to protect themselves from bad behavior by drivers? Isn't that a "victim pays" system? Is that what Thies supports? If a cyclist is at fault they pay, and if they aren't at fault, their insurance - which they paid for - pays. Hooray Justice!
Why should bicyclists, who use public roadways and sidewalks, be immune from insurance requirements?
Because their potential to cause property damage or injury is so very much lower than a drivers. Does Thies really think 6-year-olds need liability insurance to bike to school?
Driving a motor vehicle on public roads is a privilege, not a right. Maybe we need to reconsider whether the same standard should be applied to bikes?
OK, I reconsidered and the answer is no. Driving is a privilege because it is so much more dangerous. That's why we don't let 6-year-olds drive to school.
Who among bicyclists wants to have that conversation?
I do. Name the time and place.
How about the biker who knocked my then-pregnant wife to the ground?
I suspect they're sorry. Especially since I'm sure you sued his pants off right?
Or the one who would have surely injured my young son had I not pulled him from imminent disaster?
OK...you're grasping at straws now. You're angry about the cyclist who didn't crash into your son?