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.”
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Reynolds CC dedicates student center


Reynolds Community College recently celebrated the dedication of the Jerry and Mary Owen Student Center, named for longtime supporters of the college who have made numerous investments in it.

Jerry Owen served on the Reynolds College Board from 1984 to 1988, and he and his wife support the college’s scholarship fund and created an endowment for the Reynolds Middle College, which helps students earn a high school equivalency and transition into a degree or workforce credential program. > Read more.

Capital One sponsors ‘Coders Experience’


Capital One hosted its “Coders Experience” event in Richmond and a number of other state locations Oct. 14. The events attracted hundreds of middle school girls, who learned how to create their own mobile apps, hone problem-solving skills and gain software development knowledge. A second day of Coders Experience events will take place Oct. 21. More than 500 Capital One volunteers are participating in the 10 events. > Read more.

Hermitage band member named All-American


The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Presented by American Family Insurance Selection Tour will visit Hermitage H.S. Oct. 19 to recognize Truman Chancy as a 2018 U.S. Army All-American. Hermitage High School will honor Chancy before his classmates, bandmates, family and friends at the high school’s band room during band practice, and he will be presented with his honorary All-American Marching Band jacket. > Read more.

Crime Stoppers’ Crime of the Week: Oct. 16, 2017


This week, Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers is asking for the public to assist the Richmond Police Department in the identification of wayward artists that were using buildings as their canvas.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, four people were recorded on security cameras vandalizing multiple properties in the area of the 2500 blocks of West Main Street and Floyd Avenue. The suspects (pictured) were walking north on Robinson Street and spray painting the properties as they meandered along. > Read more.

Slipping through


Hermitage quarterback Jay Carney escapes defenders during the Panthers' 33-0 win against Godwin Friday night. Hermitage is 8-0 and has won its past four games by a combined score of 172-28. > Read more.

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