On Tuesday, as part of the D.C. Council’s marathon legislative session, the “Access to Justice for Bicyclists Act of 2012” passed its second reading. This was the final point the bill needed to pass at the local level. The 30-day period of congressional review that applies to nearly all D.C. legislation will begin when the bill is signed by the Mayor.
The passage of this law is a big victory for D.C. bicyclists, as it will allow those who are intentionally assaulted on our roadways to seek redress in court. It will also bring consequences to motorists who inflict harm upon cyclists for using roadways. Too often, these cases have slipped through the cracks because criminal charges are not brought and the cyclist cannot afford legal representation. Thus, those who assault cyclists suffer no consequences.
The most difficult part of working at WABA is answering the phone and hearing of a cyclist who has been intentionally run off the road. We often hear of drivers shouting and cursing at cyclists simply for using a bike on the road and have until now had to admit that, in all likelihood, there are no real consequences for perpetrators of that kind of assault. Additionally, there’s been nothing to deter anyone from repeating the offense.
We are grateful to the D.C. Council for the passage of this law, and especially to Councilmember Tommy Wells, for initially introducing the bill, and to Chairman Phil Mendelson, for his work to improve it through the committee process.