Update: Even though it was reported as dead in chamber it wasn't. It passed and became law on May 2nd. The 2015 bill was emergency legislation, though I'm not clear why that was needed. It still only applies to full-service station conversions though, as I read it. Georgetown Metropolitan has heard some speculation that the law came from Mendelson, and notes that the bill was introduced by him. But the bill, as originally introduced had nothing to do with gas stations.It was just about removing unneeded boards. Anywhoo, I apologize for any confusion.
You'll be happy to know that I was probably right and they were most likely wrong. It looks like the bill they cited (Bill 20-71 for those of you keeping track at home) died in chamber (which might explain the "little fanfare"). So, that should put everyone at ease.
But, if you oppose such a law, because it's stupid, then you should be worried that the same language was re-introduced this year (Bill 21-46). The upside is that there is still time to kill it - I suppose.
The gas station advisory board, actually dates back to 1976, when full service stations were being converted into self-service. The concern was that auto owners would be unable to find places to have their car serviced. I don't know if anyone has challenged the city's ability to do this from a property rights standpoint, but if so, then I guess it has stood up.
I heard a rumor that this expansion of the law came from Jack Evans, who was concerned that his gas station of choice (on Wisconsin Avenue, I think) was going to be converted into a condo and he was unhappy about that, so he wanted to be able to stop that. Prior to that, they were actually going to kill the Gas Station Advisory Board which has had no members since 2006.
One more thing, the bill doesn't apply to all gas stations. I don't know if this is a mistake or what, but the current change to the language would only mean that a full-service station couldn't be turned into a condo. But it doesn't appear to apply to nonfull service station.
Below is the current law with the additions in bold. The underlined part is emphasis I added.
No retail service station which is operated as a full service retail service station on or after April 19, 1977, may be discontinued, nor may be structurally altered, modified, or otherwise converted, irrespective of the type or magnitude of the alteration, modification, or conversion, including, but not limited to, any alteration, modification, or conversion which has the effect of merely obstructing access to an existing garage, service bay, work area, or similar enclosed area by any motor vehicle which was previously accommodated, into a nonfull service facility or to any other use.
HB 588/SB 547 - Update to the Three Foot Passing Law: Our attempt to have the three foot passing law apply on all Maryland roads failed this session. We were trying to remove an exception that made it so if the roadway was too narrow to give three feet the law did not apply. This exception almost killed advocate support for the original law because it makes the law confusing and difficult to enforce, as well as prioritizes driver convenience over bicyclist safety. We will convene a work group with elected officials, agency officials, and special interest groups to determine how we should address passing on narrow roads.
SB 605 - Aggressive Drunk Driving: This law clarifies that "super drunks" or repeat offenders who kill or injure a person while driving under the influence can be sued for punitive damages. This law has passed the Senate but received and unfavorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.
HB 539 - This law puts a mandate on the State Highway Administration to evaluate the speed limits on urban state highways and determine if they should be altered. As it stands right now, SHA does not have to return to reclassify roads and appropriate speeds as use along that road changes. While HB 539 failed in the House Environment and Transportation Committee is starts an important discussion on safe speed and a duty to adjust our roads to changing conditions. We applaud Delegate Carr for his effort.
HB 450/ SB 371 - This law places a timeline for the State Highway Administration to develop the guidelines for and approve Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas. The original Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area legislation passed many years ago, but as of yet only White Flint has been designated despite many applications.[This law passed and was signed by the Governor]
SB 86 - Creates a "Yellow Alert" system for hit-and-runs. Similar legislation in Denver, and now all of Colorado, has been incredibly successful at solving hit-and-runs.This bill is now up for a vote in the House of Delegates, so please tell your delegate that you support an alert system for hit-and-runs. See our discussion of the bill here. [Passed, but awaiting signature.]
The Distracted Driving Safety Act of 2004 brought DC into line with best practices of other states in banning the use of handheld devices by drivers. But the penalty for that doesn't single out repeat offenders, and is easy to avoid for first time offenders. Under that law, the penalty is $100, but first-time violators can have the fine suspended by providing proof of having acquired a hands-free accessory prior to the imposition of the fine, and there are no points imposed on violators.
DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced a bill this session, the Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2015, to strengthen those penalties. It would increase the fines for those who are found to have repeatedly engaged in distracted driving, culminating in a driver’s license suspension for those who have three violations within eighteen months. The bill was co-introduced by Bonds, Allen, and Nadeau and referred to the Committee of Transportation and the Environment chaired by Mary Cheh.
Under the proposed law, the first violation will still be $100 but buying a hands-free accessory with not suspend the fine. Furthermore, under the new law fines will escalate over an 18 month period. The 2nd violation in that time period would result in a $200 fine, and subsequent violations will result in a $400 fine plus the suspension of the driver's license and the cars registration for 60 to 180 days. In addition, starting with the 2nd violation, points may be assessed even for violations that do not result in a crash.
It's a good change to the law. Allowing people to buy hands-free accessories may have made sense in 2004 when such laws were new, but they're now commonplace and people should know better. Targeting repeat offenders, and suspending the licenses of the worst among them, should help to make our roads safer.
I'd like to see DC go further and become the first jurisdiction* to explicitly make driving while talking on the phone - hands-free or otherwise - illegal. The law already states that "Distracted driving shall be prohibited" and defines Distracted Driving as "inattentive driving while operating a motor vehicle that results in the unsafe operation of the vehicle where such inattention is caused by reading, writing, performing personal grooming, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, using personal communications technologies, or engaging in any other activity which causes distractions." But it would be wise, based on our current understanding of how talking on the phone detracts from ones ability to drive safely, to explicitly ban phone use by drivers as we do with school bus drivers and those with learner's permits.
Alternatively, we could nibble around the edges by extending the restriction on phone use to those under 21 years old (as New Jersey does), or in school zones, construction sites and within 500 feet of a crash site as Illinois does. Or break new ground by baring drivers of large trucks from using their phones.
Please feel free to call or email the Richmond office of any of these senators in support of some or all of these bills. Detailed information is provided below.
Dear Senators Colgan, Marsden, Favola, and Wexton,
Please support the following bicycle- and pedestrian-related bills in the Senate Transportation Committee on January 21.
1) Crossing a double-yellow Line to pass a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian. SB 781 (Alexander), SB 1027 (Garrett), and SB 1228 (Reeves) would similarly make it lawful to carefully cross a double-yellow roadway centerline to pass a stopped or slow-moving road user. Double-yellow lines are installed when it is deemed unsafe to overtake a vehicle moving near the speed limit. A growing number of states already allow motorists to cross a double-yellow line carefully to pass a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian with a safe gap, something that's already a common practice by motorists driving on Virginia's many narrow two-lane roadways. Please support this practical and common-sense exception to promote safe passing of pedestrians, bicyclists, farm vehicles, postal and garbage trucks, and other slow and stopped vehicles.
2) Opening a vehicle door into the path of moving traffic: Senator Petersen is once again patroning legislation (SB 882) that would assign responsibility to motor vehicle occupants who cause property damage or injury by carelessly opening their vehicle door into the path of moving traffic. Forty states already have such a law, with Virginia one of the ten that do not. Car doors opened carelessly account for a significant share of urban bicycling crashes, and many localities install bike lanes within the "door zone" of parked vehicles. SB 882, would create a simple $100 traffic infraction--not subject to driver demerit points and not applicable to emergency responders--that would help injured bicyclists receive just compensation from the insurance policy covering the owner of the responsible vehicle.
3) Following non-motorized road users too closely. Virginia is practically the only state that does not clearly prohibit motorists from rear-ending a bicyclist or other non-motorized road user. SB 1220 (Reeves) deletes a single word in Virginia’s “Following Too Closely” law (§ 46.2-816) to cover bicyclists and other lawful road users not inside a motor vehicle when rear-ended by a negligent following motorist. The Senate Transportation Committee favorably reported similar bills in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and a House version of this bill (HB 1342) was just reported 20-2 by the House Transportation Committee.
4) Prohibit the use of a handheld personal communications device while driving. SB 1279 (Wexton) would make it unlawful to operate any handheld personal communications device while driving and establish a reckless driving charge if the motorist was also violating another traffic law or caused a crash at the same time.
5) Mandate jail time and vehicle forfeiture for DUI without a valid drivers license. SB 958 (Lewis) would increase penalties for driving while intoxicated and without a valid drivers license.
6) Allow new sidewalk projects to be funded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. SB 932 (Petersen) would allow the NVTA to fund new sidewalk projects. If possible, this bill should be amended to make transportation bikeways clearly eligible for NVTA money as well.
Thank you for helping to make Virginia safer for people who walk and bike.
Your Name and Mailing Address
Update; Other Bills!
The first two are similar bills that preserve highway funding in the event of a road diet. (Currently cities' and towns' highway funds from VDOT are allocated based on lane miles which means that a road diet to accommodate bike lanes can decrease funding to a city or town.) These are super important changes to help make jurisdictions receptive to the idea of a road diet rather than scared of losing funding.
The last bill deals with funding of paved multiuse trails.
1. The new bill allows cyclists and pedestrians to recover from a motorist as long as they are less than 50% responsible. So if the vulnerable user is 49% responsible, than the motorist(s) pays 100% of the cost. If there are two other parties that are 25% and 26% responsible, the vulnerable user can still collect 100%. But if they are 51% at fault, they get nothing. Under the 2014 bill, the cyclist could collect at the proportion that the other party was at fault. So if the driver was 60% at fault, they paid 60% of the costs.
2. This new bill specifically says that "in no event shall this act change or affect the doctrine of joint and several liability"
3. The new bill explicitly states that it doesn't change the protection offered to cyclists or pedestrians under a pair of previous laws; and that it is nonseverable - if one part is invalidated, the whole law is invalidated.
In addition to Cheh, it is being co-introduced by Bonds, Evans, Grosso, and Allen. That's bodes well for the bill. There is reason to be hopeful.
That still leaves Anita Bonds, who according to Greg Billing "suggested adding provisions requiring lights, helmets, and such," and Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser, who haven't taken a position and weren't at today's session, as well. Pedestrians, cyclists, and other residents can contact members of the committee to push them on the issue.
According to Di Caro, Cheh is the swing vote and is going to vote against it.
Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), says she cannot support the legislation in its current form. It would compromise crash victims' ability — especially in major accidents — to be fully compensated if they are injured by more than one person, she says.
There she's referencing Joint and Several liability. The plan was to amend the law to protect J&SL. The amendment was based on a similar one from some other state (I didn't write down which one. Oregon maybe?)
So that would leave Wells and, I believe, Bonds for - and Cheh, Bowser and Evans against. So, we'll see.
It is interesting that one of the two parties opposed to the bill is the Trial Lawyers Association and that comparing their list of leadership to Mary Cheh's Office of Campaign Finance Report, they contributed at least $14,500 of the $368,000+ she's raised since 2006.
Update: From a DCist article.
"Trial lawyers are concerned this could be the camel's nose under the tent," Wells said. "That it could impact the size of the awards."
Wells said trial lawyers hold "a lot of sway in the John Wilson building."
"We just went through an election cycle, they contribute a lot of money to campaigns," he said. "And that will have an impact."
Grosso noted that, between the first hearing and now, he worked with trial lawyers who expressed concern over the bill to make changes. "There's no reason why this shouldn't move forward, but there's obviously some hesitancy," he said.
Council members Tommy Wells, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, and David Grosso (D-At-Large), the bill’s main sponsor, said at a press conference Thursday that the bill is long overdue. They acknowledge the bill is unlikely to advance out of the committee — this is the third time it has been introduced –and already were talking about trying again next year.
Ward 6 CM-elect Charles Allen has already promised to support it.
When introduced, the bill only covered cyclists, but since its September hearing, it has been expanded to also cover pedestrians and people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs.