CM Charles Allen Pushes His Vision Zero Bill – Acknowledges Controversy
By Larry Janezich
CM Charles Allen appeared before ANC6A last Thursday night to support his Vision Zero Omnibus bill. Allen said that an omnibus designation means the legislation contains a bunch of different ideas – 25 in this bill.
To emphasize urgency, he pointed to the traffic related deaths the day before of two residents who were killed as they sat on a park bench near GW Hospital when a driver lost control of a vehicle. He also referenced three deaths caused by vehicles on April 19, including that of DC bike advocate Dave Salovesh.
Allen asked, “How do we assure safer space for our neighborhoods and stop these deaths?” Some of the answers, he believes, are in the proposed legislation:
- build a better infrastructure by requiring developers and businesses to institute curbside management plans to prevent parking in crosswalks and bike and bus lanes
- speed up the process for DDOT installing significant traffic safety improvements
- require contractors to restore crosswalks and bike lanes after street construction under penalty of at $10,000 a day fine
- revise guiding traffic safety documents every two years
In addition, there are some more controversial provisions:
- ban right turn on red consistently across the area and lower the speed limit to 20 mph
- require re-testing (written) for driver license renewal or transferring from another state
- institute a one year citizen enforcement parking pilot program
Regarding the controversial parts, Allen says his approach is, “Try something – if it doesn’t work, go back and fix it.” He says he doesn’t want a fight over policy issues to result in paralysis.
Later, during Q&A, Allen said that earlier this spring the city council funded a DDOT study to evaluate congestion pricing – imposing fees on downtown driving, for example – and to make recommendations. (In New York City, drivers will be paying more to drive into downtown Manhattan starting in 2021.)
The night before the ANC6A meeting, ANC6C bordering on the west, had taken up the Omnibus Vision Zero Bill and were generally supportive, although Commissioner Joel Kelty was adamantly opposed to the citizen enforcement pilot program, on the grounds that “citizens should not be tasked with enforcing the law – the city is paid to do that.”
Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler backed the program, calling it a creative proposal which would do more good than harm, and stating that he could see no harm in a one year pilot program. The ANC subsequently voted 5- 0-1 to support the bill, with Kelty abstaining.
5 responses to “CM Charles Allen Pushes His Vision Zero Bill – Acknowledges Controversy”
I like the approach of “Try something – if it doesn’t work, go back and fix it.” It reduces paralysis by analysis. I also especially support the 20 MPH residential speed limit.
I like the 20 mph speed limit too, but I think it is unenforceable. And not enforcing it would be worse than not having it, because it sows disrespect for the law.
I have no problem with the first four points although I find the first confusing since it is not otherwise the responsibility of developers to control public street parking in bus and bike lanes or crosswalks and the provision is probably unlawful if not impossible to implement. Points two through four seem to be merely enforcing existing responsibilities.
The last three points are to my mind simply wrongheaded. Banning all right-turn-on-red in all places and at all times takes an axe to a problem where a scalpal is needed. It’s the responsibility of the DDOT to determine which intersections present a danger to right turn on red and that does not indiscriminately include all intersections.
Reducing the speed limit to 20 mph is nothing more than another traffic related revenue raiser for the city since neither commuters nor other drivers are likely to observe it nor could the District implement it. The fact is DDOT already times stop lights on streets such as Constitution between 2nd and 7th Streets NE at 40-45 mph when the speed limit is currently 25. I suspect there are other commuter streets that are similarly timed. If all traffic were in fact reduced to 20 mph, cars would be lined up past the beltway, traffic congestion would increase, commuting would become a nightmare, buses would be unable to keep a schedule, and thousands of workers would regularly be late for work.
Requiring a driver with an existing license to take a test in order to obtain a license renewal flies in the face of previous DC efforts to reduce the time spent for license renewal. Now gone are the days of waiting for half a day, and often more, merely to spend five minutes with a clerk to renew a license. Virtually every city has done away with the unnecessary burden of this kind of license renewal and DC, to its credit, has made similar efforts across the board for licensing and permits. This is a step backward.
The worst of these ideas is the use of citizen parking violation enforcers. We now have a corp of enforcers who are trained in the law to issue parking citations. Nothing in this bill provides for the kind of training necessary for citizen enforcers, parking vigilantes as one critic called them, to understand what the law is, when it is to be enforced, and how it is enforced. Nothing in the bill requires that, if a violation is challenged, the citizen enforcer must come to court or a hearing to justify why their citation was issued and under what circumstances. Nothing in the bill provides for how the citizen enforcers are to be chosen; who will choose the citizen enforcers; what qualifications are required; how much time they must spend on the job; whether they are to wear a uniform so that they are clearly identified to the public and other citizens; whether they will be issued the necessary equipment including ParkMobile readers; and whether it is in fact constitutional to invest in private untrained citizens the power and authority otherwise exclusively invested in the police.
Traffic congestion is becoming increasingly worse as the District population grows. Lax enforcement of existing law, particularly running stop signs and red lights, should be corrected before making life miserable for District residents.
This is the wrong bill, for the wrong reasons and is likely to create a firestorm of protest as soon as residents figure out that they have been cited for making a right turn on red where it has for decades been legal, have to take off of work for a day to take a new test that accomplishes nothing, that they are going to be ticketed for driving a speed limit in fact engineered by DDOT, that they are spending even more time for their commute, and have been given a parking citation by a vigilante citizen enforcer who may well have grudge against them for parking in front of their house.
The bill should be withdrawn.
The only fix for increasing traffic congestion is to make the streets safe for non-motorized transport. I’m writing as a Hill resident who has one Hill friend who was flattened by an SUV while on her bike, and when she’d recovered enough to walk, she was hit by a car—while walking down the sidewalk. Twenty is plenty, as far as the speed limit is concerned. Drivers need to get over the idea that it’s acceptable to go as fast as they can. If more speed cameras will help, I’m for them. And I really like the idea of making people retake the written driving test; I’m amazed by the number of people who don’t know the default speed limit in DC.
How about making the streets safer by making them less congested? Currently we give out of state commuters a great incentive – free parking – to drive daily to the Hill. Designate one half of all residential streets for zone 6 residents only (as there is virtually zero enforcement of the 2 hour limit) and eliminate free parking for vehicles with disabled placards (huge amount of abuse per the Washington Post). If you eliminate free parking you’ll see a significant drop off in commuter traffic and an uptick in commuters who find that using Metro makes more sense financially.