The Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013: Victory for D.C. Cyclists

On Oct. 17, the D.C. Council passed the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013. It was then signed into law by Mayor Vince Gray and will be submitted to Congress for a 30-day legislative review.

This is a great victory for bicyclists in D.C. Among the many new provisions in the law, its signature component introduces two new driving infractions with appropriate penalties to protect bicyclists as vulnerable road users.

This legislation also amends and updates sections of the D.C. municipal regulations as they relate to bicycling in the city. The Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 makes the following updates or amendments:

  • Bicyclists’ use of leading pedestrian intervals: Bicyclists can get the same head start as pedestrians at signalized intersections, where pedestrians are given few extra seconds to start crossing a street. Also allowing bicyclists the opportunity to get into the intersection before cars makes them more visible to drivers.
  • Bicycle and pedestrian detours: The mayor will be able to require permits obtained from the District Department of Transportation for projects that block sidewalks, bike lanes, or other pedestrian or bicycle paths to provide safe accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Aligns bicyclists’ crash infractions with a similar pedestrian one: The bill adds “failure to yield” and “colliding with a bicyclist while failing to yield” infractions, similar to current pedestrian infractions. The penalty for “failing to yield” to a bicyclist would be three points points and a fine of $250. “Colliding with a person riding a bicycle” would be six points and a fine of $500.
  • Ability to make an audible noise: The bill modifies the law that requires all bicycles to be equipped with a bell, instead requiring all bicycle riders to “be capable of making a warning noise either with a bell or mechanical device, or with his or her voice, audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet.” It also removes a section prohibiting bicyclists from a making a noise within the established quiet zones (Title 18 Section 1204.7)

You can read the full text of the law (B20-0140) on the DC Council website (PDF).

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association thanks Councilmember Mary Cheh for her leadership on this bill and the many co-sponsors who supported this critical effort. Washington, D.C., is becoming a national leader in bicycling and this new law helps protect the many new people who choose to use a bicycle for transportation, recreation, or fitness.

WABA is a membership-based nonprofit 501(c)3 organization representing the interests of bicyclists in the Washington region. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation online now or joining the organization as a member to help us continue to do great work—like push for bills like the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013. If you join this week during our annual membership drive, you’re eligible for great incentives. WABA has 41-year history of successful local advocacy powered by our members.