Sunday, January 8, 2017

Statement to Prince William County Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly, January 7, 2017







Photo courtesy of Mike Beaty
 Prince William County Delegation,
 to the Virginia General Assembly
Public Hearing for the 2017 Legislative Session, 
January 7, 2017
Statement by Allen Muchnick, 
Virginia Bicycling Federation board member


Good afternoon.  I’m Allen Muchnick, a board member of both the Virginia Bicycling Federation and Active Prince William.  Active Prince William was founded one year ago to advance bicycling, walking, and public transportation in Prince William County and greater Manassas.

For the past eight years, the Virginia Bicycling Federation has sought to improve justice for bicyclists injured by negligent motorists.  As a result, the General Assembly has modified Virginia’s traffic laws to finally prohibit motorists from following or passing a bicyclist too closely and from carelessly opening the driver’s door of a parked vehicle into the path of approaching traffic. While we appreciate these long-needed changes, more must be done to hold careless and distracted motorists accountable for their negligence.

Last year, Senator Surovell and Delegate Sullivan each introduced bills to charge a careless or distracted motorist with a Class 1 misdemeanor and to suspend their driver’s license for one to three years if their negligence is “the proximate cause of serious physical injury to a vulnerable road user.” Although both bills died in committee last year, we are pleased that both legislators will file similar bills this year.  Delegate Sullivan’s new bill is HB 1633.  We ask the entire Prince William County delegation to endorse both bills as co-patrons.

Distracted driving due to handheld electronic devices has been a growing cause of traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths for well over a decade.  We strongly support Senator Surovell’s SB 860, which would generally prohibit the manual operation of a handheld personal communications device while driving a motor vehicle and would establish a reckless driving charge if a violation of this new prohibition is concurrent with an additional traffic offense or if the violation results in a crash.  We ask the Prince William County delegation to strongly support this bill as well.

Senator Surovell has also prefiled a bill to establish a reckless driving charge for motorists who pass, or attempt to pass, another vehicle by driving in a bicycle lane.  We fully support that bill and would also support a reckless driving charge when a motorist passes another same-direction-motorist who is stopped at a marked crosswalk for pedestrian or bicycle traffic.

In 2015 and 2016, bills were filed to not reduce highway maintenance payments to municipalities that have implemented road diets, whereby the space occupied by one or more conventional travel lanes is reallocated to create one or more bike lanes.  Road diets are widely used, including in Northern Virginia, to effectively retrofit bike lanes while simultaneously improving a road’s capacity and safety for motorists; they should not be discouraged with counterproductive disincentives.  We expect Delegate Villanueva to carry the road diet bill this year, and we ask you to endorse it as co-patrons.  Cities, including Manassas and Manassas Park, would benefit significantly from this legislation.

Thank you for considering my requests, and best wishes for a productive legislative session.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Statement to Manassas City Council for Bike-to-Work Day 2015



Manassas City Council Meeting Citizens’ Time
Statement by Allen Muchnick
Monday, May 11, 2015

Good evening Mayor Parrish, City Council members, and City Manager Pate.  I’m Allen Muchnick, and I live on Park St in the City of Manassas.

I’m speaking to help publicize--and to encourage everyone to attend--the downtown Manassas Bike to Work Day pit stop which will be held this Friday, May 15th, outside the Manassas VRE station from 6 to 9 AM.   This annual event promotes the practicality and many personal and societal benefits of bicycling for purposeful transportation, both as a standalone mode and in combination with public transportation, ridesharing, or driving partway alone.  Bicycling is healthy, affordable, energy efficient, nonpolluting, requires minimal government resources, can reduce traffic and parking congestion, particularly at special events, and--most of all--is fun. 

In metropolitan Washington, Bike to Work Day is organized jointly by the Commuter Connections program of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board at COG and by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.    Over the past 15 years, this regional event has grown tremendously.  This Friday’s event will include 79 local pit stops--35 throughout Northern Virginia--and is forecast to attract 19,000 registrants.  Participation is free but advance registration at biketoworkmetrodc.org is required to receive a free event T-shirt and be eligible for other prizes.  Our local Manassas VRE station pit stop is graciously sponsored by Historic Manassas Inc.

Nearly one year ago, I moved to the City of Manassas because our city is considerably more bike friendly than the surrounding communities in Prince William County.   Over the years, the City has built upon the inherent bikeability of Manassas’ neighborhood street grid by signing bike routes on low-traffic streets, by installing bike lanes and sharrows on certain arterial roadways, and by building some shared-use paths; however, continued progress is needed to make our city more hospitable for bicycling.

One glaring deficiency for Manassas bicycling is the general lack of convenient, secure, and properly designed bike parking racks at locations throughout Manassas, including at most government buildings and at nearly every business establishment.   Bicycling for utilitarian trips is less feasible without convenient and suitable bike parking facilities, and most of the bike racks I have seen near the VRE station, at the rear of the Town Hall building, and at Manassas City schools are poorly designed.  Fortunately, well-designed bike parking racks are relatively inexpensive, and excellent bike parking design guidelines are posted at apbp.org, the website of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.   

I ask the City Manager and Council to allocate some modest funding to install quality bike parking racks at public facilities in the City and to encourage the appropriate integration of bike parking accommodations in future private development projects.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bike-Related Bills in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly



Manassas-Area Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly
Public Hearing for the 2015 Legislative Session, January 8, 2015
Statement by Allen Muchnick, Virginia Bicycling Federation board member

Good evening, legislators.  I’m Allen Muchnick, a long-time Northern Virginian, now living in the City of Manassas.   I’ve followed the General Assembly in several capacities for two decades, but I’m speaking tonight only on bicycle-related legislation.

For the past six years, the Virginia Bicycling Federation has sought to improve justice for bicyclists injured by negligent motorists by proposing minor changes to conform a few Virginia traffic laws to those of most other states.   While our proposed changes are simple, straightforward, and nonpartisan, they’ve repeatedly encountered unwarranted partisan opposition.   Please help ensure that this doesn’t happen again this year.

A one-word change to Virginia’s “Following Too Closely” law, Code of Virginia § 46.2-816, would cover bicyclists and other road users not inside a motor vehicle when rear-ended by a negligent following motorist.   In 2014, HB 82, patroned by now-Congresswoman Comstock and co-patroned by Delegates Lopez, Hugo, and Rust, passed in the House with only 28 Nays, but was killed in the Senate Transportation Committee, which had previously reported similar legislation in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  For 2015, the same legislation will be patroned by Delegate Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach as HB 1342 and separately in a Senate Bill by Senator Bryce Reeves of Fredericksburg.   Thank you, Senator Colgan, for supporting this legislation on four separate occasions.   I ask Delegate Miller to support this legislation in the House.

Virginia remains one of a handful of states that does not prohibit motor vehicle occupants from opening a vehicle door “adjacent to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so.”  SB 882 patroned by Senator Chap Petersen would create a simple $100 traffic infraction, not subject to driver demerit points and not applicable to emergency responders, for doing so.  In 2013 and 2014, similar bills were passed by the Senate, only to be killed in House Transportation.   With bike lanes adjacent to parking lanes in many urban communities in Virginia, a law that requires auto occupants to look for traffic before opening their door is more important than ever.  Thank you, Senator Colgan, for supporting this legislation in the past.  Please support SB 882 this year.

In 2014, Virginia finally enacted a simple Code change that requires drivers to a leave a three-foot or wider buffer whenever passing a bicyclist.   This year, Senators Alexander and Reeves will each file bills to allow drivers to carefully cross a double-yellow line to pass a pedestrian, a human-powered device, or a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, something that’s already a common Virginia driving practice.  Please support this simple and practical legislation.  The number of Senator Alexander’s bill is SB 781.

Finally, please support HB 1402, patroned by Delegate Loupassi, which would not reduce highway maintenance payments to localities that have implemented road diets, whereby the space occupied by two conventional travel lanes is reallocated as two bike lanes plus, typically, a two-way-left-turn lane.  Road diets have been an effective tool for retrofitting bike lanes in Northern Virginia while improving capacity and safety for motor vehicles and should not be discouraged.

Thank you for considering my requests, and best wishes for a productive legislative session.