It's that time again...
The Transportation Committee of the Virginia Senate will consider eight bills this afternoon (Wed., January 21) that are important for Virginia bicyclists. Northern Virginia is represented by the following four members of that committee:
1) Senator Charles Colgan (Manassas), <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 804-698-7529
2) Senatior Barbara Favola (Arlington), <email@example.com>,804-698-7531
3) Senator David Marsden (Burke), <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 804-698-7537
4) Senator Jennifer Wexton (Leesburg), <email@example.com>, 804-698-7533
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.Each of these bills has already been filed for this session and referred to Transportation subcommittee #4.