I’m a founding member of JukeBOXDC.com & Chairman of the DC #BikeLife Campaign. DCBLC was assembled as a response to the overzealous and dangerous pursuit of #BikeLife enthusiasts on public and private space.
We have drafted legal text outlining a new licensing, registration and regulation of these non-traditional vehicles, much like the legalization in Salt Lake City, the greater state of Utah and other limited use states.
Currently, Dirt Bike & ATV usage in Washington, DC is banned. In fact the penalty is a automatic arrest that comes with a $250 fine and potentially a 30 day stay in jail for operation alone.
Additionally, there is a bounty, equal to the fine, offered as a financial incentive for citizens who provide information on other citizens in possession of or actively operating an ATV or Dirt Bike. Property will be seized and those actively operating these vehicles will be arrested.
However, #bikelife aggression from law enforcement often spills into other, legal #bikelife enthusiasts paths. This weekend, I was in DC’s #Chinatown to celebrate my Queens’ birthday. As we circled the busy business/entertainment district searching for parking we found something unexpected. We saw 10-15 bicyclists having a great time, none looking any older than the size of the group. Then we see something disheartening. As the last of their group came around a corner there were two uniformed police officers following them, seeming to usher them out of this area of the city.
On September 11, 2016 #TerrenceSterling found himself in a fatal encounter with the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC. As Mr. Sterling was leaving a gathering in the #AdamsMorgan business/entertainment area of the city he was pursued by an MPD unit. Mr. Sterling, a Maryland man, headed towards the highway as the officers were told to stand down. DC is supposed to have a #NOchase policy. They instead found another route to apprehend Mr. sterling before he reached the highway. Using their cruiser as a barricade, the driving officers cut off Sterling’s path just across the street from the highway on ramp. Sterling and his bike struck the cruiser door (t-bone), an officer then fired shots from inside the cruiser fatally striking Sterling in the neck and torso. Courts later found that there was no clear nor present danger to provoke this lethal response.
#DCBLC sees the public safety risk that this system creates through policy and policing. In the last few months officers have been recorded pursuing ATVs in a dangerous fashion. One was seen driving Ford Explorer SUV cruiser a over grassy median to apprehend a much smaller ATV vehicle. Recently there was a low speed chase involving several cruisers where a bike patrol officer was recorded attempting to jump from his bike to tackle a ATV rider off of their vehicle in front of cruisers in the middle of an intersection. Yes, this occurred in a in yet another entertainment/business district in DC, U Street.
Currently in DC, on average there’s been 1 to 6 deaths per year involving motorcycles (dirt bikes) and ATVs. However this disproportionate police response is causing more danger than is naturally present.
Many people complain about pack riding, calling it a nuisance. Our police department on any given weekend may issue 200+ warrants at one time from surveillance footage and pursuits. We argue the bounty, threat of aggression, automatic arrest create the climate that shapes the public safety risk. It encourages anyone illegally involved in bike life to ride in a flock, leave the scene of an accident and hide their identity in public for personal safety.
Republican policy advisers and Democratic candidates for this years elections in DC have told DCBLC they find these policies racist. Furthermore, they provide an easy supply chain to fill our courts and jails. However, no D.C. court nor Council has attempted to change this as it is considered unpopular. Some say we can’t change the law because riding is illegal. This argument is nonsensical since in DC the people can write, petition & change laws ourselves.
Washington, D.C. has remained very flexible and fluid when new forms of transportation become available for purchase. D.C. has laws for what vehicle manufacturer, Polaris, describes as an open-air roadster – 3 wheel motorcycle. Absurdly powerful. No roof
. No doors. No regrets.
D.C. has no regrets when it comes to accepting taxes, registration fees and allowing the operation of vehicles like these on our streets. DCBLC does not disagree. On the contrary we support the right, yes, the right of mobility and travel. This is guaranteed to us by not only by the U.S. Constitution but by United Nations General Assembly treaty law as agreed to in article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights incorporates this right into treaty law:
(1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
(2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
(3) The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre publique), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.
(4) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.
Currently D.C. code says:
(a) No person shall:
(1) Operate at any time an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike on public property, including any public space in the District; or
(2) Park at any time an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike on public property, including any public space in the District.
(b) All-terrain vehicles or dirt bikes shall not be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
(c) A person violating any provision of this section shall upon conviction be fined no more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, or incarcerated for no more than 30 days, or both.
(d) In addition to the penalties described in subsection (c) of this section, a person who is convicted of violating subsection (a)(1) of this section shall, upon a second or subsequent conviction for violating subsection (a)(1) of this section, have his or her driver’s license, or privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the District, suspended for one year from the date of conviction; provided, that the period of suspension shall toll during a period of incarceration.
(e) The Attorney General for the District of Columbia, or his or her assistants, shall prosecute violations of this section, in the name of the District of Columbia.
(f) An all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike operated or parked in violation of this section shall be subject to forfeiture pursuant to the standards and procedures set forth in Chapter 3 of Title 41.
DCBLC sees this law and enforcement policy as a greater public safety risk, cultural discrimination and an overall egregious violation of U.S. & global rights. We may not live in a recognized state but we do recognize the state of affairs. Fortunately, Washington, D.C. residents have the right initiate or amend a law by petition. After language is submitted and approved, initiators must collect approx. 24,000 signatures from the almost 700,000 residents of D.C. to place laws on the ballot for a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote. The next step for DC #BikeLife Campaign is to have a hearing on our revised ballot language which can be found on our website.
Click the link, read our proposed law and share your thoughts with us through our network (below). If you would like a PDF copy for review, just send us an email request. We look forward to hearing your feedback and working with you to create a free and safe D.C. that respects all of our rights, indiscriminately.
Eric Butler, Jr
Chairman, DC #BikeLife Campaign
Call: (202) 526-1714
Text: (202) 839-4BLC (4252)
E-mail: [email protected]
DC #BikeLife Campaign Website: http://dcbikelife-campaign.mn.co/landing