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
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.”
Citizen Staff Reports 12/16/2013
Virginia Blood Services (VBS), the sole supplier of blood for more than 20 hospitals throughout the state of Virginia, is in need of blood donors to help replenish the local blood supply over the holidays.
A decline in blood donations is typical during the winter months as people become busy with holiday activities and travel. Patient needs remain steady, however, making it important for people to visit a VBS donor site or mobile drive to give blood. > Read more.
In Varina, one of the most anticipated events of the season is approaching. The 19th Annual Big Toy Parade will return on Dec 14, offering a “homey,” small-town feel that helps elicit holiday spirit among participants and spectators alike.
The parade, which begins at 3 p.m., is sponsored by the Battlefield Ruritans and Henrico County Parks and Recreation and is held in conjunction with the James River Boat Parade. It is led by a grand marshal along Old Osborne Turnpike and ends at the Osborne Boat Landing, where hundreds of community members gather to await nightfall and the arrival of lighted boats, concluding a festive holiday celebration. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 12/03/2013
The region's two premier youth soccer organizations – the Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers – have partnered to create Richmond United, a cost-free U.S. Soccer Development Academy program designed to serve the most talented players in the region. The arrangement marks the first time in U.S. Soccer Development Academy history that two member clubs have united their respective Academy programs.
Slated to begin play in the fall of 2014, Richmond United will field U13/14, U15/16 and U17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. The teams will train and play home games at two of the top soccer specific complexes in the nation, Ukrop Park and Striker Park. > Read more.
A number of Henrico students are performing in the Richmond Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, which runs through Dec. 23. Pictured above, left to right are: back row – Elizabeth Sjovald (Mother Ginger), Deema Meguid, Maya Link (Mogi top) and Sophie Rounds (Mother Ginger) and front row – Sarah Echols (Chinese) and Carter Echols (Chinese). > Read more.
Eastern Henrico’s annual “Holiday on Parade” event is back tomorrow. Family-friendly activities will take place at various locations in the east end. The festivities will culminate with the 21st annual James River Parade of Lights. Also, several churches throughout the county are hosting holiday celebrations including West End Assembly of God, St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church and The Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Estilo charms, with a stylish twist, in Henrico’s Near West End
If you're looking for something a little different from the standard, ho-hum restaurant experience, look no further than The Village shopping center. Among the recent success stories to put down roots in The Village is Estilo, created by the owners of the gastropub Toast (featured in a Feb. 21 review in the Citizen), only a few steps away.
Estilo – which translates to style – offers a taste of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, among other countries, and a menu that rotates regularly through the rest of Central and South America. > Read more.
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