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Thanks for the quick summary of the WABA recap, which refers people back to the Washcycle for the details for most of the bills.

For contributory negligence, I accidentally deleted a sentence to the effect that there had been bills in each of house which would over-rule the Court of Appeals if it entirely junks the doctrine of contributory negligence. Those bills got nowhere, because the committee chairmen do not like passing laws to over-rule cases where the decisions have not even been issued.

I am pretty sure that if the doctrine is simply weakened in some respect, the Legislature will leave it alone. But a majority of the Judiciary committee signed a letter opposing repeal of the doctrine, so the legislation would have a fair chance if the doctrine is entirely over-turned. Hence the need fo advocates to be ready to push hard for exceptions in those cases where the doctrine is unjust and inefficient.

I've seen it said that contributory negligence is just one step short of no-fault. These laws probably benefit motorists by keeping insurance rates lower.

But they are a bad deal for cyclists. Last fall I was injured in a car- bike accident and the very first words from the motorist's insurance company relied on contributory negligence relieving them of any obligation.

I am pretty sure that if the doctrine is simply weakened in some respect, the Legislature will leave it alone.

Perhaps a vulnerable road user exclusion for cyclists would be amenable?

A bill to make bicycling on sidewalks legal unless the locality prohibits it did not get out of committee

I don't have overly strong feelings on sidewalk riding. I hop on and off them in a couple spots at times if it's convenient or if I'm at my destination, but avoid them as a general rule.

I think laws on sidewalk cycling are kind of like the sodomy laws that were on the books in some states until recently (or perhaps still are on the books). The law is kind of pointless if it's never enforced. Has anyone ever gotten busted for sidewalk cycling? Are these laws ever enforced, with the possible exception of the DC CBD, but even then...

@Cyclingfool: Gaithersburg and Baltimore police occasionally enforce the sidewalk law. But the bill that died in committee would have had no effect on those jurisdictions, which have enacted local laws that prohibit cycling.

@JeffB: Because motorists are just as likely to benefit as be harmded by contributory negligence, the doctrine tends to keep insurance rates lower and is not unfair to motorists.

A cyclist may be harmed by the doctrine, but is never helped in a collision with a motorvehicle since the bike inflicts minimal damage on the motorist. One delegate was willing to introduce a bill this year to carve out an exception, until the Court of Appeals took the case--which suddenly made even little exceptions likely to become lightening rods for those interested in the larger question.

I doubt that this case will carve out a smaller exception. When a coach for a children't soccer team smokes pot and then goes swinging on a moveable goal and falls flat on his face, and then sues the soccer league for not warning him that the goal might fall over when you swing on it, I think most of us would probably say that if there was ever a case where the doctrine of contributory negligence is serving justice, this is it.

...Clarification: The two cities prohibit bicycling on sidewalks.

The analogy between sidewalk laws and sodomy laws is actually a good one.* The point of these laws isn't really to prevent a certain behavior, it's to keep marginalized people marginalized. How can you obey the law when you don't know what it is and it's applied completely at the whim of the police?

Oh, and sodomy laws still exist, and here's a story about how prosecutors in New Orleans are using them to keep black women in their place:

http://www.theagitator.com/2010/01/21/new-orleans-copsprosecutors-tagging-prostitutes-as-sex-offenders/

*How many people read that opening sentence and thought, "How is he going to finish this one?"

@contrarian:

*How many people read that opening sentence and thought, "How is he going to finish this one?"

LOL

"I've seen it said that contributory negligence is just one step short of no-fault. These laws probably benefit motorists by keeping insurance rates lower."

In the no fault states I lived in, my insurance rates were higher, and that seemed to be the conventional wisdom on the cause.

There is little doubt that the doctrine of contributory negligence keeps liability rates lower, because some claims will not be covered. The doctrine is equal to no fault only in those cases where both parties are at fault.

While no-fault saves money for those types of cases, it may increase costs because coverage is more complete. For example, it covers your damages even if the accident is caused by someone with little or no insurance. People who would otherwise only carry liability have their own damages covered to at least some extent.

There is also some reason to think that no-fault was adopted in states where people were the most annoyed by high insurance rates.

Marylanders should be happy they don't have to deal with the Virginia legislature - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/chris-stolle-virginia-gop-climate-change_n_1586128.html .

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