New year, new D.C. laws

D.C. rang in 2019 with several new laws, ranging from a ban on plastic straws to changes in traffic regulations. Here are a few new laws in the District to be aware of as you return to campus this week.

Ban on plastic straws

The District’s on plastic straws will likely be the most impactful new D.C. law this year. According to the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), the plastic straw ban comes after Mayor Muriel Bowser announced her full support of the Our Last Straw coalition to eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws in the D.C. area. 

“D.C. is proud to be leading the way on reducing plastic waste,” Mayor Bowser said in a news release. “As we continue on the path to becoming the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the nation, it’s time to tackle straws.”

The DOEE reported that more than 3,500 straws were collected during Potomac Watershed cleanups last spring, and the new ban on plastic straws is intended to reduce the amount of plastic waste polluting D.C. and local waterways.

According to DOEE guidelines, the new law requires the use of compostable or reusable straws and stirrers by businesses that sell food and beverages. The law also mandates that plastic straws still be available for customers with disabilities. In place of plastic straws, D.C.’s government is encouraging businesses to provide straws made of hay, bamboo, paper, stainless steel, or glass. 

Jefferson Davis Highway renamed

The Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria, named for the Confederate president, was officially renamed Richmond Highway at the beginning of this year, concluding a debate over the road’s name that began in 2015. Based on five public meetings and hundreds of comments from residents, the Alexandria City Council voted to rename the highway in 2017. The new name for the highway was chosen partly based on the results of an online survey. 

According to an Alexandria City Council docket, members of the committee responsible for naming the highway felt that Richmond Highway was a name that would have “historic and current significance without inherent controversy.”

Right turns on red now illegal at roughly 100 intersections

As part of an effort to decrease traffic injuries and fatalities, D.C.’s Department of Transportation announced that turning right on red will not be allowed at around 100 intersectionsIn the Foggy Bottom area, right turns on red won’t be allowed at the intersections of 22nd Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, I Street NW and 22nd Street NW, and the intersection of Washington Circle and New Hampshire Avenue NW. 

The District’s Vision Zero initiative aims to reach zero fatalities or injuries related to the city’s transportation system by 2024 by improving pedestrian and bicycle safety. 

New bike regulations

Bicyclists wearing headphones that cover both ears will be at risk of being fined $50 beginning this year, Fox 5 D.C. reported. 

The city has also increased fines for vehicles that block bike lanes from $60 to $150. Local cyclists, including Anders Petersen, have tweeted about bike lanes being blocked in the past in an effort to increase enforcement of D.C.’s bike lane laws, WAMU reported last fall.

CampusStephanie Gemmell