D.C.'s Official Pedestrian Advocacy Body

We're citizens working with Mayor Bowser and the City Council to better our streets. Learn more about us here.

Next Meeting: June 27, 2016

Hear from city officials, help us develop policy recommendations, and learn about our work to upgrade the city's streetscape.

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“Snowzilla” by the numbers

The winter storm known as “Snowzilla” racked up some impressive numbers, according to District officials:

  • 4.5 million cubic feet of snow removed
  • 949 pieces of equipment deployed
  • $55.3 million spent on snow removal

 District employees and contractors worked 12-hour shifts for nearly a week after Winter Storm Jonas dropped 26 inches of snow on the District on January 22 and 23, said Chris Geldart, director of the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), testifying at a roundtable in City Council chambers on Feb. 18.

Councilmember Brandon Todd (Ward 4) lauded the employees of HSEMA and the other agencies involved in the storm response for clearing the streets, communicating with the public, and making sure services such meals for kids were provided while many regular services were shut down. District agencies “did quite frankly a remarkable job,” Todd said.

However, smaller numbers got the attention of other Council members and members of the public who commented at the hearing:

  • 14 citations issued to businesses for failing to clear sidewalks
  • 7 days that wheelchair users were homebound
  • 5-foot high piles of snow piled on curb ramps

Many of the public witnesses who testified at the hearing focused on the problems created for people trying to get to work or grocery stores on foot or using wheelchairs. Plows pushed snow onto sidewalks on busy arterial roads and onto curb ramps at intersections, making them impassable. Sidewalks were left unshoveled by home and business owners or other responsible parties. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) said more attention should be paid to clearing snow from sidewalks and curb ramps in the future. “We really need to reorient our thinking about what we prioritize,” she said at the hearing.

HSEMA is drafting an after-action report that will be submitted to Mayor Muriel Bowser by March 30. Cheh requested that HSEMA address in the report the issue of “orphan sidewalks” – sidewalks that are not adjacent to a home or business and are often left uncleared by National Park Service (NPS) or local government agencies. Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) requested that the report include plans for better cooperation with NPS, which left many small parks that are part of the pedestrian network uncleared and treacherous. Both Cheh and Allen asked how the Serve DC Snow Team, a volunteer brigade of shovelers, could be more effective in the future.

A recurring theme at the roundtable discussion was the decision by the Mayor not to enforce the new snow shoveling law that allows property owners to be issued tickets if they fail to shovel their sidewalks. Cheh called the decision not to ticket scofflaws “a mistake.” Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Chris Shorter explained that DPW employees were busy clearing snow and that Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) employees were brought in to contact business owners about the requirement to clear their walks. After giving some of these owners several days to respond, a total of 14 tickets were issued. Public witness Ian Watlington, who uses a wheelchair and was stuck in his home for a week because of walks and curb cuts covered in snow and ice, expressed dismay at the lack of enforcement. “I am deeply disappointed that Mayor Bowser chose not to enforce (the law),” he said. “If not then, when?”

For more coverage of the roundtable on the District’s response to Snowzilla, check out stories from WAMU, Washington Times, WTOP and Washington City Paper.

Increased fines for dangerous driving will be focus of Council hearing

A hearing on proposed Vision Zero regulations will be held on Friday, Jan. 8, with increasing traffic fines likely to dominate the discussion. The Committee on Transportation and the Environment, chaired by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, will conduct the hearing at 11 a.m. at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 500.

Some of the regulations that could impact pedestrians include:

  • Requiring side guards on large trucks
  • Clarifying the 15 mph rule around school zones, playgrounds, recreation centers and senior centers
  • Increasing the fine for drivers to $1,000 (up from $300) for driving 25 mph over the speed limit
  • Increasing the fine for drivers to $200 (up from $50) for failing to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian
  • Increasing the fine for drivers to $200 (up from $50) for violating a “No Turn on Red” sign
  • Increasing the fine for drivers to $500 (up from $250) for overtaking a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk or intersection for a pedestrian

Click on this link to read the full list of proposed regulations:

Anyone wishing to testify at the hearing or submit comments should contact Aukima Benjamin, staff assistant to the committee, at abenjamin@dccouncil.us. The record will remain open until Jan. 22. The hearing can also be watched live on the DC Council website http://dccouncil.us.

The regulations are part of a flurry of activities around the District’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to reduce to zero the number of traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2024.

At a press conference on Dec. 16, Mayor Muriel Bowser released the Vision Zero action plan. Some highlights of the action plan address the following issues:

  • Safe streets – improve methodology to guide street design and countermeasures
  • Vulnerable users – enhance data collection to identify sidewalk repairs needed; identify dangerous bus locations and fix at least 10 per year;
  • Dangerous driving – strategically deploy photo enforcement cameras; boot vehicles owned by drivers with two or more unpaid citations related to dangerous driving
  • Transparent & responsive – publish crash and safety data on the Vision Zero website; establish a multi-agency response team for crashes resulting in fatalities or disabling injuries

Click on this link to read the entire action plan:

Earlier in the fall, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a hearing on three bills that could improve safety for pedestrians. Cheh stated at that hearing that the three bills would be combined to resolve differences and create a coherent package of proposals for the Council to consider. Below you will find links to the three individual bills.

B21-0335, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015

B21-0383, the Vision Zero Act of 2015

B21-0021, the Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2015

Discussion at the hearing on the bills covered the creation of bicycle and pedestrian priority areas, the danger of hands-free devices, the low use of interlock ignition devices in the District, and debate around reducing the speed limit to 20 mph.

Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) representative Eileen McCarthy testified at the hearing. You can read her testimony here:

The PAC later submitted more detailed comments:

The PAC will discuss Vision Zero regulations, bills and the action plan at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 at 441 4th Street NW, Room 1117.

Council considers safety measures

The DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold a hearing on December 8 on bills that may improve conditions for pedestrians.

Following is the list of and links to the four bills being discussed, the first three of which could impact pedestrians directly:
  • B21-0335, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015;
  • B21-0383, the Vision Zero Act of 2015;
  • B21-0021, the Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2015;
  • B21-0029, the Failure to Yield for Emergency Vehicles Amendment Act of 2015

Among other topics, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015 would address:
  • crash data reporting by DDOT
  • moving infraction reporting by MPD
  • notifications about sidewalk closures
  • traffic calming requests
  • creation of pedestrian and bicycle priority areas
  • adoption of a Complete Streets policy
  • for-hire vehicle operator training
  • increasing penalties for repeat offenders of moving violations
  • creating an aggressive driving offense

The Vision Zero Act of 2015 would:
  • adopt a Complete Streets policy
  • enhance penalties for all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes
  • increase penalties for impaired driving
  • increase the fine for distracted driving from $100 to $500

The Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2015 would escalate fines for multiple distracted driving offenses within 18 months from $100 to $200 to $400.

A member of the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council will testify on behalf of the PAC at the December 8 hearing. The testimony will be available on the PAC website following the hearing. See the minutes from the PAC's November 23 meeting to read about our discussion of the four bills.

The hearing on the four bills will be at 11 a.m. on December 8 at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 500. The hearing is open to the public. If you would like to comment on the bills, you may sign up to testify by contacting Ms. Aukima Benjamin, staff assistant to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, at (202) 724-8062 or via e-mail at abenjamin@dccouncil.us. Comments may also be submitted in writing.