By now, many of you have seen the video of a cyclist being intentionally struck by a pickup truck in DC. WABA shared this video in order to highlight the danger of assault that cyclists face on the District’s roadways and to push for a law creating an improved civil cause of action to allow assaulted and harassed cyclists to seek justice.
In response to this bill (now introduced in the DC Council as the “Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011”) some skeptics have stated that the law is unnecessary because this sort of behavior is already a crime, and that the criminal system will ensure proper punishment of the driver.
Try telling that to the cyclist who shared that video with us.
Despite having clear video evidence documenting the assault–including the threatening language prior to the attack, an independent witness who stated that the collision with the cyclist was intentional, and excellent police work by MPD in locating the driver of the vehicle and completing the necessary reports, no assault charges will be brought.
The authorities saw the video. That was their answer.
If criminal assault charges are not pursued in a case like this one, where the entire incident is videotaped, corroborated, and well investigated, it is difficult to imagine a time when these criminal laws would be used to provide justice after a bicyclist is assaulted.
To those who say that current criminal laws provide the needed protection: you are incorrect. This decision makes that abundantly clear.
Please join us in working for the prompt passage of the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011 to provide cyclists with a means of redress. If you have a story of being assaulted or harassed on the roadway, please share it with us here. To join the list of supporters of this law and receive updates as it progresses, please sign up here.
We look forward to the opportunity to testify in support of this bill and hope that the Committee on the Judiciary–chaired by Councilmember Mendelson–will take the bill seriously and hold a hearing on the law very soon.
(***Note that the Committee on the Judiciary is holding a hearing on enforcement practices related to bicyclists and pedestrians on November 2nd. This is also an important hearing, but it is separate in nature. The Committee must also hold a hearing on the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act in order for it to be voted on by the full Council and possibly go become law.)