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D.C. lawmakers introduce overarching Vision Zero legislation to strengthen road safety

A new bill would ban right turns on red citywide, speed up road repairs in dangerous areas, and more

Traffic safety advocates protest outside the seat of the D.C. government on April 26, 2019
The Washington Post/Getty Images

After a number of high-profile traffic fatalities this spring and an overall increase in traffic deaths since 2015—the year Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled D.C.’s Vision Zero initiative—a majority of the D.C. Council is moving to codify ambitious street improvements in the law through a comprehensive bill. At 19 pages, the legislation outlines several ways of making roads safer, including banning right turns on red and building infrastructure more quickly.

Authored by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and co-introduced or co-sponsored by 11 of the 13 councilmembers, the bill would, among other things, restrict car speeds to 25 or 20 mph on most non-arterial roads, empower officials to impound more cars involved in illegal behavior, and accelerate street repairs in dangerous areas. It would also establish fines of at least $10,000 per day for contractors who neglect to restore crosswalks and bike lanes that they have removed during the course of their work. All-way stops would become the default design for residential intersections and D.C. would have to do more non-car transit planning.

“We can’t talk about transit equity without addressing basic road safety,” Allen noted in a statement when proposing the legislation during a Council meeting Tuesday. “Safe travel, especially without a car, shouldn’t be a perk of living in a given neighborhood. It should be the standard in every part of the city that’s safe to walk or bike to school, to the bus stop, or to work.” Now, the Council’s transportation committee is anticipated to review the proposal.

A few other notable aspects of the bill: It would set up a pilot program authorizing citizens to enforce parking laws in crosswalks, bike lanes, fire lanes, and bus stops; require builders of 10-unit-plus projects to accommodate deliveries and ride-hailing cars in their plans in ways that do not lead to the obstruction of sidewalks and bike lanes; and force city transportation officials to report on all deadly and critical crashes. (You can read more about the bill here.)

Also on Tuesday, the Council approved emergency legislation intended to expedite long-delayed safety improvements on Florida Avenue NE, where well-known cycling advocate Dave Salovesh was struck and killed by a driver last month. Councilmembers additionally floated bills to increase awareness of car-bike collisions and create more curb extensions.

Ten people have died in D.C. traffic crashes in 2019, the same tally by this point last year.