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.