DC Advocates Win Introduction of Anti-Harassment Legislation

By Carolyn S on October 11, 2011


By Lisa Seyfried, Contributing Writer

Thanks in part to the incredible popularity of Capital Bikeshare, the District of Columbia is awash in new cyclists. And new legislation proposed by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) aims to boost their safety by giving bicyclists strong legal recourse when they are wronged on the road.

The proposal comes on the heels of a stunning act of intentional violence toward an innocent commuter on his way to work this summer. A helmet-cam video (above) shared by WABA showed a male cyclist being verbally assailed and then struck by a pickup truck. The man was thrown from his bicycle, crashing to the pavement, as the motorist fled the scene. Circulated by bloggers and advocates, the incident quickly served as a catalyst for many community members to push for a new measure to protect cyclists’ rights on the road.

The new anti-harassment legislation, titled ‘Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011,’ would seek to provide a civil right of action for cyclists in the case of assaults, and the ability to recover legal fees and damages. The goal is to provide legal recourse for cyclists who have been intentionally harassed or assaulted by drivers in the District of Columbia.

“Given the obvious physical differences between automobiles and bicycles, there is ample opportunity for bullying in the form of harassment, assault, and battery,” WABA Executive Director Shane Farthing said of the proposal’s purpose in July. “That opportunity should be curtailed by consequences for roadway bullies — but to date the imposition of consequences has been rare.”

The WABA-proposed legislation is based on the Los Angeles anti-assault law that passed in July 2011. The LA legislation came after several years of LA bike activists working to pass a Bicyclist Bill of Rights. Supporters of the DC bill hope it will send a message to motorists that cyclists have the ability to take legal action when their rights are violated on the road.

The legislation will move forward to a public hearing on November 2. WABA is encouraging its members (or any bicyclists) to fill out the crash tracker on its website to provide more anecdotal evidence of why this bill is needed. Read more about WABA’s efforts to push this legislation forward here.

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