6/04/2016 08:52:00 PM No comments
The DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment voted 4-0 on May 31 to approve the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016. The legislation requires DDOT and MPD to make data more accessible, requires DDOT to produce reports annually on high crash intersections, establishes pedestrian and bicycle priority areas, creates a new traffic offense for aggressive driving, and increases penalties for operating a vehicle while impaired, among several other provisions. The bill is an amalgamation of legislation proposed in the fall by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Vision Zero Act of 2015, and legislation proposed by Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3). Last spring Cheh convened the Bicyclcle and Pedestrian Working Group, which held six public hearings to consider ways to improve road safety in the District. Pedestrian Advisory Council representative Eileen McCarthy was a member of the working group. Click here to read the Committee Report on B21-335. The final draft of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 is available here.
2/20/2016 12:28:00 PM 3 comments
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?”
1/07/2016 11:31:00 AM No comments
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.