Saturday, February 11, 2017

Action Alert: Support Pro-Bike Bills in the Virginia House of Delegates



Update: On February 15, the Criminal Laws Subcommittee of the House Court of Justice Committee tabled (killed) SB 1339 on an unrecorded party line vote, while on February 13 Subcommittee #1 of the House Transportation Committee killed SB 1338 on a 3-4 vote.  Thus, both bills are now dead for 2017.  Delegate Rich Anderson (R, HD-51) helped kill SB 1338, while the three Republicans listed below (Delegates Dave Albo, Todd Gilbert, and Jackson Miller) helped kill SB 1339.  Ask these legislators to support future legislation to better protect pedestrians and bicyclists from irresponsible motorists. 

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Two bicycling-friendly bills, filed for the 2017 Virginia General Assembly by Senator Scott Surovell of Northern Virginia (D, Senate District 36), were passed by the Virginia Senate and are now before the Virginia House of Delegates.  

SB 1338 would establish a traffic infraction when a motorist drives in a bicycle lane to pass or attempt to pass another vehicle.  (This bill also generally prohibits motor-vehicle and moped travel in a bicycle lane for the first time).   The Virginia Senate passed SB 1338 on a 23-17 vote, with only four Republicans voting in favor.

SB 1339 would establish a traffic infraction when a careless or distracted motorist is the proximate cause of serious physical injury to a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other “vulnerable road user”, as defined in this bill.   The Virginia Senate passed SB 1339 on a 21-19 vote, with only two Republicans voting in favor.

On Monday, both SB 1338 and SB 1339 were heard by the seven-member Subcommittee #1 of the House Transportation Committee.   As recorded here, Subcommittee #1 failed to report SB 1338 to the full House Transportation Committee on a 3-4 vote.  Thus, unless someone (such as Del. Anderson) who voted against reporting SB 1338 changes his mind and asks that SB 1338 be reconsidered in the full Transportation Committee, SB 1338 is now dead.  If SB 1338 is miraculously resurrected I will update this post.

Subcommittee #1 recommended that SB 1339 be referred to the House Courts of Justice Committee, so SB 1339 is still alive.  The Courts of Justice Committee meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons, so SB 1339 may go before that committee in a few days.

The House Courts of Justice Committee members from Northern Virginia are listed below.  Please call or email one or more of these delegates as soon as possible to ask them to support SB 1339.

Del. Dave Albo (Chair), R, HD-42 (Springfield), 804-698-1042, DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov
Del. Jackson Miller, R, HD-50 (Manassas), 804-698-1050, DelJMiller@house.virginia.gov
Del. Vivian Watts, D, HD-39 (Annandale), 804-698-1039, DelVWatts@house.virginia.gov
Del. Charniele Herring, D, HD-46 (Alexandria), 804-698-1046, DelCHerring@house.virginia.gov
Del. Patrick Hope, D, HD-47 (Arlington), 804-698-1047, DelPHope@house.virginia.gov
Del. Paul Krizek, D, HD-44 (Mount Vernon), 804-698-1044, DelPKrizek@house.virginia.gov
Del. Todd Gilbert, R, HD-15 (Woodstock), 804-698-1015, DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov


A short and simple request to support SB 1339 should suffice.  Please include your home address and contact information, so they know you are a constituent or live near their district.  Here’s a sample message:

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Subject: Support SB 1339

Dear Delegate xxxxxxxxx,

Please vote for SB 1339, which was just referred to the House Courts of Justice Committee.   SB 1339 would hold a careless or distracted motorist accountable when his or her negligence causes serious injury to a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other “vulnerable road user”.

As a [name of county] resident, I would greatly appreciate your support for this simple and straightforward traffic-law improvement, to help make me and my family safer when we travel by foot or bicycle.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Your Street Address
Your City, VA Zipcode


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.