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Bicyclists push for share-the-road laws

Brantley Tyndall, a Richmond bicyclist, used his only form of transportation to show up in support of Bicycle Action Day at the Capitol. This session, Virginia legislators have introduced several bills that advocates say would make biking safer across the commonwealth.

Tyndall says he relies on biking as his means of transportation, because it’s fast, cheap, fun and environmentally friendly and it keeps him healthy. While Tyndall himself hasn’t been involved in a bike accident, he knows several people who have.

“Cyclists should be protected, and it’s better for all road users in general. It’s not all about cyclists,” he said.

Tyndall is a board member of RideRichmond, a nonprofit organization of bicycle enthusiasts. This was the first Bicycle Action Day held by the group.

About 15 bicyclists – members of RideRichmond and their supporters – met on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus and biked to the General Assembly Building to demonstrate support for legislation that would require drivers to give bicycles more room on the road.

“It’s our day to be supportive and loud,” Tyndall said.

He said the bicycle safety legislation would benefit everyone, not just bicyclists. Tyndall said the bills are not specifically “pro-bike,” but instead “pro-all road users.”

Michael Gilbert, co-founder of RideRichmond, agreed.

“Many cyclists are also drivers. We’re not just a special interest group, and we’re not here to talk about an ‘us vs. them’ mentality … We believe cycling is a nonpartisan issue that simply makes sense,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert praised the efforts of Sens. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, and Delegate Alfonso Lopez, D–Arlington, for their bicycle legislation.

Petersen is sponsoring Senate Bill 736, which would require car drivers and passengers to wait to open their doors until a cyclist or other car has passed. Petersen said his bill received some ridicule, but drivers should be aware that “often times a bike or another car can hit that car door and an accident can ensue.”

If the bill becomes law, a violation could lead to a $100 fine. Petersen’s bill last week passed the Senate, 23-17. It has been referred to the House Transportation Committee.

Reeves proposed Senate Bill 1060, which would make it illegal for a driver to follow too closely to a cyclist. The passing distance would also be increased to 3 feet, as it is in 21 other states. (Current Virginia law specifies 2 feet.)

Reeves said an extra foot may not seem like a lot, but most cyclists are hit by a car’s mirror. On Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 1060 on a vote of 30-9.

“I think it’s going to make Virginia more bicycle friendly,” Reeves said. “More and more people in our more urban areas are using bicycles to get around.”

Lopez has proposed a similar measure, House Bill 1950. It would prohibit the driver of a motor vehicle from following mopeds, bikes and other non-motorized vehicles too closely. The House Transportation Committee voted 20-1 for the bill; it is now before the full House.

“Saving lives on bicycles is the right thing to do,” Lopez said. “Last year, over 600 people in Virginia got hurt on a bicycle because of an accident, and 10 people died.” In eight of the fatalities, he said, the cyclist was hit from behind.

Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, says there should be no debate over whether such legislation passes. “Making it safe for a child to bike to school, safe for a mother to cycle to the market for a gallon of milk, safe for someone to leave the car at home to work on a bicycle is simply common-sense public policy,” he said.

About Bicycle Action Day
Here’s what Michael Gilbert, co-founder of RideRichmond, said about Bicycle Action Day:

“These are non-partisan issues. They are safety issues – and honestly, issues of liberty and freedom of choice.

“If I choose to see our beautiful commonwealth by bike, or ride to the battlefields near Pocahontas State Park by bike, I think citizens should be able to do so without fear of someone running into them from behind, or flinging a car door open leaving them no time to react. …

“A healthy city is a diverse city, and a diverse city offers transportation options to its citizens. We realized that we're an organization that is here to advocate and educate cyclists, and we're based in the capital of Virginia. Why not leverage that and help explain why these laws are important to legislators so that cyclists across the commonwealth can benefit?”

How they voted
Here is how senators voted Tuesday on “SB 1060 Following too closely; includes bicycles, mopeds, etc., increases minimum clearance.”

The bill passed on a vote of 30-Y, 9-N.

YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Blevins, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McDougle, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, Newman, Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Reeves, Saslaw, Smith, Stosch, Vogel, Wagner – 30.

NAYS – Carrico, Garrett, Marsh, Martin, Obenshain, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Watkins – 9.

NOT VOTING – Black – 1.


Community

MADD walk raises more than $26,000

The Central Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosted its annual Walk Like MADD fundraiser April 12 at Dorey Park in Varina. More than 20 teams of walkers raised money from individual donors by participating in the walk, and in total the event generated more than $26,000 in donations for the organization. > Read more.

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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