The Fix Contrib bill has been delayed another two weeks

At the #FixContrib Rally

At the #FixContrib Rally

On Tuesday, the DC Council voted to postpone acting on the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015 until July 12th. The legislation would repeal DC’s unfair and punitive contributory negligence standard for bicyclists and pedestrians involved in crashes with drivers.

While we commend the Council, particularly Councilmembers Cheh and McDuffie, for attempting to fix this unfair situation, we call on the Council to act quickly and decisively to adopt the Act on July 12th. There are real world, daily consequences that come with deferring action on this bill. Only an hour after the bill was postponed, a woman riding a Capital Bikeshare bike was critically injured in a crash with a motor vehicle. The details of yesterday’s crash are unknown to us but it highlights the absolute and day-by-day urgency to protect bicyclists and pedestrians who are hit by drivers. Our thoughts are with the injured victim, her friends, co-workers, and family.

Tuesday’s Council meeting, which we expected would result in passage of the bill after the first reading, began with an unexpected request. Councilmember McDuffie requested withdrawal of the bill and postponement of consideration until the next regularly scheduled meeting in October. Councilmember Cheh opposed this, sparking a procedural debate. The result is that the vote on this crucial bill has been postponed until July 12th.

It’s clear that Councilmembers McDuffie and Cheh both support fixing contributory negligence, as is evident in the overall support of the bill and elaborated on in the Judiciary Committee’s report. It’s also clear that a majority of the Councilmembers support changing the law. The question now is how to do it.

The current bill would allow for 100% recovery of damages in cases where the bicyclist or pedestrian is less negligent than the driver. In circumstances where the cyclist or pedestrian is found more negligent than the driver, the recovery is zero. This is the strongest legislation for vulnerable road users. It recognizes the unique and exposed nature of people walking and biking, and give them full recovery when they are injured by negligent drivers. We believe that this is the best approach to changing the current regime and that Council should pass the existing bill.

The alternative approach floated by Councilmember McDuffie in yesterday’s meeting appears to propose a different comparative negligence model. While the exact language of the Councilmember’s proposal is unknown, it is our understanding that his proposal would not only bar vulnerable users at 50% fault or more from any recovery (as does the present bill), but it would also reduce the recoverable damages of any plaintiff by the amount the plaintiff found to be at fault. Put another way, a bicyclist or pedestrian who is found to be 10% at fault when getting hit by a car will not be able to recover the full amount of her medical bills, damages to her bike, or lost wages. Under the existing bill, the vulnerable road user would be able to recover all of her damages. While we would likely continue to support the bill if Councilmember McDuffie’s amendment passes (it is still a measurable improvement over the status quo), we support the bill without amendment.

We will continue remain respectful and passionate throughout this campaign, We ask our members, supporters and the greater bicycling and walking community to remain respectful in the debate too.

We strongly supports abolishing the unfair contributory negligence regime for vulnerable road users, and believe that quickly passing the existing bill before the Council is the best way to achieve that goal. We thank Judiciary Chair McDuffie for moving this bill out of committee and before the full DC Council. The bill, as introduced and amended in the Judiciary Committee, represents a carefully negotiated compromise between the involved stakeholders and should be passed without further delay.

 

A busy summer on the trails

Now in full swing for the fourth year running, the Trail Ranger team has busy since April tidying up, talking up and leading cleanups and rides on the District’s trails. If you’ve been on the Marvin Gaye, Anacostia Riverwalk, Metropolitan Branch or Suitland Parkway trails, you’ve likely seen us! In our 541 miles of riding, we’ve spent 35 hours cleaning up the trails and reporting at least 75 issues to the appropriate agency. But what do those numbers actually mean?

Less glass on Marvin Gaye Trail

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An uncovered mural on the Metropolitan Branch Trail

Less gravel on the Anacostia Riverwalk

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A cleared bridge on Marvin Gaye

An uncovered trailbed on the Suitland Parkway.

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A cleaner bridge on the Metropolitan Branch

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A sidewalk uncovered on the Suitland Parkway Trail

And lots of great conversations with neighbors about our fantastic trail resources.

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Give us a shout next time you see us on the trails!

Fixing bikes, making friends at the Anacostia Public Library

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For the past three years the Anacostia Public Library has hosted bicycle maintenance clinics throughout the summer. On a Saturday in June, the library held its first clinic of the season. We’re pleased to report our friends at Velocity Co-Op, Gearing Up Bicycles, and The Bike House fixed about 30 bicycles and got them back on the road.

More important than just getting the bikes road ready, the energetic group taught the bike owners how to perform some of the work on their own. By the end of the day, kids were putting air in their own tires, adults were putting new tires on their bikes and a master mechanic taught one adventurous child how to execute a proper “bunny-hop.”

A special thanks goes out to Chrome Industries, Velocity Co-Op, Gearing Up Bicycles, and The Bike House for all their support and repair expertise. WABA is committed to making bicycling more accessible for residents of Ward 7 & Ward 8, and WABA is delighted that DC Public Library is a community partner once again this summer.

If you would like to volunteer with the DC Bike Ambassadors please join WABA’s next outreach brainstorming session at the WABA offices on July 13th at 6 pm. Pizza and drinks will be provided courtesy of the DC Bike Ambassador program. If you would like to help with bicycle programming in Ward 7 & Ward 8 please contact Jon Gonzalez at jon.gonzalez@waba.org.

#DCFemTech Made Us Some Fancy New Tools

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Thanks to the tech heroes over at #DCFemTech, WABA had the help of mappers, designers, developers, and CSS champions working to build two new advocacy tools.

Bike Love 1

Team Map (pictured above) assembled the start of a regional map that will show which neighborhoods have access to our current bike infrastructure and which don’t. It’ll help WABA visualize the disparities in access, and help prioritize our advocacy power.  Our goal is to get all residents in the greater metro region within one-mile of safe, dedicated space ride and the greater bike network by 2035.

Bike Love 2

Team SafeTrack (pictured above*) spent the weekend overhauling the SafeTrack page on our website. Our local bike community has a unique opportunity over the next year or so to convert metro riders to bike commuters (in the short and long term).  Team SafeTrack’s goals were to ensure that anyone who lands on our site can easily find the bike resources they need, and the encouragement to give biking a try.

Alex Hack!

We’ll be rolling out these tools shortly. In the meantime, we extend a hearty thank you to the enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers and our team leads Alex and Beth! Bigtime shoutout to @DCFemTech organizers and their sponsors for stepping up to make this happen; thank you, , , , , , and !

*Why are we all linking heart hands? We’re sharing that Tech/Bike love! This weekend combined two burgeoning initiatives in the DC region, WABA’s work to unite women through biking, and DCFemtech’s work to link and lift up women in the tech world. #synergies.

 

The Insurance Lobby is trying to block a Contributory Negligence fix.

On Thursday, AAA Mid-Atlantic sent a disingenuous email to its DC members with some exaggerated claims about the effects of the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015. The bill, which fixes a glaring injustice in our legal system, goes up for a D.C. Council vote on Tuesday.

If you haven’t yet, please send a note to your Councilmembers asking them to support the bill. You can also join us on the steps of the Wilson Building on Tuesday morning to show support for the bill.

Contact your Councilmembers

On Friday afternoon, WABA circulated a memo debunking the insurance lobby’s claims to Councilmembers and their staff . Here is a summary of the memo:

Property Casualty Insurers of America (“PCI”), a national trade association representing auto insurers in D.C., has circulated a misleading “analysis” of bicycle and pedestrian crash data to suggest that if the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015 (B21-4) passes, auto insurance rates will jump 24%. A careful evaluation of the analysis shows that it is based upon flawed assumptions and grossly inflated cost data.

The primary flaw in the analysis was the use of an outdated (2004) study to determine the total lifetime costs of traffic crash injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians to society, not actual insurance claims. Using this much larger and inflated estimate, the PCI analysis exaggerates the impact. More importantly, no evidence was presented to suggest a causal relationship exists between the legislation and insurance rates, and if that was the case, what the actual rise in rates could be, if any.

The PCI analysis assumes 100% of crashes will involve DC-insured drivers. According to the 2014 DDOT Traffic Safety Statistics Report, only 37% of total traffic crashes involve a DC driver. Maryland and Virginia drivers alone account for 46.9% of all crashes in the District. The costs of crashes associated with bicyclists and pedestrians would be spread much further into the regional insurance pool, not solely in the District’s.

Finally, for some context, bicycle and pedestrian traffic injuries account for only 15% of total traffic injuries in D.C. according the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The need for fair compensation for injured bicyclists and pedestrians is great and insurers of negligent drivers should be responsible for harm caused. But, to claim that compensation of an additional 15% of total injuries would cause such significant increase to auto insurance rates is not credible.

In cases where a bicyclist or pedestrian is the less negligent party, the victim should be entitled to fair compensation and not 100% barred from recovery, as is the law in 46 other states.

Contact your Councilmembers

Hundreds of miles of trails are coming to Prince George’s County

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Photo: Leah L Jones

Hundreds of miles of trails are coming to Prince George’s County, and you get a say in the matter!

The county’s Trails Master Plan (still in draft form), identifies how Prince George’s County intends to build and manage nearly 400 miles of new trails, a benchmark set forth in Formula 2040 (the 2013 functional master plan for parks, recreation and open spaces).

The county set the bar high for trail development. Now it’s time for implementation, and the Trails Master Plan identifies how to make trail development and maintenance a functional and operational priority across the county.

That’s important because the demand for trails in Prince George’s County is incredible. Our members and supporters have made it clear—trails are important to them. And they’re not alone. Trails are the #1 amenity that residents want, according to a 2012 Prince George’s County survey. Having a trail network that connects the whole county will serve both residents and visitors, and the Trails Master Plan is a critical step to closing key gaps, getting trails to new parts of the county, and elevating the importance of bike and pedestrian infrastructure within the county’s parks and planning processes.

Some of the plan’s highlights include a three-tier designation for trails (primary, secondary, and recreational), depending on the expected type of use. Primary trails are classified as mostly paved, with high-quality design features, a park-like experience, and used for both recreation and transportation. The Plan takes the mileage of primary trails in the county from 65 to 293!

Secondary trails are also mostly paved, but are connectors, along roads, or within neighborhoods. The intention for these trails are not as major commuting routes, but as connectors and shorter trips. The Plan takes the mileage of secondary trails in the county from 110 to nearly 400.

Recreational trails are mostly unpaved and serve a nearly-exclusively recreational purpose. The Plan takes the mileage of recreational trails in the county from 153 to 255.

But it’s not just about trail development. The County’s plan also has recommendations for maintenance and operations for the existing and future facilities. The plan stresses the importance of dedicated funding sources for trails to allow the county to stay up to date on maintenance needs of the trail network.

The plan still needs refinement, and Prince George’s County is accepting public comments until 11:59 p.m. on June 23, 2016. Read the plan and submit your comments here.

The draft plan includes a handful of long-time Prince George’s priorities. For example, the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) Trail has been on the county priority list for years, and is one of WABA’s advocacy priorities. When completed, the WB&A could become the eastern spoke of the Washington area’s trail network. Just over 10 miles of trails are already built, but it does not yet connect to the District of Columbia or the rest of the regional trail grid.

Since 2008, WABA has urged the County to extend the WB&A Trail west along MD-704. Since 2011, building a trail along MD-704 has been at the top of the County’s bike and pedestrians transportation funding priorities for Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). And with inclusion in the county’s Trails Master Plan, the message is clear- it’s time to finish the WB&A.

Do you support the completion of the WB&A Trail? Are there other trails that are equally important to you? Tell the County which trail corridors you’d like to see completed first.

We encourage all Prince George’s County residents to submit their input about trails in their county. Do you use trails to get to work, school, or the store? Let the County know that trails are a vital part of our transportation system.

Would you ride year-round if you knew the trail would be plowed? Do you have to ride over the same bumpy section of trail everyday on your way to school? Let the County know that you depend on the off-road infrastructure, and trails should be treated with the same maintenance concern as roads.

Would you like more lighting on the trail corridor near your office? Would you take your kids on the trail network if there were more bathrooms, water fountains or parks? Would you like wayfinding signage to help you navigate the network? Speak up for the trailside amenities you want.

Are you far from a trail that would get you anywhere? Are you frustrated by a “trail to nowhere” in your neighborhood? Let the County know that you want to be connected by trail to the larger network.

Your input is needed to make Prince George’s Trails Master Plan even better. Speak up before it’s too late! Take the county’s survey before 11:59 p.m. on June 23, 2016.

June Advocacy Roundup

 

Discussing details of intersection design at Spring St. and Covesville Rd

Discussing details of intersection design at Spring St. and Covesville Rd

Here’s the latest version of “what we’ve been up to lately.” Read straight through or skip ahead to updates from Maryland, Virginia, or DC.

If there’s a specific project that you don’t see here, check our March and April roundups.


Want this update by email every month?  Yes!







Greater Washington Region

Metro SafeTrack — Try it by bike!

Brief Explanation: WABA has been working closely with WMATA, the District Department of Transportation, and other local agencies to provide comprehensive alternative bike routes, temporary street safety accommodations, bike convoys and bike buddies to help folks around the region try their commute by bike during SafeTrack safety surges.

Current Status: The first safety surge, East Falls Church to Ballston, began June 4th and will continue through June 16th. The surges will continue rolling through the year.

Action to Take: Volunteer with WABA during SafeTrack by signing up here. We need bike buddies, convoy leaders, and more— now, and as the year unfolds.

National Park Service Paved Trails Plan

Brief Explanation: In April, the National Park Service released a draft of a study for creating a seamless trail network for the Washington Region. It includes 120 capital and programmatic recommendations, many of which are excellent.

Current Status: WABA and supporters submitted formal comments and more than 1,000 supportive petition signatures. The comment period has closed.  We anticipate the study to be finalized and released by fall 2016.


Virginia

Protected Bike Lanes on Memorial Bridge

Brief Explanation: The National Park Service is in the process of rehabilitating the Arlington Memorial bridge. The partial closure and rehabilitation of the bridge represents a huge opportunity to rethink how the bridge operates in the context of the city’s transportation network. WABA has asked that NPS be forward-thinking about the design, and include protected bike lanes across the bridge and better connections to the memorials on either side of the bridge.

Current Status: WABA and supporters raised these issues three years ago. Unfortunately, the Park Service has not listened and continues to move forward with an Environmental Assessment structured to protecte the status quo.

Custis Trail Improvements

Brief Explanation: The widening of I-66 inside the beltway will likely result in increased car traffic in Arlington from jurisdictions west, posing challenges for the bicycle and smart-growth-oriented county. As a partial mitigation of the highway expansion, Virgina should reconstruct and upgrade the Custis Trail from the Beltway to the Potomac River, including shortening and flattening circuitous sections and removing all trail grades in excess of five percent.

Current Status: WABA sent a letter to the Arlington County Board requesting that they ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to undertake these trail improvements as part of the highway expansion project. Download and view the letter here.


Maryland

Silver Spring Circle Protected Bike Lane Project

Brief Explanation: WABA’s Montgomery County Action Committee hosted a walk-along tour of the planned Spring Street and Cedar Street protected bike lanes in downtown Silver Spring.  Representatives from Montgomery Department of Transportation joined to speak about the project planning process.

Current Status: Construction is expected to start this summer.

Action to Take: Get involved with the Montgomery County Action Committee! Meetings are the 4th Monday of each month at 7pm in the Civic Center in Silver Spring. More details here.

Updates to Park Rules and Regulations

Brief Explanation: The Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is updating the rules and regulations governing the region’s parks. These rules are of particular interest to the bicycling community insofar as they govern the hours trails are open, speed limits on trails, the use of electronic bicycles on trails, and the right of way at trail crossings.

Current Status: WABA submitted letters to the Prince George’s and Montgomery County Planning Boards. The rules will be updated and finalized later this year. Download a copy of our letter here.

Big Funding Win for Bicyling in the Montgomery County Budget

Brief Explanation: Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the County’s 2017 Operating budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program. The budget maintains funding for a number of long- term trail and bikeway priorities AND increases funding for the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area Program by 150%! This was an initiative of Councilmember Hans Riemer, supported by WABA advocates.

Current Status: With this additional funding, Montgomery County Department of Transportation can do more great street safety projects at a faster rate, including careful study, planning and implementation of the network of protected bike lanes that will constitute the Silver Spring Circle.

Metropolitan Branch Trail—Several Steps Closer to Completion

Brief Explanation: Montgomery County Department of Transportation held a public hearing prior to beginning construction of the .6 mile portion of the MBT that crosses the Montgomery College Campus on Fenton Street and King Street and along the CSXT Railroad to Ripley Street. WABA participated in that meeting and also provided testimony to the Montgomery County Planning Board in support of the next phases of the project, which include contruction of a bicycle/pedestrian bridge connection over Georgia Avenue. You can read our testimony here.

Current Status: On May 19th, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the plans for the next two phases of trail construction in the county. The next construction phase of this project will start later this summer, extending the trail up to King Street.


Washington D.C.

Contributory Negligence

Brief Explanation: The Judiciary Committee voted 3-0 to move the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 out of committee and recommended it for consideration by the full Council.

Current Status: The bill will be considered by the Committee of the Whole, possibly as soon as June 21st. The insurance industry has been busy trying to rally Councilmembers to vote against the bill, or to pressure Councilmember McDuffie to pull the bill prior to a vote, by making all manner of outrageously inaccurate claims. (For a taste, check out WABA’s Executive Director Greg Billing debating the merits of the bill with DC Insurance Federation Executive Director Wayne McOwen on this episode of the Kojo Nnamdi show).

Action to Take: Contact your Councilmembers and ask them to support the bill.

Benning Road Streetcar Project

Brief Explanation: Work continues on plans to extend the H St – Benning streetcar across the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro and towards Georgetown. In May, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) hosted two public meetings to take comments on Environmental Assessments for both plans. If implemented well, these projects present important opportunities to expand bicycle access in the Benning Rd and K St. corridors. Without attention to key details, though, they pose serious threats to safety and access.

Current Status: The comment period has closed, but there will be further opportunity for comments when the final EA is released, estimated to be in the fall of 2016.

Bike Lanes Closures on L St

Brief Explanation: The protected bike lane on L St NW recently went form being the spine of a low-stress bike network to a dangerous mixing zone with automobiles and heavy trucks— the result of a permit issued by DDOT to Carr Properties, the company redeveloping the old Washington Post building.

Current Status: The current traffic pattern will be in place for more than two years, unless we manage to break through DDOT’s conviction that this consitutes a safe accommodation for bicyclists equivalent to a protected bike lane.

Action to Take: Unfortunately, options for recourse are limited at this point. We recommend contacting the Mayor and your Councilmembers.

Training for 911 Dispatchers

Brief Explanation: As part of a larger collaborative effort spearheaded by WABA to ensure that our city’s expanding network of trails are fully integrated into emergency services, WABA and DDOT’s trail teams held early morning trainings for all 911 dispatchers on how to respond to emergency calls from the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Dispatchers went through a refresher on the trail as we covered how to help callers spot the mile markers, reviewed the many trail intersections in the 911 database, and more broadly, provided context for the trail.

Current Status: Our next step is to lead a walking tour of the trail for dispatchers, per their request.

Traffic/Trail Counts During Rock Creek Park Road Closures

Brief Explanation: For many years, conversations about how Rock Creek Park could be operated so that it does more for non-motorized transportation have gone nowhere, in part because of disputes over the assumed impact any changes would have on traffic elsewhere in the District. This year, we have the opportunity to scientifically measure the traffic impact that will result from a series of road closures along Beach Drive during the road reconstruction. WABA sent a letter to the Mayor requesting that DDOT and National Park Service commit to a detailed traffic count from diversions of these road closures. Read our letter here.

Current Status: WABA staff will meet with DDOT and National Park Service officials this month to discuss the proposal.

Make bicycling better in YOUR neighborhood!

WABA is working to bring advocates together in our local jurisdictions to further our mission of a more bikeable region. The Action Committees empower residents with the tools, training and support needed to win campaigns for better biking infrastructure, policies, and programs.

We’re fine tuning the way this monthly(ish) update works, so if you have thoughts on how to make this information more useful, send a note to communications@waba.org.