Testimony of Heidi Goldberg, DC Bicycle Advisory Council Member At-Large, Before the DC Council Judiciary Committee Concerning Enforcement

of Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety, November 2,2011

Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today about enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian safety in our city. My name is Heidi Goldberg and I live on Jefferson St NW in ward
4. I have been Chairman Mendelson's representative on the DC Bicycle Advisory
. .

Council (BAC) for almost four years and have witnessed a significant growth of bicycling in our community during that time. While it is heartening to see so many more DC residents bicycling for many different reasons, it is crucial that the city stay focused on safety for this trend to be sustainable and for DC to maintain the positive reputation it has begun to receive as a bicycle-friendly city. The BAC wholeheartedly supports the "Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011" that is currently before the Committee. This legislation will foster safe bicycling in DC by giving cyclists tools that they currently do not have to seek civil redress when they are the victims of intentional assault, injury or harassment from motorists. It does so by giving bicyclists a civil right of action for treble damages or minimum statutory damages. The provision of minimum damages is a key feature of the legislation, and is essential for the deterrent effect of the legislation. Attached to this written testimony are suggested edits to the statute recommended by the BAC which we think are essential for preserving its effectiveness. We encourage the Committee and the Council to vote favorably on this legislation. Along with this important proposal, other steps can be taken to improve safety for cyclists in DC The Metropolitan Police Department's (MPD's) Police Complaints Board (PCB) September 2011 report contains recommendations that the BAC believes will further improve bicyclists' safety in the city. Two recommendations made in the report are particularly critical and should be addressed as soon as possible. The first is for more thorough bicycle and motor vehicle crash reporting. Specifically, the MPD should revise its directive to allow officers to leave crash reports pending until all necessary statements are obtained. Currently, officers must complete reports before the end of their shifts, even if they do not have all the necessary information from those involved in the incident. This change would provide valuable information that can be used not only to ensure
a

more equitable

outcome for the victims in a particular case, but also to inform our ability. to assess these incidents and thereby work to prevent similar crashes in the future. Secondly, the report recommends that MPD officers become more directly involved in the BAC as a way to better communications between the MPD and the cycling community. We look forward to the appointment of an MPD representative to the BAC in the near future to explore pro-active ways to educate motorists about bicycle safety.

,

I

Other recommendations in the report to enhance training for MPD officers on bicycle crash reporting and to involve cycling advocacy groups in the develoPIT.lent of that training are also very important. The BAC applauds the District Department of Transportation's (DDOT's) efforts to design and construct safer cycling conditions to prevent crashes from occurring in the first place. Without adequate enforcement, however, the best designed bike lanes can become hazardous. The BAC was glad to learn from the PCB's recent report that 700 citations were given to motorists for parking in DC bike lanes in
2010.

The BAC appreciates this Committee's continued interest in the issues of bicycle and foot, we would like t6 see the city adopt a goal for increased'safety as well. '

pedestrian safety. As an increasing percentage of trips in DC are made by bike and by

Safer roads

for cycling will1ikely lead to more residents using bicycles for transport which, research has shown, can then positively impact safety.

class cycling city.

Safer roads and more cyclists caD., in tum, lead to DC becoming a truly livable and world­

Thank you.

Addendumto Testimony for Heidi Goldberg Concerning Enforcement of Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety, November 2, 2011

The BAC wholeheartedly supports the Assault of Bicyclist Prevention Act of 2011 (the Act). This legislation will foster safe bicycling in the District of Columbia by deterring abuse of bicyclists. It does so by giving bicyclists a civil right of action for treble damages or minimum statutory damages. The provision of minimum damages is a key feature of the legislation, and is absolutely essential for the deterrent effect of the legislation.

However, the Act as introduced contains several technical and substantive weaknesses which the Committee should remedy. Some of these drafting errors may leave the Act or its essence subject to judicial invalidation.

First, section 2(a)(2) currently provides for: "Actual damages with regard to each such violation or up to three times the actual damage or $1,000, whichever is greater." . To eliminate self conflict in the amount of damages that may be awarded, and to make clear that the statutory (i.e. $1,000) damages are also per violation (rather than per incident, or court case filed) this section should be revised to read: "Up to thre� times the actual damages or $1,000 per violation, whichever is greater.

Second, section 2(a) prohibits "intentionally distract[ing a bicyclist] or the attempt thereof." These tWQ provisions might be interpreted to include such behavior as normal horn honking, engine revving, whistling, even joke-telling or other actions intended to draw attention. While some of these actions may not be desirable, providing for a $1,000 cause of action, for even for the attem p t to draw such attention, is so over inclusive as to risk subjecting the $1,000 statutory damages to judicial weakening. These two provisions should be stricken from the Act to ensure that the critical mandatory damage provision is hot weakened.

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