Bicyclists push for share-the-road laws
Brantley Tyndall, a Richmond bicyclist, used his only form of transportation to show up in support of Bicycle Action Day at the Capitol. This session, Virginia legislators have introduced several bills that advocates say would make biking safer across the commonwealth.
Tyndall says he relies on biking as his means of transportation, because it’s fast, cheap, fun and environmentally friendly and it keeps him healthy. While Tyndall himself hasn’t been involved in a bike accident, he knows several people who have.
“Cyclists should be protected, and it’s better for all road users in general. It’s not all about cyclists,” he said.
Tyndall is a board member of RideRichmond, a nonprofit organization of bicycle enthusiasts. This was the first Bicycle Action Day held by the group.
About 15 bicyclists – members of RideRichmond and their supporters – met on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus and biked to the General Assembly Building to demonstrate support for legislation that would require drivers to give bicycles more room on the road.
“It’s our day to be supportive and loud,” Tyndall said.
He said the bicycle safety legislation would benefit everyone, not just bicyclists. Tyndall said the bills are not specifically “pro-bike,” but instead “pro-all road users.”
Michael Gilbert, co-founder of RideRichmond, agreed.
“Many cyclists are also drivers. We’re not just a special interest group, and we’re not here to talk about an ‘us vs. them’ mentality … We believe cycling is a nonpartisan issue that simply makes sense,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert praised the efforts of Sens. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, and Delegate Alfonso Lopez, D–Arlington, for their bicycle legislation.
Petersen is sponsoring Senate Bill 736, which would require car drivers and passengers to wait to open their doors until a cyclist or other car has passed. Petersen said his bill received some ridicule, but drivers should be aware that “often times a bike or another car can hit that car door and an accident can ensue.”
If the bill becomes law, a violation could lead to a $100 fine. Petersen’s bill last week passed the Senate, 23-17. It has been referred to the House Transportation Committee.
Reeves proposed Senate Bill 1060, which would make it illegal for a driver to follow too closely to a cyclist. The passing distance would also be increased to 3 feet, as it is in 21 other states. (Current Virginia law specifies 2 feet.)
Reeves said an extra foot may not seem like a lot, but most cyclists are hit by a car’s mirror. On Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 1060 on a vote of 30-9.
“I think it’s going to make Virginia more bicycle friendly,” Reeves said. “More and more people in our more urban areas are using bicycles to get around.”
Lopez has proposed a similar measure, House Bill 1950. It would prohibit the driver of a motor vehicle from following mopeds, bikes and other non-motorized vehicles too closely. The House Transportation Committee voted 20-1 for the bill; it is now before the full House.
“Saving lives on bicycles is the right thing to do,” Lopez said. “Last year, over 600 people in Virginia got hurt on a bicycle because of an accident, and 10 people died.” In eight of the fatalities, he said, the cyclist was hit from behind.
Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, says there should be no debate over whether such legislation passes. “Making it safe for a child to bike to school, safe for a mother to cycle to the market for a gallon of milk, safe for someone to leave the car at home to work on a bicycle is simply common-sense public policy,” he said.
About Bicycle Action Day
Here’s what Michael Gilbert, co-founder of RideRichmond, said about Bicycle Action Day:
“These are non-partisan issues. They are safety issues – and honestly, issues of liberty and freedom of choice.
“If I choose to see our beautiful commonwealth by bike, or ride to the battlefields near Pocahontas State Park by bike, I think citizens should be able to do so without fear of someone running into them from behind, or flinging a car door open leaving them no time to react. …
“A healthy city is a diverse city, and a diverse city offers transportation options to its citizens. We realized that we're an organization that is here to advocate and educate cyclists, and we're based in the capital of Virginia. Why not leverage that and help explain why these laws are important to legislators so that cyclists across the commonwealth can benefit?”
How they voted
Here is how senators voted Tuesday on “SB 1060 Following too closely; includes bicycles, mopeds, etc., increases minimum clearance.”
The bill passed on a vote of 30-Y, 9-N.
YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Blevins, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McDougle, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, Newman, Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Reeves, Saslaw, Smith, Stosch, Vogel, Wagner – 30.
NAYS – Carrico, Garrett, Marsh, Martin, Obenshain, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Watkins – 9.
NOT VOTING – Black – 1.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
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