Cities belong to people.
The most prosperous cities give people a range of transportation choices and this choice increases a city’s economic and social capital. As former D.C. Office of Planning director Harriet Tregoning told the trade publication Planning Report, “It’s not just a luxury to have these choices. It’s actually an enormous competitive advantage for places, and that’s in part because there’s a real value associated with those choices.”
Walkable cities boom. An environment that’s friendly to pedestrians is likely conducive to bicycling, too. People who walk and bike infuse a street with humanity and economic activity, socializing, dining, shopping and otherwise enriching the urban experience.
The more pedestrians and bicyclists who travel in a city, the more they build strength in numbers. A crosswalk with dozens of pedestrians and a densely packed bike lane are visual cues to remind motorists that roads are shared space in which all lawful users have a right to safe travel.
We support D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal of zero deaths or serious injuries to road users by the year 2024, the objective of the D.C. Vision Zero program. We believe that legislation is one important tool to reform the status quo. Knowing that laws alone don’t change behavior, we are doing our part to encourage individuals and institutions to accept a new normal wherein all road users are respected and protected.
This new normal includes common-sense measures such as the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016. This legislation reforms the system of compensation when there’s a collision between a car and a bicyclist or pedestrian. The act would allow bicyclists and pedestrians to recover damages from a driver’s insurance as long as the non-motorized party is less than 50 percent at fault. Under current law, a bicyclist or pedestrian deemed 1 percent at fault is ineligible for compensation.
The District is one of only four states to use this system, termed contributory negligence. The D.C. Council is expected to vote on the measure in the fall, affirming a commitment to fairness for the most vulnerable road users.
Members of the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council debate issues such as these at open, public meetings. Once we’ve voted to take a position, we might testify at public hearings and talk to our councilmembers about our position. When we testify, we’re often allied with our colleagues on the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council. Together, we’re taking steps to make the District safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The councils are official D.C. commissions of citizen appointees who advise on transportation policy affecting bicyclists and pedestrians. There are vacancies on both councils. To serve, you must be a D.C. resident prepared to attend full council and committee meetings. Application instructions can be found on our websites.
There’s no better time than the present to get on board. Americans are driving less and cities are transforming into human-friendly places where people get around by walking, bicycling and riding public transit – just as they did a century ago. Welcome back to a future where cities belong to people.
David Cranor is chairman of the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council.