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Bicycle safety bill to come ’round again

Bicycle enthusiasts say they will push again next year for a state law to increase the passing room that cars must give bikes.

They were disappointed that the General Assembly rejected a measure increasing the minimum distance for cars passing bicycles from two feet to three feet.
Senate Bill 928 unanimously passed in the Senate but ran into a ditch in the House Transportation Committee last month. A subcommittee of that panel deadlocked 3-3 on the bill. Then the full committee voted 11-10 to table it.

Besides giving bicycles more passing room, the bill would have added mopeds to the list of vehicles that cars could not follow “more closely than is reasonable.”
According to Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, an extra 12 inches of passing room may not seem like much, but it could make a big difference for cyclists.

“We had 11 fatalities last year – 11 fatalities the year before – of bicyclists hit by vehicle,” he said.

Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville, had proposed the bill. He said many motorists don’t realize how dangerous it is to pass a bicycle too closely.

“When a car’s passing another car, you’re staying this far away so you don’t hit them,” McDougle said. “When you’re passing a bicyclist, it doesn’t just have to do with physical contact with the vehicle.” If a car passes too closely, a bicyclist may swerve off the road and get hurt, he said.

Advocates of the bill said increasing the passing distance would bring Virginia up to the standard set by the League of American Bicyclists – and that would boost bicycle tourism in the state.

According to Burnley, the main objection to the bill was whether the law could be enforced.

“I don’t think anybody feels the intent of the bill is wrong,” Burnley said. “Obviously some questions came up about its enforceability.”

McDougle acknowledged that the legislation might be difficult to enforce. But the same criticism could be said of the current law, he noted.

While riding his bike last summer, McDougle had a close call with a passing car. He said requiring cars to give bicycles three feet of passing room is a good idea.

Indeed, it may be easier to enforce a three-foot standard that the existing requirement, McDougle said. “It’s clearer to know if somebody is inside of three feet than inside of two feet on a bicycle.”

That’s why Burnley hopes next year’s General Assembly will revisit the issue.

“It makes good common sense, and it saves lives,” he said. “I can’t imagine we wouldn’t go for it again.”


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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