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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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

Weekend Top 10


The past couple of days haven’t felt like it, but it’s finally December and this weekend is packed with holiday events. Kicking the weekend off is Glorious Christmas Nights’ production of “Finding Christmas” at West End Assembly of God. Gayton Baptist Church’s annual Jazz Nativity starts tonight. Another annual favorite is tomorrow – the tree lighting at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. In search of Christmas concerts? The Virginians Barbershop Chorus will present its annual Christmas Show tomorrow at the Collegiate School and the Richmond Choral Society will perform Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Shops at Willow Lawn’s community event Mommy & Me and Daddy Too continues with Chris Campbell: Music for Kids from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Enjoy a morning out with live entertainment, crafts, games and programs designed to enhance parent's interaction with their children. The program continues on the second Wednesday of each month. Admission is free. For details, visit http://www.willowlawn.com. Full text

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