In case you haven't heard yet, the DC Council unanimously approved the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2015 yesterday and also passed the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2016 and transmitted it to the Mayor (with a response due by July 26th). Pretty big day for DC bicycle law. Not to diminish the importance of other laws like the DC Commuter and Parking Act, Bicycle Safety Amendment Act, Bicycle Safety Enhancement Act, etc...to have passed since I started blogging, but from the standpoint of DC legislation, its hard to think of a bigger year. Lots of progress has been made this summer.
The first time I heard of the contributory negligence bill was back in 2008, when then WABA Executive Director Erik Gilliland wrote the Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) about it.
Please see the attached file [about the case WMATA v Young]. It’s an appeals court judgment on a case involving a cyclist that was struck and severely injured by a Metro bus driver. We have been talking about how the contributory negligence policy of DC (and MD and VA) might hinder the ability of cyclists to recover damages in a civil suit if he or she is found to have contributed at least a little bit to a crash.
Over the next 8 years WABA, BAC, (once they existed) the Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) and others have been working to change this law, with WABA doing most of the heavy lifting. Shane Farthing wrote a great piece making the case for the change. GreaterGreaterWashington has been hitting the issue pretty hard for years. In 2014, David Grosso with Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh introduced the first bill that tried to fix this, the Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2014, but even as it failed it set up yesterday's eventual success. Within months, Mary Cheh modified it to be more politically palatable (and frankly better for cyclists and pedestrians) and Kenyon McDuffie eventually moved it through committee. Even when he held up the bill last month, it appears to have been due to a general misunderstanding, not opposition. Finally the whole council has supported the change and it appears Mayor Bowser will sign it.
Success, they say, has a lot of fathers, and in this case it is absolutely true.