Thanks to everyone who came out on Friday to testify in support of safer streets for cyclists. The barrage of stories from cyclists was often heartbreaking, but also clearly impactful in a setting where impact was a primary goal.
WABA’s testimony focused on three main points:
1. Non-enforcement: the failure to enforce laws protecting bicyclists and bicycle facilities, such as broadly allowing cars to park in bike lanes.
Time, data, and experience will tell whether MPD improves its enforcement to protect bicycle facilities. One key indicator of how seriously the issue is taken will come at the MPD oversight hearing. Will Councilmember Mendelson prioritize the issue and question the Chief on strategies to improve?
2. Improper enforcement: after a crash, wrongly citing the cyclist when the motorist was at fault. Failing to understand the law as applied to cyclists and the proper use of bicycle facilities. Taking the statement of only the motorist because the injured cyclist is removed from the scene by ambulance.
MPD Asst. Chief Burke testified to his willingness to provide the WABA guide to bicycle laws to all officers. Will he follow through with this commitment? We are certainly willing to provide the files for MPD to produce in bulk. Chief Burke also testified that an online training module for bicyclist and pedestrian safety is in development. Will WABA and cycling advocates have the opportunity to vet the product and make suggestions? Will it be updated along with new bicycle facilities to explain their operation to enforcement officers. (And for that matter, can it be publicly available for non-officer cyclists and motorists.)
3. Contributory negligence: the outdated “blame the victim” liability standard that makes any minor mistake by a cyclist—or an enforcement officer—capable of fully preventing compensation for injuries, even if the other party was 99% at fault.
The “blame the victim” liability standard for vulnerable roadway users must be overturned by legislation. WABA will continue to push for a form of comparative negligence, which takes into account the respective fault between the parties in a collision, rather than the victim-blaming contributory negligence standard.
And a bonus: Idaho Stop
Councilmember Mendelson is clearly interested in learning more about the Idaho Stop law and considering the impacts in the District. WABA is preparing a full briefing for the Council.
WABA’s full testimony from the hearing can be found below.
Bike-ped Enforcement Hearing Testimony (WABA)