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.”
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Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.

McAuliffe vetoes 6 more bills; GOP calls him ‘disengaged’


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed six bills, including three Republicans said would help prevent voter fraud but the Democratic governor said would create barriers to voting.

McAuliffe has now vetoed 37 bills from the General Assembly’s 2017 session – and 108 during his four-year term as governor, surpassing any of his predecessors.

Republican legislative leaders say McAuliffe has broken his promise to be bipartisan, calling his office “the most disengaged administration we have ever worked with.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will host the Virginia Daffodil Society Show from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Apr. 1 and from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Apr. 2. Hundreds of delightful prize-worthy daffodils and expert growers will be on hand. The show is included with Garden admission. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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