Nearly four years ago, in the wake of the Alice Swanson fatality, the DC Council unanimously passed the Bicycle Safety Enhancement Act of 2008. One section of the law required the Mayor to add safety features to some District-owned vehicles and to require DC government drivers to get training.
Sec. 2. Bicycle safety enhancements for District-owned, heavy-duty vehicles.
(a) The Mayor shall:
(1) Equip all District-owned, heavy-duty vehicles with the following:
(A) Blind-spot mirrors;
(B) Reflective blind-spot warning stickers; and
(C) Side-underrun guards to prevent bicyclists, other vehicles, or pedestrians from sliding under rear wheels. [WC: Section 4 notes that this will apply once funding is provided in an approved budget]
(2) Require that operators of District-owned, heavy-duty vehicles receive bicycle and pedestrian safety training from a curriculum and instructors that are approved by the District Department of Transportation
So, I contacted the Department of Public Works, since they own and operate most of DC's heavy-duty vehicles to see how compliance was going. Below is their response
Blind spot mirrors: Blind spot mirrors are required on all new heavy duty vehicles purchased by the Department and are being installed on existing heavy duty vehicles maintained by the Department as they are brought in for repairs or routine maintenance.
Blind spot stickers: have been placed on all of the heavy vehicles
Side-underrun guards: The law only requires side-underrun guards to be installed if this is provided for in an approved budget. No such provision has been made. Also, side-underrun guards are not readily available for most of the heavy duty vehicles maintained by DPW, so they would have to be custom made. For these reasons, the Department has not installed any on the vehicles it maintains.
Safety Training: Bicycle and pedestrian safety is covered in the Defensive Driving for CDL Drivers course offered for those employees who drive commercial vehicles for the District (please note: in this context ‘commercial vehicles’ refers to large vehicles, not necessarily vehicles used in commerce). The District Department of Transportation's safety officer has agreed to participate when the course is offered in the future.
So, in general it's a positive development, though, I don't know how what percentage of vehicles have the blind-spot mirrors at this point.
It would be nice if the District could come up with a plan to provide money for side-underrun guards - or some reaonable alternative. It would be great if the law extended to all heavy-duty vehicles in the District, not just those owned by DC, even allowing for a more open requirement to simply remove blind spots - which would allow for blind-spot cameras, proximity sensors or other yet-to-be developed technology. But it's nice to see that the law was not passed and promptly ignored.