Fine-tuning fines is an overrated goal in traffic-safety program

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Perhaps you can explain to me why the new D.C. measure increasing traffic fines puts a lower fine on a bicyclist hitting a pedestrian on a sidewalk than in a street. As a frequent pedestrian, I have much greater problems dodging the former than the latter.

And why, for the latter, are pedestrians required to prove they were legally crossing the street, with no such requirement for cyclists?

So, for example, if a bike is going the wrong way down a one-way street (a not-uncommon occurrence) and hits a pedestrian who is jaywalking, no fine would be levied?

— Vic Miller, the District

Like Miller, I’m wary of sidewalk encounters with bicyclists. Many of them are weaving among pedestrians and going too fast. A pedestrian doesn’t have to be hit to feel the intimidating presence of a cyclist.

The proposal under public review makes too fine a distinction between the fines. It will be $150 for a cyclist hitting a pedestrian crossing a roadway where the walker has the right of way.

It will be $100 when a cyclist collides with a pedestrian on a sidewalk. Outside the central business district, cyclists and pedestrians are supposed to be sharing most sidewalks, but cyclists still must yield to pedestrians.

Travelers are always dividing themselves into categories depending on exactly how they use the streets. They pay attention to distinctions between fines assessed in different circumstances.

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