Mayor Bowser Signs #FixContrib bill at WABA Happy Hour

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On October 13, Mayor Bowser, Councilmembers Mary Cheh, David Grosso, and Elissa Silverman, DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo, and some of our favorite WABA members joined us for a very special member Happy Hour—to witness and celebrate the public signing of the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act.

Councilmember Cheh:

“We’ve been trying to get a bill like this passed for a long time. We’re here to celebrate the effort that was put in by everybody to make that happen. This is a bill that provides a system of fair compensation. We know that bicyclists and pedestrians are at such great risk if they are hit by a car and yet they were often shut out of any recovery, it was just unjust! This is and should be seen as part of the overall Vision Zero work that is going on. At the end of the day, we want the District of Columbia to be safe for all users.”

Councilmember Grosso:

“The work the WABA does is so important for the District of Columbia. Their advocacy work down at the Council is what made this bill actually happen.  And it was not easy.  It was a long haul for 2 & ½ or so years. Normally we’re way ahead and people are asking us to slow down, but on this one there’s only three jurisdictions that hadn’t moved to this legal paradigm. I look forward to continuing to work with WABA to expand all our protected bike lanes throughout the heart of our city, around the perimeter.”

Councilmember Silverman:

“I’m here on behalf of the cycling Councilmembers. This bill provides fairness and access to the courts for cyclists and pedestrians who are in a crash. There has been a lot of effort by this administration to build bicycle infrastructure, to get people out of their cars and make this a city that truly is walkable and bikeable and safe for all.  

My WABA membership card is at my desk for every time Greg [Billing, Executive Director] comes around. I just show it to him and say, I’m with you!”

 

Mayor Bowser:

“We have made the case to public officials and to the public that biking is great for recreation, but it is also a viable commute option. When we think about where our city is right now, we know we can’t just have have car only options, that we have to make our network support everybody and we need more people riding their bikes.

But we’ve picked a lot of the low-hanging fruit. The things we have  to do now to speed up and have more bicycle lanes and fix our trails, this is the tough lifting that we have to do. I’m happy to have the Council so focused on this as a partner. We’re focused on this as well. We also have a challenge ahead of us.

WABA, you’re the leader of the pack. We need you to keep working hard, keep challenging us with great ideas, keep advocating for more funding, keep going out to neighborhoods and educating the public. We need your help with that. Because people won’t fight us if they are with us from the beginning. And you can help with that.”

Watch a video of the entire event and check out more photos below:

 

The signed Act is now under Congressional Review. Its projected law date is December 16, 2016.

Contributory Negligence clears another hurdle!

Great news!!  After nearly three years of persistent organizing and advocacy by the WABA community, the DC Council just voted unanimously for the second time to pass the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act to fix contributory negligence!

Thank your Councilmembers!

This was something that, three years ago, we were told couldn’t be done. Together, we have changed what is possible.  It will now go to Mayor Bowser for a signature, and afterwards undergo thirty days of Congressional review. We aren’t across the finish line yet, but we are closer than ever. This could not have happened without strong leadership on Council, especially Councilmembers Grosso, Cheh, and McDuffie.

Click here to send a quick thank you email to all your representatives on DC Council.

 

Summer Advocacy Roundup

Exploring a missing trail connection along Route 1 in Hyattsville

Exploring a missing trail connection along Route 1 in Hyattsville

 

Low-Stress Bike Network

Prince George’s County Trails Master Plan

Brief Explanation: 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. The plan takes the mileage of primary trails (trails that are mostly paved, with high-quality design features, a park-like experience, and used for both recreation and transportation) from 65 to 293 miles, and secondary trails (connectors, along roads, or within neighborhoods) from 110 to nearly 400 miles.

Current Status: The public comment period for the draft plan has closed, but we will provide further opportunities for engagement as the process moves forward.

Campaign Launch— Finish the Trolley Trail

Brief Explanation: A half mile separates the Rhode Island Trolley Trail in Hyattsville from the rest of the Anacostia Tributary Trail network. It’s a half mile that stands in the way of a regional trail system connecting Beltsville and Bladensburg, College Park and Capitol Hill, Silver Spring and Southeast Washington. It’s a half mile that isolates communities and makes getting around by bike or foot more difficult and dangerous. It’s a half mile blocking economic development and opportunity.

Current Status: The Maryland-National Capital Parks Planning Commission has a design for a trail connection that would bridge this gap. Right now, it’s just that—a plan on paper, waiting in a desk drawer for someone to take it out and make it real. A united community demanding action can make this happen.

Action to Take: The Prince George’s Acton Committee meets the second Tuesday of the month at the Hyattsville Municipal Building (4310 Gallatin St. Hyattsville) at 7:30 pm. Click here for more information and to sign the petition.

Beach Drive Rehabilitation

Brief Explanation: National Park Service (NPS) recently announced that construction on the much-anticipated rehabilitation of Beach Drive and the adjacent trail will begin after Labor Day of this year. The construction project will happen in four stages, beginning in the south and working north. While Beach Drive will be closed to car traffic in both directions for the segment under construction, bicyclists and pedestrians will still be able to travel through the corridor. While the road is being reconstructed, the trail will remain open, and when the road is completed but not yet open to car traffic, and the trail is being reconstructed, then bicyclists and pedestrians will have access to the road.

Current Status:  The funding is allocated, the engineering designs are complete, and the contract has been awarded. You can see a project map on our April 2015 update, and find more information on the NPS project website.

Action to Take: National Park Service is hosting a public information meeting on August 18 at the Petworth Neighborhood Library at 6:30 pm. Join us and learn more about this exciting project!

Monroe Street Bridge and MBT

Brief Explanation: The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) will eventually connect Union Station to Silver Spring Maryland. For years, advocates were told that the time for routing the trail under the Monroe Street Bridge through a tunnel behind the west abutment would come when the bridge was ready to be rehabilitated.

Current Status: The time for bridge rehabilitation has come. But the tunnel for the trail is off the table.  The scope of the bridge rehabilitation does include the installation of a traffic signal at 8th and Monroe Streets. In its current condition, this intersection is unsafe for trail users because of low visibility for cars coming eastbound over the bridge and lack of crosswalk alignment with the trail.

Action to Take: We are still waiting for the intersection designs, but we want to hear from you. What would it take for you to feel completely safe at the intersection of 8th and Monroe Streets NE? What have you seen work in other places? Take this quick survey and share your ideas with us.

New York Avenue Trail

Brief Explanation: The District’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan includes plans for a trail along New York Avenue that would connect NoMa to the National Arboretum, serving all the neighborhoods in between. New development along the corridor, specifically in NoMa and Ivy City, is renewing interest in the trail concept.

Current Status: WABA will work closely with DDOT, Rails To Trails Conservancy, and other stakeholders to move the trail development process forward. But there’s a significant possibility that this could get complicated. Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a commuter rail service linking DC and Northern Virginia, has plans to relocate its railcar storage in light of the expansion of Union Station. Their chosen location is from 4th Street NE to 16th Street NE- right below New York Avenue, right where the concept plan routes the trail.

Action to Take: Scroll to the bottom of this blog post to sign up for updates.

Updates to Trail Rules in Maryland

Brief Explanation: The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is updating its Park Rules and Regulations. Good changes have been proposed, including when trails close, speed limits for bicycles on trails, who has to yield the right of way at trail crossings, and whether e-assist bikes are allowed. You can read the whole discussion draft, and a set of policy alternatives, on the M-NCPPC website.

Current Status: WABA supporters submitted a strong showing of public comments on the proposed rules during the comment period.  Additional public meetings will likely be scheduled in the fall.

Action to Take: Click here to send an email to M-NCPPC to make sure that trails stay open when people need them, that parents can haul their kids to school on them, and that no one gets ticketed for riding their bicycle at a reasonable speed.

Veirs Mill + Matthew Henson Trail Crossing— Still Not Safe.

Brief Explanation: On Sunday July 17th, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, 31 of Silver Spring, was killed crossing Viers Mill Road in Silver Spring where the Matthew Henson Trail crosses a high speed Maryland State Highway. The exact details of the deadly crash involving Mr. Osorio are not public, but the trail crossing is a known safety hazard. This is the same location where Frank Towers, 19 was killed in December 2016,  just days after receiving a new bike for Christmas.

Current Status: WABA reached out to local and state elected representatives, and transportation officials requesting action, as we did after Frank Tower’s death. On Thursday, July 21st, the entire Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Maryland Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate prioritization of trail crossing improvements. The letter calls out the current dangerous conditions and the need for immediate action. On July 29th, the delegation from Maryland’s 19th District sent a letter to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate corrective action at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Veirs Mill Road.

Action to Take: Maryland residents: write or call Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Rahn, and MD State Highway Administrator Johnson, as well as your state delegates and county representatives. Tell them that the status quo is not working and demand effective solutions.

Bike Routes for Commuting Around Red Line Safetrack Closures

Brief Explanation: WABA and Montgomery County Department Of Transportation hosted two events to help new commuters learn safe routes to avoid red line disruptions.

Current Status: Resources for biking around upcoming safetrack surges are here.

Action to take: Avoid hassle and delays by biking!

Crosstown Study

Brief Explanation: Getting from Columbia Heights to Brookland is a frustrating experience on a bike. It’s not a whole lot better on a bus, and really not great in a car either. DDOT is conducting a study aimed at improving travel through this corridor for all modes.

Current Status: At present DDOT has two concepts for this project. You can read more about them here.

Action to Take: The comment period for the current concept plans has closed, but another community meeting will be scheduled in September. Project updates and timelines will be posted here.

Street Calming and Bike Lanes for Maryland Ave NE

Brief Explanation: More than six years ago, the D.C. Council gave DDOT money to make a long stretch of Maryland Avenue, NE safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  DDOT used that money to establish a new initiative that it called the “Maryland Avenue Pedestrian Safety Project.”  That initiative included implementing a road diet along Maryland Avenue and installing bike lanes, wider medians, and curb bump-outs. Mayor Bowser, DDOT Director Dormsjo, and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen have made Maryland Avenue a priority, and they have been pushing to get the project done. You can read more about the history of the Maryland Avenue Project here.

Current Status: A recent community meeting held to explore DDOT’s 30% design plans for the project turned acrimonious. While meant to be a chance for residents and neighbors to get a detailed look at the design for the street and offer constructive feedback to improve the project, the packed library meeting rooms were instead filled with heated concerns about parking. We’ve seen this movie before.

Action to Take:  The DDOT employees responsible for this project are George Branyan and Ali Shakeri (george.branyan@dc.govali.shakeri@dc.gov). If you live, work, or bike around the project area, please send them an email letting them know you support this project and want to see it move forward.

Bike Laws

Contributory Negligence

Brief Explanation: The D.C. Council voted unanimously to approve the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015  as part of the consent agenda. This vote is a huge step towards final passage of the bill, and is the result of years of organizing efforts. In spite of roadblocks, delay, and concerted opposition from AAA and the insurance lobby, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to changing the unfair doctrine of contributory negligence for vulnerable road users.

Current Status: The bill has now cleared a major obstacle to passage. The Council will vote on the bill a second time in late September / early October, after which it will require a signature by Mayor Bowser, (who sent a congratulatory tweet to Councilmember Cheh after the successful first vote) and will undergo a 30 day Congressional review.

Action to Take: We aren’t taking anything for granted. We will stay vigilant through the final stages of the process to ensure there are no surprises, and keep you updated along the way.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act Passed!

Brief Explanation: On June 28, the D.C. Council voted unanimously for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 (B21-335). Mayor Bowser signed the bill in late July. The legislation is the culmination of the efforts of the Bicycle Pedestrian Working Group convened by Councilmember Cheh last summer, on which our Executive Director Greg Billing served.  It contains all kinds of good stuff, including open source crash data, bicycle and pedestrian priority areas, and codifying Complete Streets.

Current Status: The Act will become DC law at the end of August after 30 day period of Congressional review.

Advocacy 101 Training—Join us!

Brief Explanation: The training, hosted by WABA’s advocacy team, is for Prince George’s folks interested in making their community more bike-friendly. We’ll explore how decisions are made in the County, dive into some of the fundamental tools and approaches to influencing those decisions, and see how we, as individuals or groups, can push Prince George’s County to be more bike-friendly. (You don’t have to be a Prince George’s county resident to attend, but it will be Prince George’s focused.)

9am-1 pm Saturday August 27th
Hyattsville Municipal Building
4310 Gallatin St. Hyattsville, MD.

Action to Take: Register for the training!

 

One step closer to reforming Contributory Negligence in DC

At the #FixContrib Rally

At the #FixContrib Rally

Today the DC Council voted unanimously to approve the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015  as part of the consent agenda. This vote is a huge step towards final passage of the bill, and is the result of years of organizing efforts. In spite of roadblocks, delay, and concerted opposition from AAA and the insurance lobby, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to changing the unfair doctrine of contributory negligence for vulnerable road users.

The bill has now cleared the major obstacles to passage. The Council will vote on the bill a second time in late September / early October, after which it will require a signature by Mayor Bowser, and will undergo a 30 day Congressional review.

We would never have gotten to this point without our members and supporters. Thank you for becoming an expert on this arcane issue, signing petitions, sharing information with your networks, writing and calling your Councilmembers, attending rallies, and all the other ways you’ve leant your support to this campaign.

Kudos to the D.C. Council for doing the right thing. In particular, we recognize the leadership of Councilmember Mary Cheh for crafting, introducing and championing the bill, Councilmember McDuffie for bringing it before the Council, and Councilmembers Allen, Silverman, Grosso, Evans, and Nadeau for their early and steadfast support. This is a huge step towards a necessary reform that’s been a long time coming.

We’re so close, but we’re not done yet. We will stay vigilant through the final stages of the process to ensure there are no surprises, and keep you updated along the way.

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 2016 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.

 

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

A law that blames you, instead of the driver who hit you, could soon meet its end

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In 2008, a driver in a minivan hit me (Tracy) when I was riding my bike on Connecticut Avenue, fracturing my pelvis in three places. The driver’s insurance company denied my claim because of a law that says if you’re even 1% at fault, you can’t collect anything. The good news? DC is moving to change this.

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At a press conference announcing the bill in 2014

Currently, DC, Maryland, and Virginia use what’s called a pure contributory negligence standard to decide who pays what damages after a vehicle collision involving someone on bike or foot. I wrote about contributory negligence in 2014, but the basic thing you need to know is that under this standard, if the person is even 1% at fault for a collision, they can’t collect anything from the other party (or parties).

Insurance companies benefit from contributory negligence because it makes it very low risk to deny a claim, since the legal standard a court would apply is so broad.

Most people, however, agree that this standard is unfair—in fact, Alabama and North Carolina are the only states aside from those in our region not to have moved to an alternative legal standard that compares the fault of the parties and allocates responsibility to pay damages according to who was more to blame, known as comparative fault.

This might all change soon

On April 21, Councilmember and Judiciary Committee chair Kenyan McDuffie brought the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 to a vote. It passed out of Committee 3-0 and is now awaiting two votes before the full Council.

This bill would make it so a person on a bike or on foot who was contributorily negligent in a crash with a motor vehicle would still be able to collect damages if they were less than 50% at fault.

The version of the bill that came to markup had two minor but substantive changes from one that was introduced last January. First, it now includes a definition of “non-motorized user” to mean “an individual using a skateboard, non-motorized scooter, Segway, tricycle, and other similar non-powered transportation devices.” These vulnerable road users are now explicitly covered by the bill, in addition to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Secondly, the bill expressly retains the “last clear chance” doctrine, something that is already available under the law in the District. The basic idea behind last clear chance is that even if the plaintiff (the person who gets hit) is contributorily negligent, the plaintiff’s negligence is not a bar to recovery if the defendant (motorist) had the last clear chance to avoid the accident.

Reserving last clear chance will likely result in greater protection for bicyclists because in circumstances where the bicyclist is contributorily negligent, the bicyclist would still be able to recover for damages if the motorist had the last clear chance to avoid the collision.

The bill must be approved by the Committee of the Whole and receive two affirmative votes by the full Council. It would then go to the Mayor for her signature. Afterwards, the bill becomes an act and must go through the Congressional approval process before becoming law. Both votes could take place before the summer recess.

Who does contributory negligence hurt?

The contributory negligence standard is particularly hard on bicyclists, in part because the public is not well-educated about bike laws in general. But the reality is that contributory negligence is actually hard on anyone with relatively small damages to claim and/or no applicable insurance coverage (e.g. pedestrians).

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, and small cases do not adequately compensate them for their time. Thus, though the cost of replacing a bike or a few thousand dollars in medical bills may be substantial for an individual, it’s not enough to attract an advocate to take on a driver’s insurance company.

Contributory negligence is hardest on low-income people

To some, the pain and damages that fall under this threshold are the difference between getting by and falling behind. There can be no doubt that this has real consequences for seniors, communities of color and low-income individuals who can’t just call in sick and watch Netflix until a back sprain heals or buy a new bike.

We know that 38% of DC households don’t have access to car. We know that 28% of trips made by DC households are by foot, and another 20% by transit (which includes some walking to access). The web of incentives and laws that we’re all traveling in every time we take a step or pedal across the street to the bus stop, or get behind the wheel of a car, directly affects our quality of life and shapes our behavior and choices.

Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced the bill. The bill’s sponsors are Councilmembers Grosso (at-large), Evans (Ward 2), Bonds (at-large), and Allen (Ward 6); Councilmember Alexander (Ward 7) is a co-sponsor.

With this legislation, the DC City Council has an opportunity to choose fairness and common sense. Let your city council member know that this matters to you: thank them for supporting the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 or let them know you want to see their support.



Tracy Hadden Loh loves cities, infrastructure, and long walks on the beach looking for junk. She holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By day, she is the director of research at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. By night, she is an activist, a military wife, a baby mama, and proud to represent Ward 1 on the Mount Rainier, MD city council.

Tamara Evans is the advocacy director for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. She lives in Mt. Pleasant.

What’s Next for the Contributory Negligence Bill?

Yesterday, the Judiciary Committee voted 3-0 to move the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act out of committee and recommended it for consideration by the full D.C. Council.

The version of the bill that came to markup had two minor but substantive changes from the one that was introduced last January. First, it now includes a definition of “non-motorized user” to mean “an individual using a skateboard, non-motorized scooter, Segway, tricycle, and other similar non-powered transportation devices.” These vulnerable road users are now explicitly  covered by the bill, in addition to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Secondly, the bill expressly retains the last clear chance doctrine, something that is already available under the law in the District. Reserving it will likely result in greater protection for bicyclists, because in circumstances where the bicyclist is contributorily negligent, for example, where the bicyclist’s negligence exceeds 50% of the harm, the bicyclist still has the last clear chance doctrine at his or her disposal, which would allow the bicyclist to recover— even if the bicyclist was contributorily negligent— when the motorist had the last clear chance to avoid the collision. In our view, it cuts in favor of bicyclists. We support both changes to the bill.

What’s Next?

We’re not done yet! The bill will now be considered by the full DC Council when it meets as the Committee of the Whole sometime before summer recess. It needs seven votes to pass the Council, and the Mayor’s signature to become law. The bill’s sponsors are Councilmembers Cheh, Grosso, Evans, Bonds, and Allen; Councilmember Alexander is a co-sponsor.

We are closer than we’ve ever been to fixing this obvious problem in the law—something we’ve been told couldn’t be done. Our opponents didn’t think could be done, and they’re still working to keep the legislation from becoming law.  Between now and the final vote, we’ll need to do everything we can to make sure we have sufficient support on the full Council. Keep your eyes out for action alerts about opportunities for further public comment and testimony as they arise. We’ll need everyone’s involvement to get this across the finish line.

UPDATE: Big legislative success this afternoon

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We just got back from the Wilson Building and we’ll have a more thorough update soon, but I wanted to make sure you knew that the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act to address contributory negligence passed a markup hearing in the Judiciary Committee just a few hours ago. This is great news.

You probably have the background, just in case, here’s a summary of how contributory negligence hurts you as a bicyclist and pedestrian in the District of Columbia.

We’ve been working on this for years, and it’s thrilling to be so close to fixing this terrible legal doctrine. Thanks to everyone who called, wrote, petitioned, testified, and championed this work. Thanks for standing up for vulnerable road users across the District.

But we obviously can’t celebrate just yet. The bill still has to go before the full D.C. Council. Considering the powerful forces protecting the status quo, we’ve pushed much further than anyone would have expected. This is long overdue, we think we can win, but we need your help.

Please donate today to help us see this through to the end.

Our advocacy work takes time, and that doesn’t happen without support from folks like you. WABA is 501(c)3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible. Please support this campaign with a donation of $25 or more today.

Our work on contributory negligence won’t stop until we’re rid of this dinosaur of a legal doctrine. Contribute today, so we can celebrate its extinction with you.

The Contributory Negligence Bill is Moving!


Big news! We have heard from Councilmember McDuffie and Judiciary Committee staff that they plan to bring the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015 (B21-0004) to markup, this Thursday.

The doctrine of contributory negligence is a legal dinosaur. This unfair legal standard is used to deny a bicyclist or pedestrian access to compensation for medical bills and property damage suffered when a negligent driver inflicts injuries on a less-negligent road user.  This doctrine unfairly compounds legal vulnerability upon physical injury and limits bicyclists access to justice. When a bicyclist or pedestrian is involved in crash with a driver, he or she should be able to focus on recovering from injuries without worrying that medical and property damage claims will be denied due to an outdated legal doctrine.

Contact your Councilmember 

The District of Columbia is a national outlier, as it is one of only five states that still use contributory negligence to allocate fault. The vast majority of states have updated their negligence standard to a fairer system.

WABA has been advocating for reform of this antiquated law since early 2014. The bill before the Judiciary Committee would change the law so that if a bicyclist or pedestrian is less than 50% at fault for the crash, he or she would not be automatically barred from recovery. Passing this law will give people a chance at having their expensive medical bills and damaged property covered.

The current version of the bill represents a good compromise between many powerful stakeholders and we hope it will pass out of committee without any changes that would jeopardize the widespread support it enjoyed when it was first introduced last January.

Click here to tell your Councilmember that you support passage of this bill without amendment, to give bicyclists a fair chance at justice after a crash.