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Washington D.C.’s New Vision Zero Law Could Be a Boon for Bike Lanes


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The idea behind the law is simple: By mandating protected bicycle infrastructure whenever roadwork is undertaken, much of the usual political and community resistance to bike lanes can be eliminated, speeding the spread of safer streetscapes, block by block, across the city. Washington, D.C., like many of the American cities that have committed to the global traffic safety platform known as Vision Zero, has struggled to make progress towards its goal of completely eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths from traffic violence. There were 36 total traffic fatalities within the city in 2020, up from 27 in 2019, despite fewer cars on the roads due to the pandemic. 

Sam Feigenbaum, a volunteer at Cambridge Bicycle Safety, says that his group’s previous approach to building bike lanes left much to be desired. After a cyclist would get injured or killed in a crash on a particular road, the group would advocate for it to be updated. “The downside to that advocacy process is that it takes a ton of time and you have a huge fight over every single street,” says Feigenbaum. CBS succeeded in having a majority of city councillors pledge to build a full, protected bike network within five years, then sought to commit the city to a strategy of installing protected lanes with regular infrastructure upgrades.

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