Entries tagged: District Of Columbia

DC Advocates Win Introduction of Anti-Harassment Legislation

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.

Complete Streets Victory in the Nation’s Capital

imageIt’s been a pretty stellar week for proponents of Complete Streets.

As Stefanie Seskin notes on the National Complete Streets Coalition blog, a new round of grant funding announced yesterday by the U.S. Department of Transportation is dedicating millions to projects that advance complete streets policies. From Illinois to Georgia, TIGER II dollars will bolster projects that account for all road users, including cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.

But DC isn’t just dishing it out. The nation’s capital inked its own complete streets policy this week, too.

In early October, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association started a petition campaign with a simple slogan: The District Deserves Complete Streets. As executive director Shane Farthing wrote on the Quick Release Blog, plenty of other jurisdictions — including the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia — had already enacted complete streets.

“Despite its world-class Metro system, its renowned L’Enfant streetgrid, its forward-thinking transportation leadership, the District of Columbia has no such policy,” Farthing wrote. “In the District, there is no law, rule, or even publicly stated commitment to ensuring that our roadways and streetscapes — our most basic public spaces — serve all users… As new leadership comes to the District and we continue in our daily travels to see dangerous intersections, near-misses, and disconnected sidewalks and bike lanes, we need to show DDOT and the District’s leadership that while we appreciate the individual projects and upgrades, we believe this holistic change in approach is important and that public space should be serve the entire public — not just motorists or just cyclists or just the able-bodied. Everyone. That is why we at WABA are launching a campaign for Complete Streets in DC.”

Well, mission accomplished!

Yesterday, WABA members, like me, got a celebratory e-mail: “I am writing to you to share the exciting news that DDOT Director Gabe Klein has signed a Complete Streets Policy ensuring that both bicyclist and pedestrian level-of-service will be considered in every significant roadway project! This is a huge step forward for the District, and comes as a direct result of WABA’s campaign initiated several weeks ago. Thank you to the over 350 DC WABA members and supporters who signed our petition. Your voice was heard, and DDOT now has a policy mandating that the needs of cyclists, pedestrians, and all roadway users be balanced in their projects.”

Read more on the WABA blog — or click here to send a thank-you e-mail to DC officials.