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.”
On June 13, the Short Pump Rotary Club partnered with Schnabel Engineering for a day of volunteer work with Rebuilding Together Richmond. Team members (among them [from left] Chris Rufe, Melissa Abraham, Rick Naschold, and Micky Ogburn) completed a variety of repairs and home improvements ranging from painting and landscaping to cabinet installation and fence building.
“It was a privilege to be involved in this project," said club president Melissa Abraham. "The homeowner kept thanking the volunteers, but I think all of us would agree we are the ones who actually benefited. It was an opportunity to help a community member, fellowship with great people and improve our handyman skills." > Read more.
Dr. Even Alexander, a New York Times best-selling author who has been featured on Oprah and Dr. Oz, was in town last week to promote his June 27 talk, "Proof of Heaven," at Glen Allen High School.
Alexander (pictured, at right, while Unity of Bon Air church member Harry Simmons interviews him) has written about what he considers to be his journey through the afterlife.
Tickets to this month's event are $25 and will support the new Bon Secours Hospice House being built later this year. > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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