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.
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Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
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State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
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Norfolk man arrested at RIC after TSA catches him with gun

A Norfolk man was arrested at Richmond International Airport May 18 after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the traveler’s carry-on bag.

A TSA officer detected the .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun inside the man’s carry-on bag as it passed through the security checkpoint X-ray machine. The handgun was loaded with 13 bullets.
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Police release photo of hoax bomb

Henrico Police have released a photo of the clock that resembled a bomb that led to the arrest of a Richmond woman in Shot Pump earlier this week.

The device, which the woman told police she purchased at a yard sale, was visible in her car at the Whole Foods at West Broad Village May 19, and a passerby called police, fearing it was a real bomb. Police responded as they would have had the device been real, they said, because they weren't sure if it was real or not.
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Henrico school buses with compliance issue to be fixed this summer


The 176 Henrico school buses that have been purchased since March 2011 will be fixed during the summer, Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks told the Citizen. The bus manufacturers will retrofit the buses at no cost to the school division, he said.

The brake interlock device is required on all automatic transmission buses in Virginia that were purchased after March 2011, which is when the device was added to the state Board of Education's requirements for school buses. As many as 4,000 school buses in the state may be affected, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
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May 2017
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The Museum District Association’s 23rd annual Mother’s Day House & Garden Tour will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The tour provides a rare opportunity for guests to go inside some of Richmond’s most beautiful and historic homes, gardens and institutions. The hospitality center is located at the Virginia Historical Society. A tour trolley will run continuously between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tour proceeds benefit non-profit agencies in the Richmond area and help protect and beautify this historic neighborhood. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of. For details, visit http://www.museumdistrict.org. Full text

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