What is the Safer Streets Amendment Act?
On September 20, 2022, the Safer Streets Amendment Act unanimously passed a preliminary vote in the DC Council. The final vote is expected at the October 4 legislative meeting.
How to support it
It is not too late to support this bill. To show your councilmember (you have one Ward, 4 At-Large, and one Chairman) that you support this direction for DC, send them a short email, phone call, or tweet to explain why. Find DC Council contact details here.
What is in the bill?
The Safer Streets Amendment Act combines parts of several bills introduced in 2021 and 2022 including the Safer Intersections Act, Walk Without Worry Act, and Upgrading Tactical Safety Projects Act. The bill makes substantial changes to the rules of the road for drivers and bicyclists at intersections and changes DDOT’s requirements for building safe intersections using best practices. The bill includes:
- Prohibit right turn on red for automobiles at all signalized intersections: Currently drivers are permitted to turn right at a red traffic signal at any intersection, unless prohibited by a sign. Yet, traffic safety experts, and a recent local study, find that prohibiting right turn on red improves safety for people walking and biking and reduces crashes in case. The bill prohibits right on red by default across the city, unless signed as permitted. The change would take effect in January 2025 after an extensive education campaign.
- Bicyclist stop as yield: Also called the Delaware Yield or Idaho Stop, this proposal would allow people riding bikes and scooters to treat a stop sign as a yield sign. As they approach a stop-controlled intersection, a bicyclist must slow, determine that no other road user is at or approaching the intersection and that there are no hazards. Only then, may they proceed without coming to a complete stop. As is under current rules, if a pedestrian, driver, or other road user is at the intersection, the bicyclist must stop and yield the right of way. As of 2022, 9 other states have adopted bicycle stop as yield. Read more about the benefits in this blog post or this NHTSA fact sheet.
- Upgrade tactical traffic calming and bike lanes: The bill directs DDOT to make and carry out annual plans for upgrading “tactical” street safety interventions and protected bike lanes with more permanent, robust, and durable materials. Tactical safety projects are usually built with paint, posts, and other inexpensive materials as a quick way to narrow lanes, sharpen corners, or extend sidewalks. Upgrading successful interventions into concrete will deliver the traffic calming with less maintenance.
- Make raised crosswalks and continuous sidewalks standard for new construction: The bill directs DDOT to develop standardized designs for vertical traffic calming measures such as continuous sidewalks, raised crosswalks, and raised intersections and requires implementation of those design standards for road reconstructions or capital projects.
- Authorize DDOT to permit bicyclists to treat some red lights as stop signs: Similar to stop as yield, the bill would permit a person riding a scooter or bicycle to proceed through a signalized intersection on a red signal after coming to a complete stop, confirming that there are no hazards, and yielding the right of way to other users. This would only be permitted where specifically signed as allowed.
- Minor changes to rules for shared bike and scooter permits
When does it take effect?
Bills passed by the DC Council are sent to the Mayor for signature, then to the US Congress for a period of 30 days before becoming effective. If all goes well, the bill could be enacted by December 2022.
Additionally, bills that have a financial impact on the budget do not take effect until they are specifically addressed and certified as funded in the DC budget. The Safer Streets Amendment Act has an estimated budget impact of roughly $3.4 million over four years. If passed, only the bicycle stop as yield allowance would immediately take effect. Read the Fiscal Impact Statement here. Learn more about the legislative process here.
The Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee held public hearings on May 5, 2022 and passed the bill out of committee on July 13 2022. The full DC council voted 13-0 in favor of the bill on September 30, 2022. Click here for the full bill history. Click here to read the full bill text.