That still leaves Anita Bonds, who according to Greg Billing "suggested adding provisions requiring lights, helmets, and such," and Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser, who haven't taken a position and weren't at today's session, as well. Pedestrians, cyclists, and other residents can contact members of the committee to push them on the issue.
According to Di Caro, Cheh is the swing vote and is going to vote against it.
Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), says she cannot support the legislation in its current form. It would compromise crash victims' ability — especially in major accidents — to be fully compensated if they are injured by more than one person, she says.
There she's referencing Joint and Several liability. The plan was to amend the law to protect J&SL. The amendment was based on a similar one from some other state (I didn't write down which one. Oregon maybe?)
So that would leave Wells and, I believe, Bonds for - and Cheh, Bowser and Evans against. So, we'll see.
It is interesting that one of the two parties opposed to the bill is the Trial Lawyers Association and that comparing their list of leadership to Mary Cheh's Office of Campaign Finance Report, they contributed at least $14,500 of the $368,000+ she's raised since 2006.
Update: From a DCist article.
"Trial lawyers are concerned this could be the camel's nose under the tent," Wells said. "That it could impact the size of the awards."
Wells said trial lawyers hold "a lot of sway in the John Wilson building."
"We just went through an election cycle, they contribute a lot of money to campaigns," he said. "And that will have an impact."
Grosso noted that, between the first hearing and now, he worked with trial lawyers who expressed concern over the bill to make changes. "There's no reason why this shouldn't move forward, but there's obviously some hesitancy," he said.
Council members Tommy Wells, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, and David Grosso (D-At-Large), the bill’s main sponsor, said at a press conference Thursday that the bill is long overdue. They acknowledge the bill is unlikely to advance out of the committee — this is the third time it has been introduced –and already were talking about trying again next year.
Ward 6 CM-elect Charles Allen has already promised to support it.
When introduced, the bill only covered cyclists, but since its September hearing, it has been expanded to also cover pedestrians and people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs.
Anyway, Davis and Deming do an excellent job of explaining the law and the problems with the current situation. Then they have a couple of callers who point out how they or someone they know were harmed by this doctrine.
And then Goldberg comes in (possible photograph) and starts criticizing the bill. First he says that if drivers have to pay for the damage they do to cyclists, then driving will be more expensive.
We know that in other states that have moved from a comparative to a contributory negligent standard, auto insurance rates have gone up. So this kind of a move could only really have a negative impact on auto insurance costs for district drivers. This is especially a concern because we know that in the district about one in five drivers is currently uninsured. And we certainly don't want to increase that number.
Oh yeah, and right now 20% of drivers are breaking the law every time they get behind the wheel and for every second their driving, and this law might push more drivers to do so, which would be the laws fault. And Goldberg expands on how drivers will have to pay more if they are required to reimburse cyclists whom they maim or kill.
So to the extent that costs get increased for drivers, they also get increased for the district. And of course who pays for that, district taxpayers. This would also be the case for fleet vehicles, businesses that own fleet vehicles who are on the road that are largely self-insured. So it's a business issue as well.
Taxes will go up (which is the bad direction as we all know)! Businesses will go bankrupt! Kittens and puppies will be set adrift on icebergs to perish at sea! If drivers are required to pay the medical bills for the people they negligently crush under their wheels America will start circling the drain. Tis a sad day....
But Deming pretty effectively crushes this one by pointing out that the reason that rates will go up is because drivers have been getting a deal by passing the costs on to their victims.
this is going to result in increasing payouts from the insurance industry to injured people. Well, yes, that really is the point. There are people who are having their claims denied today that don't deserve to have their claims denied due to this very harsh principle of law. Will additional monies be paid to them for, you know, their injuries? Yes, they will, hopefully. Isn't that why we have insurance companies in the first place?
Goldberg briefly tries to argue that if the law in DC is different than in Virginia and Maryland that is somehow a problem
What it means is that when a bicyclist crosses over from, for example, Virginia to D.C., a new set of standards would apply to them.
Right, because the law in Virginia and DC is exactly the same right now. Besides if standardization has a benefit, then the standard is comparative negligence.
He also misrepresents the law, saying that
It's really unclear though why a bicyclist should have a lower standard of care than a pedestrian or a motorist.
They don't have a lower standard of care. They have a lower threshold for recovery in an accident. And if Goldberg wants to get rid of contributory negligence for drivers and pedestrians, that would be swell too. But, of course he doesn't.
But then Goldberg says something completely untrue.
Two years ago the bicyclists got a special law enacted for them which is kind of extraordinary. It provides them in an accident for negligence with the ability to recover attorney fees, which is quite extraordinary under the United States system of law, triple damages -- treble damages and punitive damages, which again is highly unusual in a negligent situation.
And Deming tries to correct him
I wanted to address some points that Mr. Goldberg has made more than once with respect to a law that was passed for cyclists a few years ago. He's made the assertion that cyclists that are involved in accidents can recover attorney's fees and get trouble damages. That's absolutely not true. I'm afraid you're -- you've misunderstood that statute, Mr. Goldberg. The statute that he's referring to was an assault bill. And it applies to the very rare, but quite frightening circumstance where a car actually assaults a cyclist on purpose with the car or jumps out of the car and physically assaults the cyclist. That's an assault bill, not an accident bill. And under the current laws in D.C., you cannot get your attorney's fees awarded. You do not get treble damages in a motor vehicle/bicycle accident case. It's just not the law.
But Goldberg won't have any of it.
Well, I don't believe that I'm misreading the law. An assault under D.C. is the touching by a motorist against a bicyclist. That would constitute an assault. So I think that I'm reading the law correctly,
Really? Any time a motorist touches a bicyclist with their car, that's assault? There are a lot of assaults going un-prosecuted then.
He's also worried that the inability to recover damages is the only thing keeping cyclist from riding like reckless morons who, y'know talk on the phone and eat while they drive.
A concern here though is that if you remove the current standard, one of the things that you may be doing is removing an incentive for the cyclist to exercise due care and drive more responsibly and obey the rules of the road, because if now, you know, if this law were to pass and they were involved in an accident, you know, not only do you have the ability, you know, to make a recovering, but your attorney fees will be taken care of.
I think cyclists are sufficiently motivated to not have their pelvis crushed.
Goldberg also wants mandatory helmet laws.
Well, in fact, in D.C., cyclists -- if you're over the age of 18 -- 16, you're not required to wear a bicycle helmet. That's one example of a regulation that probably ought to be changed if the goal is to improve bicyclists' safety.
Then there are some callers phoning in from what must be 1993, because they are saying that cyclists should not be on the road. One of them might even be driving and eating while he's talking to Kojo. See, that's what the ability to recover damages does to you.
Another writes in
"Montgomery County has spent billions of dollars on building bike paths or lanes and the cyclists do not use them"
Billions? I'm not sure Maryland has spent billions, let alone Montgomery County.
Another wants cyclists to be required to carry insurance. Deming:
Well, you know, as we get an increased number of cyclist on the road, I think that the insurance industry is going to be stepping up to the plate more and more and offering insurance to cyclists. I mean, this is a two-way street. There have to be products out there that are available. Right now there's an increased number of insurance policies available to cyclists, but they're primarily in the area of property damage protection.
I'm not opposed to adult cyclists being required to have bicycling insurance per se. It wouldn't be that expensive frankly.
It's only to the good for people to come to a complete stop, both feet on the ground, when they come up to a stop.
Kojo knows though, and Goldberg breaks out the old canard about how
the makeup of Idaho and its densest urban areas, I would imagine, probably doesn't come close to the density of downtown Washington. So perhaps the rule is different for a reason.
Which is completely irrelevant, and so no, there is no reason.
So mostly we learned that Bruce Deming knows a lot about the law (but less about the Idaho Stop) and Eric Goldberg is a jort-wearing, truth-stretching, shake-weight using, Nickleback fan who would like to continue not paying the people his customers cripple.
There will be a hearing on the Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2014 this Monday and if you can go and testify in favor of it, you should. The bill would allow crashes between cyclists and drivers to be adjudicated on a Comparative Negligence Standard instead of the current Contributory Negligence standard. This is probably the most important bike law proposed in DC (or MD or VA) since this blog was started oh so many years ago. I haven't been writing about it very much lately, because so many other places have.
This bill would make it easier for cyclists to get compensation for damage sustained in accidents with cars, by ending the legal use of contributory negligence in automobile-bicycle collisions.
Wow. That would be an enormous improvement. WABA, and Shane Farthing in particular, have been working this issue pretty hard for the last few years, and it would be a real victory to see the law improved in this way.
We don't see alot of electric bikes (or mopeds) in our area, but they are quite common in Europe and China. With an aging population that prefers to avoid automobiles, they may become more common in our area as well.
Should the law treat them as a bicycle or a motorized pedalcycle (moped)? Or does it depend on speed and the power of the engine?
In Europe, the dividing line is 250 watts (1/3 horsepower) and 15 mph; that is, as long as the motor phases out with speed and cuts off at 15 mph, the driver has the rights of a bicyclist. You can ride on bikeways, don't need a license, and don't need insurance.
In the United States, the dividing line varies--and so does the legal significance of that line. Some states require a driver's license or a minimum age, others ban them on trails or sidewalks. Some do both. To some extent, that reflects greater caution about a type of vehicle that is not yet well understood in the United States. But it is also an indirect (and unnecessary) result of a federal definition designed for a different purpose. For purposes of manufacturing safety, the Consumer Products Safety Commission defines electric bicycle as any electrical moped with less than 1 horsepower and a top speed of 20 mph or less. States do not have to use that definition for trail access or drivers licenses. But drawing the line anywhere else would require a careful evaluation of what they are doing; and as Ralph Waldo Emerson (indirectly) pointed out, consistency is often simpler than a careful evaluation.
Recalling that kinetic energy equals MV2/2, electric bikes in the United States can bump into someone with about three times the force of the electric bikes in Europe. So putting one on a trail, or putting a child in the driver's seat, probably requires more caution here than in Europe.
The Maryland General Assembly, however, may soon throw caution to the wind, and redefine the term "bicycle" to include any cycle that meets the Consumer Products Safety Commission definition of electric bike. House Bill 205 has already passed the House, with minimal discussion. Because the bill redefines "bicycle" but adds no substantive requirements, any child or adult will be allowed to ride this type of moped on any highway or trail where bicycles are allowed. In Howard and most of Montgomery County, that would include sidewalks.
Interestingly, the proponents of the bill argued that the main reason to pass this bill is that the state and federal governments should have the same definition of "electric bicycle." I don't know if that is really true, since their purposes are very different. But even if it is true, this bill gives Maryland very different definitions of both "electric bicycle" and "bicycle". Here is the federal government definition that the CPSC uses:
For purposes of this section, the term "low-speed electric bicycle" means a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph. 15 USC 2085.
And here is what Maryland's definition would be:
"Electric bicycle" means a bicycle that (1) is designed to be operated by human power with the assistance of an electric motor (2) is equipped with fully operable pedals; (3) has two or three wheels; (4) has a motor with a rating of 750 watts or less; and (5) is capable of a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour on a level surface when powered by the motor.
"Bicycle" means a vehicle that is designed to be operated by human power .... or an electric bicycle.
These two definitions agree on the power rating, but other than that there is a very big difference: The federal definition does not say that an electric bicycle is a bicycle; in the US code "bicycle" has its ordinary meaning. But House Bill 205 makes electric bicycles a type of bicycle.
This afternoon, representatives from the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office will testify before the House and Senate Committees in support of bills to revise Maryland’s Criminal Negligence Law.
Senate Bill 565 and House Bill 835 both seek to create a more appropriate standard to prosecute drivers and boaters whose actions result in the death of other persons. The bills would amend the current law so that anyone driving a motor vehicle or operating a vessel would face up to 3 years of incarceration for any death caused when their actions create “a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that such a result would occur.
“It is clear to me that the current law is insufficient,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “Every year I see pedestrian, bicycle and motor vehicle fatalities that I would like to prosecute in the criminal court, but the law stands in our way. This proposal will go a long way to enable us to address fatalities that result from more than mere negligence, and make roads safer for the citizens of Anne Arundel County.”