Photo by 50mm_Streettog on Flickr.
The Virginia legislature is gearing up for its annual session. Each year is an opportunity for the legislature to fix some of the ways state law fails to provide even some of the most basic protections for cyclists, protections which exist in most other states.
For example, Virginia has no law requiring drivers to “exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or the operator of a human-powered vehicle,” and is one of only 4 states without this rule. Even though police in most jurisdictions with the rule rarely ticket or investigate drivers who hit pedestrians and cyclists, it should be a no-brainer to at least make it illegal to recklessly hit someone.
Likewise, Virginia has a rule against “tailgating” other motor vehicles, but not cyclists. Both proposals failed last year, with Delegate Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) casting a deciding vote against them. Constituents should urge her to support these bills, which are really the very least Virginia could do to protect vulnerable road users.
“Dooring” bill isn’t quirky, it’s essential
Senator “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax) has introduced a “dooring” bill to make Virginia law match Maryland, DC and many other states. In those places, it’s a driver’s or car passenger’s responsibility to make sure when they open a door, it’s not right in the path of a cyclist or other “moving traffic” (but really, it’s cyclists). In Virginia, there’s no requirement to be careful when opening a door, which means that if someone doors a cyclist, police can cite the cyclist for hitting the door instead.
Unfortunately, a Post article on “quirky proposals” in the legislative session highlights this one, even in the first paragraph. Reporter Errin Haines mentions this bill in more detail shortly after quoting Speaker William Howell talking about how he keeps a file of “the stupidest bills.”
It’s perhaps understandable that one might not immediately know the reason for the bill by reading the legislative summary, but this is actually an important issue that the legislature needs to take seriously.
If Route 1 has to be too wide, leave room for cyclists, too
WABA is also asking Virginians to submit comments on the Route 1 widening in southern Fairfax. Alex Eidson explained many of the problems with the proposal from an urban design standpoint, but as long as they’re going ahead, the new road could at least safely accommodate bicyclists.
As Allen Muchnick explains, the original EIS for the road, which is basically the only way to bike through the Fort Belvoir area, had 15-foot curb lanes, enough for cars and bikes to share the space side by side. However, the Federal Highway Administration reduced this to only 14 feet.
Bike advocates would like to restore 15 feet, and stripe the lane as a 10-foot regular lane and a 5-foot bike lane. You can send comments using this WABA form.