D.C. Considers Allowing Cyclists To Sue Drivers

Thursday, November 03, 2011 - 12:42 PM

The view from cyclist Evan Wilder's mounted helmet camera after being run off the road in Northeast D.C. earlier this month. (Image from Evan Wilder/YouTube)

(Washington, DC - Patrick Madden, WAMU) With D.C.'s popular Capital Bikeshare program and dozens of dedicated bike lanes, more and more people are choosing to get around the city on two wheels. But it’s not always easy for cars and bikes to share the road, and the city is looking at ways to make cycling safer and protect cyclists' rights.

For D.C.’s cycling community, the turning point -- or maybe the boiling point -- was this video. Bicyclist Evan Wilder filmed it in August with a helmet-cam. It shows a pickup truck pulling up next to him. Then, the driver of the pickup then rolls down the window and threatens Wilder.

"Before I knew what was happening, the driver accelerated and slammed the side of his truck into my body," says Wilder, who testified about the video before the council Wednesday. "The impact was strong enough to cause my helmet to crack when my head hit the road."

According to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, no charges were filed against the driver.

Wilder’s video has become a driving force behind the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act proposal. The measure makes it easier for bikers to sue drivers, and it also offers financial incentives for lawyers to take up the cases.

"I know what we're advocating is an usual step," says the bill's sponsor, D.C. Council member Tommy Wells. "This will serve as a signal to the minority of motorists who are hostile to cyclists that aggressive behavior is no longer tolerated here in the city."

But as city lawmakers eye legal remedies to deter violence against cyclists, they’re also concerned about safety: namely, helmet use among users of the Capital Bikeshare program. Han Huang, a researcher at the MedStar Sport Concussion Center, testified before the council yesterday about a new study on the helmet-wearing rates of Capital Bikeshare riders.

"The results recorded were striking, if not surprising," says Huang. "Following nearly 1,000 observations, we found only 18 percent of bikeshare riders used helmets." Capital Bikeshare doesn't provide helmets to riders.

By contrast, nearly half of regular bike riders were observed wearing helmets during the study. Huang admits, however, he "doesn't know what the solution is" to get more bike share riders in helmets.


Comments [5]


Ludicrous way to bring up a total non-issue like helmets.

Nov. 04 2011 03:15 PM
Jonathan Krall

I don't get the helmet thing. People not wearing helmets is only a problem for the helmet industry. If people were getting injured on CaBi, that would be a problem, but no one has reported a rash of CaBi injuries (because there isn't one). Idiots.

Nov. 04 2011 01:30 PM

I'm not sure what Huang's real intention is, but I doubt it's cyclist safety. If this were a real public health and safety issue he would have offered up numbers of CaBi users who have suffered head injuries while riding without a helmet. 1million+ trips into the system, and there hasn't been any report of serious crashes that I'm aware of. In fact, the increased number of cyclists on DC's streets has given safety in numbers and made all cyclists safer. What's Huang's real agenda here?

Nov. 04 2011 10:30 AM

The dangerous moron in the pick-up is a public menace. He might as well have used a firearm.

Ne must be severely punished AND prevented from operating dangerous machinery including driving.

Nov. 04 2011 03:06 AM
Duwayne Anderson

This is bad .... really bad. How can the cops *not* file charges against this creep? You know he's going to end up killing someone. He needs to have his license revoked, and he needs to be required to take anger management classes.

Nov. 03 2011 03:49 PM

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