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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

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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