Bicyclists gear up for next legislative session

Like a bicyclist who’s taken a tumble but stays in the race, Virginia bicycling advocates say they’ll push on despite disappointments they suffered during the 2013 legislative session.

During the recently concluded session, the General Assembly killed all legislation to improve bicycle safety in Virginia, including a bill requiring passing cars to give cyclists more room. Michael Gilbert, co-founder of RideRichmond, said the setbacks were more of a wake-up call than a total failure.

“It’s not just an easy walk in the park,” Gilbert said, “We need to come back and be stronger next year, and make sure that we can make the case … that this really is a nonpartisan issue.”

Charlie Thomas, president of the Richmond Area Bicycling Association, said bicyclists shouldn’t be discouraged because bike safety bills failed.

“I see it as a work in progress,” Thomas said. “We did go further this year than we have in the past in getting this
legislation addressed.”

RideRichmond, a nonprofit group of bicycle enthusiasts, hosted its first Bicycle Action Day on Jan. 29, during the third week of the legislative session. Bicycle safety advocates pedaled to the Capitol and rallied in support of bills to protect bicyclists from motor vehicles.

To build political support for such measures, it is crucial to inform the public, both bicyclists and motorists, about “share the road” safety issues, bicycling advocates say.

“We have to be very vigilant in communicating and really getting action alerts out across the state, to have constituents speak up and tell their delegates and their senators that they want to see them support this bill or a similar type of legislation,” Gilbert said.

Thomas said the most disappointing defeat this legislative session involved Senate Bill 1060, which sought to prohibit motor vehicles from following bicycles, scooters and other vehicles “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” The bill also would have required cars to give three feet of clearance when they pass a bicycle.

Current Virginia law requires passing motorists to give bicyclists only two feet of clearance. “We are the only state that expressly allows that,” Thomas said.

SB 1060, sponsored by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, cleared the Senate but was defeated in the House on a 42-55 vote.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, introduced a similar measure in his chamber – House Bill 1950. The House Transportation Committee endorsed it, but the full House refused to take it up.

Lopez said his goal was to bring Virginia into compliance with the Uniform Vehicle Code, a set of motor vehicle laws designed to act as a comprehensive guide for state legislatures across the country. Among other things, the code says bicyclists and motor vehicle operators should have the same rights and responsibilities.

“Virginia needs to improve its traffic laws to conform with the Uniform Vehicle Code and the majority of other states that have these common-sense bicycle safety measures,” Lopez said.

The Uniform Vehicle Code also suggests that it should be unlawful for a motor vehicle’s occupants to open their doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic until it’s “reasonably safe” to do so. This recommendation seeks to save bicyclists from getting hit by car doors.

SB 736, sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, would have made that a law in Virginia. Petersen’s bill passed the Senate but was killed in the House Transportation Committee.

Thomas said some opponents of such legislation may be motivated by the fact that certain bicyclists disobey the current laws.

“I think there is some pushback that not all cyclists exercise courtesy on the road, and I think that may have a bearing,” he said. “There are motorists who comment, ‘Cyclists are not obeying the law, so why give them more?’ ”

But Thomas believes bicycling advocates can overcome that opposition and get bike safety laws passed.

“I’m more optimistic,” he said. “There’s going to be more cyclists on the road and more of a need to have these laws, and I think they will eventually get passed.”

Gilbert said bicycle safety advocates are not going anywhere.

“We put some good energy in [this session]. We took a lot of lessons learned out of it,” he said. “We’re down, but we’re not out. We will be back next year.”
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Community

project:HOMES’ ‘Renew Crew’ helps Henrico citizen


The project:HOMES "Renew Crew" (above) recently assisted an elderly member of the Laurel Presbyterian Church in Henrico by clearing brush, trimming hedges and raking leaves in her yard.

The Renew Crew serves low-income, disabled and elderly homeowners in need of small-scale home repairs such as porch, railing and step repairs, exterior painting, clearing overgrown yards, tearing down outbuildings, wheelchair ramps and other critical repairs and accessibility modifications. > Read more.

Alzheimer’s Walk raises $436,000


More than 2,000 people participated in the the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter's annual Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s Nov. 5 at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook. The event raised more than $436,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support programs and research.

The event is one of three walks that benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond and is held in celebration of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.

Donations to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be accepted through the end of the year and can be made at http://www.alz.org/walk. In total, the three walks this year have raised more than $644,344. > 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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Jewish Family Theatre will present “Company” Dec. 8-18 at the Weinstein JCC. From musical theatre's most renowned composer, Stephen Sondheim, “Company” is regarded as a trailblazer of the dark-comedy, modern-musical genre and is the winner of seven Tony Awards. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday matinees which are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for JCC members, $30 for nonmembers and $15 for seniors, students and groups of 10+. For details, visit http://www.weinsteinjcc.org. Full text

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