For many years, bicyclists in DC enjoyed a period of lawlessness wherein they wore leggings and crazy mustaches and generally DNGAF. But that all came to a crashing end in 1896 with the first regulations of bicycles on the road. Those regulations, which were made available in churches all over the city, provided that
There was a 6 mph speed limit in intersections, 12 mph between intersections and 15 mph "outside the city" (which was basically north of Florida Avenue)
Only the person or persons propelling the bike could ride on it (Being pre-Kidical Mass by a few years)
The bicycle must always be under the control of the rider.
Sidewalk cycling was illegal. So when someone yells at you to "get on the sidewalk", tell them to take it up with John Wesley Ross.
"No bicycle, tricycle, or other vehicle may be ridden or driven so as to collide with any other horse, or such vehicle or vehicles, or any person, and the driver or rider of such horse or vehicle shall make way for pedestrians at the street crossings."
The fine for violations was between $1 and $10. That last one seems like a pretty good law. Wish we still had it.
Perhaps most relevant to cyclists is a change in the frequency and type of moving infraction data that the DC government must report. The new act will reduce the reporting from once a month to once a quarter, and it will remove the requirements that the District report the date and time of the infraction, the Police Service Area where it happened, the age of the driver and the jurisdiction in which the driver was licensed. The justification for this seems to be that the District is incapable of providing this other data.
The loss of PSA data is not a big deal, but the loss of the information about ticketed drivers is unfortunate.
It also changes a requirement related to the issuing of permits for the occupation of public space. The original law required that all permits be published with either a description of the safe accommodations provided for pedestrians and cyclists as required by law, OR an explanation for why accommodations can't be made. The new bill would only require that permits be published with a description of any safe accommodations provided for pedestrians and cyclists as required by law; but if none are provided than nothing needs to be reported.
In addition to this, the new law would make it illegal to park, stop, place or stand an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike on DC public property (except when transferring it between vehicles for lawful transport elsewhere); increase the fines and penalties for moving infractions in a work zone - even when workers are not present; and add to the list of infractions for which a driver may be required to participate in an ignition interlock program, any offense for which a driver's license has been revoked for driving while impaired or intoxicated.
The law will create a new license plate "with a bicycle awareness design that includes an image and wording to educate motorists on the 3 foot passing rule." Drivers who choose this plate will pay $45 in fees, and those fees will go to the Vision Zero Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Fund (the old "Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Fund").
The bill still needs to go to the Mayor, but she has already expressed support through Lucinda Barbers, the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, who testified in support of the bill back in September. So it looks like this will become law. This, plus the safety law and the Contributory negligence law, makes for a pretty big year, legislatively speaking.
The passing distance awareness plate seems to be a bit rare, with most states going for "Share the Road" or Missouri's "Same Road. Same Rights." Here are some examples of passing distance plates from other states.
Akin to a two-wheeled scavenger hunt, the Brompton Urban Challenge tests the creativity and ingenuity of its participants as they explore their city, interpreting clues, and completing challenges, all from the seat of their bikes. What better way to end the summer than by joining your fellow DC Bromptoneers and exploring the city on two wheels?
All types of bikes are welcome to participate, but each team of 2-4 riders must have at least 1 Brompton to qualify.
I'm not able to go, because I'll be in Nashville which is not having the BUC that weekend, but even if I were, I wouldn't go because at least I still have respect for the law.
See, even though a Brompton looks, acts and tastes just like a bicycle, it isn't, and so you aren't legally allowed to ride it on the roadway.
Let me explain.
The DC regulations ban bicycling on the sidewalk in parts of the city (basically the Central Business District and any place designated by the Mayor of which I am unaware of any). But, they didn't want to keep kids from being able to ride on the sidewalk downtown because, y'know, they're kids. So they did what any reasonable person would do, they created an exception for children under a certain age.
Nah, I'm just kidding. They did something insane and created a whole new thing called a sidewalk bicycle and it would be legal to ride a sidewalk bicycle on downtown sidewalks, because... I mean, look, it's got sidewalk right in the name. Duh. Obvs it was meant to be ridden on the sidewalk. But they waned to define this sidewalk bicycle so that it would be something only ridden by kids. So they defined it by wheel diameter.
Sidewalk Bicycle– a device which would be included within the definition of “bicycle” as set forth in this section, except for the fact that such device either has two (2) or more wheels, all of which are less than twenty inches (20. in.) in diameter, or is not designed to be ridden on a roadway. (Reg. No. 71-26)
The Brompton has two wheels and meets the definition of a bicycle, but it's wheels are only 16 inches in diameter, thus it is not a bicycle.
This means at least two things.
You can legally ride a Brompton (or other small wheeled bike) on a sidewalk in the CBD, because the reg dealing with the ban doesn't specifically call out sidewalk bicycles. 1209.9 "...no person shall ride a bicycle or operate a personal mobility device upon a sidewalk within the Central Business District except on those sidewalks expressly designated by Order of the Mayor, nor shall any person ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in any area outside of the Central Business District if it is expressly prohibited by Order of the Mayor and appropriate signs to such effect are posted."
You can't legally ride a Brompton (or other small wheeled bike) in the street, because the regs specifically say you can't. 1211.1 "No person upon rollerskates, skateboard, or riding by means of a sled, coaster, toy vehicle, sidewalk bicycle, or similar device shall go upon any roadway except when crossing a roadway in a crosswalk."
I'm not sure there are any other rules specific to sidewalk bicycles, like the Brompton, but there may be.
This is a classic case of the law not predicting, and not keeping up, with technology. I suspect it will be widely ignored, until it isn't, and then it will changed.
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 contributorynegligence 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.
this bill makes changes to District law regarding motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. It requires the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to publish certain statistical and geographical data on its website, establishes a safety program called the Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area Program, orders DDOT to adopt an inclusive policy for accommodating all users of the District's roadways, and amends existing public safety laws by creating new motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle regulations.
Here is what the bill originally contained, and what it was later modified to contain. There's a lot of good stuff in this bill (even if that doesn't include the Idaho Stop or increased fines for repeat offenders). The mandatory use of interlock for everyone convicted of drunk driving and the revocation of licenses from repeat drunk drivers being among the most noteworthy.
Removes the provision to allow bicyclists to observe stop signs as yield signs
Removes the provsion to increase penalties for repeat offenders of traffic violations (including bike lane violations)
Removes the provision that would expand distrated driving to include drivers sitting behind the wheel of a non-moving, but idling, motor vehicle.
Adds language to enhance the penalties for operating and parking an all-terrain vehcile or dirt bike in the public right-of-way
Adds a provision to require mandatory participation in the interlock program for all offenders that have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit
Adds a provision to impose a permanent license revocation for a third conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving while intoxicated, or operating a vehicle whole impaired
Increase penalties for first time drunk driving offenders and offenders with blood alcohol content above .08 but less than .20
Gives much greater details on bicycle insurance regulations - now a whole section instead of two lines.
So that's some good additions and some unfortunate removals. I'll note that everything AAA didn't like (increased fines for repeate offenders and the Idaho Stop) were removed from the bill - despite them officially supporting the 2015 bill.
“Stop as yield” was added to the bill at the urging of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Working Group convened by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh last summer. The provision faced early opposition from some members of the group like AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Metropolitan Police Department. [WABA Director Greg Billing] says he isn’t “entirely shocked” by its removal.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Administration Act of 2016, introduced by Cheh, would require the District to publish the locations of high crash intersections and create a pedestrian and bicyclist priority area program. The program will designate safety enhancement priority locations around D.C. in areas with heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The District Department of Transportation will also be required to adopt a “complete streets” policy among other changes to existing law.
The Council has to vote on the bill again for it to pass.
There's a lot of good stuff in the bill that passed, but it's hard to not be disappointed by the removal of stop as yield.
There isn't even a clear explanation for why the stop as yield provision was removed from the bill. It isn't really mentioned in the committee report (where you can also fine a copy of the new bill) or in the article which speculates that it's due to the objections of the MPD and AAA.
MPD's objections, frankly, were nonsensical. In the Working Group meetings they seemed to focus on how the Idaho law was passed - that it was sneakily added in at the last minute (a claim which I don't think can even be supported). And they claimed that there was no evidence that it made the roads safer, a claim that was repeatedly refuted as there are a few - admittedly limited - studies that provide some evidence that they do. MPD isn't safety experts and it is arguably not appropriate for them to weigh in on safety issues. What they know is enforcement and if they have an enforcement issue with this, they never mentioned it.
As to the safety concern, when pressed by CM Elissa Silverman, Assistant Police Chief Lamar Greene said that he thought it was safer when all road users obey DC laws and regulations. His argument was, then, that the law shouldn't change because it's safer when everyone follows the law. But, of course, if this bill passed as is, then the laws and regulations would change so that cyclists who roll through stop signs when no one else has the right-of-way would be following the law.
When Silverman (who clearly supports stop-as-yield) asked him what his belief that the "stop-as-yield" change would lead to more crashes was based on and what evidence he had, he offered none but said that some of his colleagues had talked to some in law enforcement in Idaho and that they had shared his concerns. That was it.
AAA's objection is even worse. Why exactly would a motorist organization oppose stop-as-yield? It, in no way, harms drivers. If anything it should make traffic move more smoothly. AAA agreed to accept the provision in the working group, but then John Townsend set out to undermine it for what reason I don't know. He said during the January hearing that AAA had no opposition to it but then highlighted the fact that MPD was "diametrically opposed to it." Then they immediately went out and polled DC drivers to show that they opposed stop as yield.
In a survey of 1,085 D.C. drivers, conducted during the last week of January by Public Policy Polling for AAA Mid-Atlantic, they asked a question about the provision.
Six of 10 drivers licensed in the District say they oppose a proposed change in city law that would allow bicyclists to roll through stop signs. The measure, part of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Act of 2015, is in response to demands from an increasing number of bicyclists in the city seeking greater protections and access to the road. If approved, the District would join a handful of jurisdictions nationwide that allow bicyclists to roll through traffic signs– when safe.
I haven't written about this, but I already see several problems here. First of all is how the question was phrased, which is unknown. I emailed Mr. Townsend several times to get the question that was asked and - surprise surprise - he never responded. Does the question ask if cyclists should be "allowed to roll through stop signs" because I'd expect such phrasing to poll badly. In addition, it's only a poll of DC drivers. Fewer than half of all DC residents even have a license. Did AAA ask non-drivers this question, but only report the opinion of drivers? Again, Townsend didn't respond and AAA didn't report. Finally 40% approval among drivers is actually better than I would have expected.
But since this provision was removed behind closed doors, we might never know why it was removed, or who wanted it gone and who wanted it to pass.
In Maryland's General Assembly, an amended House Bill 214 passed the House 113-24 and now moves on to the Senate. The first Senate hearing on the bill was last Thursday. On the Senate side, SB 1123 is sponsored by Senators Klausmeier, Raskin, and Lee. A huge thanks to everyone who called or emailed their delegates. Learn more about the amendments here. In summary, if drivers cannot give three feet they will have to slow down, similar to California's three foot law and our "Move Over; slow down" law for passing emergency vehicles on the side of the road.