Board Pushes for Changes to DC Bicycle Laws

Posted on Oct 10, 2011
New road rules could stop the rising number of bicycle accidents in DC.

According to the District's Police Complaints Board, D.C. police officers will often cite a bicyclist after an accident with a car, regardless if the cyclist was at fault or not.

For example, cyclists have been ticketed for "riding abreast" after a collision with a car door-a law that only applies to cyclists riding side-by-side with other bikers. These citations are doubly harmful to bikers: they are forced to pay fines when they have not violated any laws, and the citation may be used against them in court if they seek damages from the motorist.

The Board has recommended a number of improvements to make the roads safer for cyclists, including ticketing drivers who park in bike lanes and that police officers be regularly tested on D.C. bicycle laws.

There may also be changes to the filing of accident reports after a collision with a cyclist. Often, the cyclist will require hospital treatment and not be able to give a statement before the police report is filed. Not only will officers be required to wait before filing the report, but forms may be revised to include more details of the accident should the case go to court.

These measures are in addition to a movement by the D.C. Council that would give cyclists the right to sue motorists for harassment and assault in addition to accident damages.

These new laws would affect thousands of D.C. residents who regularly commute by cycling. Over 25 percent of households rely on the 50 miles of bike lanes on the District's motorways to get to work every day.

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