Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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The D.C. Council voted unanimously this week to pass a transportation bill aimed at making D.C. streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. But the legislation no longer contains the anticipated “stop as yield” provision.

The provision would have allowed cyclists to treat stop signs and red lights as yield signs, requiring them to slow but not come to a complete stop. Its scope was incredibly limited, only allowing cyclists this freedom when no one else had the right of way. That means it would only apply when a cyclist was alone at an intersection, with no pedestrians or vehicles approaching.

Greg Billing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, says it’s already a common practice for cyclists to pause then continue through stops when alone on the road.

Billing considers the loss of “stop as yield” as a missed opportunity to legalize an action which he considers a distraction from police enforcement of more severe moving violations. “By codifying that in a law which recognizes what the common practice is, this would allow the police to focus on where enforcement is necessary,” he says.

“Stop as yield” was added to the bill at the urging of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Working Group convened by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh last summer. The provision faced early opposition from some members of the group like AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Metropolitan Police Department. Billing says he isn’t “entirely shocked” by its removal.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Administration Act of 2016, introduced by Cheh, would require the District to publish the locations of high crash intersections and create a pedestrian and bicyclist priority area program. The program will designate safety enhancement priority locations around D.C. in areas with heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The District Department of Transportation will also be required to adopt a “complete streets” policy among other changes to existing law.

The Council will vote on the bill one more time. Billing says he still supports the legislation, even though he thinks the “complete streets” element could be strengthened and a section regarding distracted driving should be introduced.