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Tell Maryland Transportation Authority to Include The Bike-Ped Path on the New US301 “Nice” Bridge

Bike path on new US301 "Nice" bridge

Photo via smnewsnet.com

The Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, where US301 crosses the Potomac, is slated for replacement starting in 2020. The new bridge was to include a bike-ped path, but now the Maryland Transportation Authority wants to omit it.

Bike Maryland has issued an action alert with a link for you to submit your comment, by 2/20:

https://www.bikemaryland.org/support/?page=CiviCRM&q=civicrm/mailing/view&reset=1&id=509

Please submit your comment, and get others to do the same, especially if they live in Maryland. [click to continue…]

Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban Passed by House — Help Get It Through the Senate Now

Lots of action with HB181 (the Distracted Driving bill that would restrict the use of hand held communication devices by drivers) on the House Floor on Tuesday, the last day prior to Cross Over.

After sailing along rather smoothly, the bill initially FAILED by a 47-53 vote. This was followed by a Motion to Reconsider, which carried and was followed by a 2nd vote on the bill which PASSED by 50-47, as a number of delegates changed their votes.

With all of this, the bill now goes on to the Senate where it has been assigned to their Courts of Justice Committee, where it probably will be heard on Monday, 2/19 at 8 a.m.

As we try to make sense of all of this, we note that we have a popular R patron in the person of Del. Chris Collins from Winchester, a former law enforcement officer, now an attorney, carrying a bill that appears to have solid R support in a Senate Committee that has 9 R’s & 6 D’s. With the only members of this committee from the Richmond area being:

We certainly want to urge their support of this bill.

Additionally we have several long time supporters of our bike & pedestrian safety agenda on this committee who we should also request the continued support of. This group includes:

Lets have everyone making some contacts (today & tomorrow, prior to the weekend, will be most effective) and see if we can weather this unusual turbulence and get HB181 onto the Senate floor and eventually passed.

URGENT: Support HB181, Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban — Advocacy Update #8

Update: HB181 was passed by the House. Please help get it through the Senate. A little push may be all we need!

As we approach Crossover on 2/13 (when bills that have passed the House or Senate cross over to the other house) we are left with only one major bill still alive, but it is a very important one to us. HB181, which establishes a charge of Improper Driving for a driver who drives while using a handheld personal communication device causing him to drive in a negligent manner, which does not endanger the life, limb or property of another, originally cleared the House Courts Committee by a 15-3 vote and went on to the House floor. After its first reading on the floor, it was sent back to the Courts committee, where it was re-worked (here’s what it looks like now) and then sent back to the floor by an 11-6 vote.

Close examination shows that Del. Yancey’s HB1525 prohibiting the use of a cell phone in a work zone was added in as well as some other changes that I think actually improved the bill (not always the case when a bill is sent back to a committee). Now we’ll see how the bill fares on the floor Monday and Tuesday prior to crossing over to the Senate which must happen by Wednesday.

Once again, its time for everyone to contact their Delegate. Urge them to support HB181, the Distracted Driving bill, on the House floor.

Once we can get this bill over to the Senate Transportation Committee, we will have to contact Senators Ryan McDougle (Hanover county) and Bill DeSteph (Virginia Beach) asking their support. With an R patron in the person of Del. Chris Collins of Winchester, we have a good chance at getting this bill through the Senate, if we can get it out of the Trans Comm. But first, we have to get out of the House as mentioned above. Contact your delegate first and then be ready for the next step on Monday or Tuesday. [click to continue…]

ACTION ALERT — Support HB181, Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban

A BIG win in the fight to reduce Distracted Driving on Friday afternoon in House Courts of Justice Subcommittee 1 as Del. Collins’ HB181 was reported out on a 5-1 vote, with only Del. Cline (who is presently involved in a run for the U.S. Congress seat currently held by Robert Goodlatte) opposed.

Janet Brooking of Drive Smart Virginia has been leading this fight for a number of years, and I cite her message below in its entirety. All of the SubComm 1 members are also on the full House Courts Committee, which will be hearing this bill on Monday 1/2 hour after House floor adjournment (usually about 1:15 p.m.) and can be expected to vote the same way in the full committee.

If you note your delegate on this committee, please feel free to call or EMail their  office over the weekend asking their  support of this bill.

In anticipation of this bill being reported to the House floor, please look up your Delegate’s phone number and email at Who’s my Legislator? on the virginiageneralassembly.gov website and be ready to ask their support once this bill is reported.

This is the furthest a bill like this has gotten in the 9 years Janet and a number of us have been working on it, so lets see if we can get it all the way across the finish line this time!

Janet’s Message:

Delegate Chris Collins HB181 has been chosen as the vehicle for all of the distracted driving bills that were introduced by house members this year. A house courts subcommittee spent significant time working through the bill language and there were some substitutes that have not yet been posted. However, the overall scope of the bill remains the same. It provides that any person who drives a vehicle on any highway while using a handheld personal communications device where such use substantially diverts the driver’s attention from the operation of the vehicle is guilty of improper driving. This is punishable as a traffic infraction with a fine of not more than $500.

This bill will be heard in full House Courts on MONDAY so IF one of the following Delegates is your representative, please make your best effort to reach out to them before noon on Monday.

Bell, Habeeb, Kilgore, Cline, Gilbert, Leftwich, Adams, Campbell, Collins, Miyares, Watts, Toscano, Herring, Hope, Mullin, Bourne, Simon, Foy

 Use this link to locate their phone number and email address:http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php.  (You can also use the Who’s My Legislator page.)

How you can help?

  1. If one of the above is your Delegate, PLEASE reach out to them and share your support for strengthening our existing texting law to a hand held ban. As them to SUPPORT HB181.
  1. Forward this email to friends, coworkers, members. This is a growing health epidemic. The public supports stronger laws. We need to let our legislators hear from you all!

Thank you!

Janet Brooking 
Executive Director
DRIVE SMART Virginia
720 Moorefield Park Drive, Suite 201
Richmond, VA 23236
Cell: (804) 929-6117  |  Office: (804) 323-3200
www.drivesmartva.orgfacebook.com/drivesmartva twitter.com/drivesmartva

Advocacy Update #5

Bright & early (actually rainy, with snow flakes lightly falling & still dark) on Tuesday, 1/30 in House Trans Sub 1, Del. Vivian Watts from Fairfax did her usual nice job of presenting. This time it was HB308 which would make it illegal for a motor vehicle to pass another motor vehicle by crossing over a solid line designating a bike lane. Since she is a D, her bill met the fate we have regularly been seeing, being passed by indefinitely (PBI’d) by a 6-4 vote along party lines.

Since this 7 a.m. SubCom meeting is immediately followed by the full House Trans meeting at 8:30, we then were slated to hear HB428 carried by Del. Danny Marshall of Danville which would establish a minimum speed limit of 45 mph on all limited access highways in the state. Since the patron was not present, the bill was carried over to the next meeting of the Committee which is on Thursday, 2/1 at 8:30. Since this bill, if it were to pass, carries many unintended consequences with it, barring farm vehicles and other slow moving vehicles (in addition to bicycles, mopeds, and some slow moving delivery vehicles) from a number of highway sections where they are now permitted, we would like to see it defeated and will be there to oppose it when it next is heard.

At the request of the Patron, the bill was pulled from the docket, thereby killing it and saving Champe the trouble of having to speak against it in the Committee on Thursday, 2/1.

On Wednesday, 1/31, Senate Trans full committee & House Courts Sub Comm 1 were both scheduled at 1/2 hour after adjournment (but after the House & Senate, which did adjourn at different times). Senate Trans convened first and Sen. Adam Ebbins’ SB919 which provides that a motor vehicle driver whose carelessness causes serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user would be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor was heard late in the docket. Despite a good presentation, the bill met the fate of so many others in that committee that had been patroned by D’s as it was PBI’d 7-6 on a straight party line vote.

Due to the House adjourning later than the Senate, House Courts Sub 1 started later and eventually began discussing the group of 7 Distracted Driving bills that had been assigned to this Sub Comm. Since this committee was chaired by Del. Rob Bell of Albemarle, and contains Todd Gilbert & Ben Cline, three of the House’s heaviest hitters (all R’s) it is well known that if you can clear this committee, you have an excellent chance of getting the bill passed. It was extremely encouraging to hear Del. Bell state that in the years that he had been hearing bills like these he had come around to supporting them as he has recognized that Distracted Driving is a serious problem and that perhaps the time has come to prohibit cell phone usage by drivers, except when hands free, in Virginia.

Noting that the seven bills filed all differed, and that additional work was needed to “get the legislation right” before sending it forward. He was designating Del.Chris Collins’ (a Republican from Winchester, who has previously been a law enforcement officer and now is an attorney) bills HB180 & HB181 as the core bills to go forward from this sub comm after being improved. He then asked anyone in the audience which of the bills they favored or would like to see improved and the committee heard from all who testified. Then significant time was spent with the patrons of all the bills, several law enforcement officers present, the Commonwealth Attorneys rep., Committee members, and the Committee’s staff attorneys all fielding questions and debating back and forth as the surviving bills were then scheduled to be heard at this committee’s next meeting on Friday, 2/2, 1/2 hour after adjournment of the House. I look forward to attending that meeting, not to testify, but to observe the most thorough treatment of a bill I have been interested in I have ever experienced and to see what the final product of all this work looks like. I am really optimistic that whatever is reported out on Friday will be a bi-partisan bill that has a great chance of passage by the House, and then hopefully, also by the Senate.

Advocacy Update #4 — Cell Phone Ban, Minimum Speed Limits

With Senate Trans & Courts of Justice both scheduled at exactly the same 15 minutes after adjournment (which turned out to be 1:45 on 1/24), I opted to attend Courts since Surovell’s SB74/Prohibiting the use of Handheld Personal Communication Devices while Driving had been re-referred there after starting out in Trans and being sent on to the floor by an encouraging 9-4 vote and now being bounced back to Courts. We had to hear several other bills first in Courts since Sen. Surovell was also carrying the much publicized “Driver Cards for Immigrants” bill across the hall in Trans and their chair wanted him on first in order to thin out the crowd in the packed wall to wall room. After going down to defeat over there for the third year in a row (this year by a party line 7-6), into Courts he comes where he is called upon next.

Since he’s also carried this bill previously, he does an excellent job of presenting it, citing the increase in motorist, pedestrian, and cyclist fatalities over the past two years, (generally considered to be due to the increase in distracted driving) and being followed by my testimony in support, that of the mother of a victim, representatives of law enforcement, Drive Smart Virginia, Triple A, Geico, and several individuals, the vote is called for. Once again, the bill is defeated, this time 11 – 4 as several D’s fail to support it, and one R does, leaving us to ask a few senators what their problem is with the bill. As expected, our local senators, McDougle (Hanover), Sturtevant (Richmond), & Peake (Goochland) all opposed the bill.

Now some time to kill prior to House Trans Sub3 at 4 p.m. where HB428 carried by Del. Danny Marshall of Danville which would apply a Minimum Speed Limit of 45 mph to all Primary Roads will be heard. Another small meeting room , but this time not overly crowded. Del. Marshall, who proudly has a reputation as a race car driver has carried similar bills previously where he has stated that he has come upon from behind and almost hit mo-peds on Rt. 58 and therefore wants to get them off the road. After some discussion he offered to change the language in his bill from “primary highways” (which would include such roads in this area as Broad St., Brook Rd., & Patterson Ave.) to “limited access highways” (Chippenham Parkway, Rt.288, Willey Bridge, etc.) which the Commonwealth Transportation Board already has the authority to prohibit certain types of vehicle from. With this amendment, we had no objection to the bill, and it reported unanimously.

That being enough for the day, we departed to spend a little time checking to see if we had any bills remaining that we were concerned about as our list is getting short, and we’ll have to check to see if we have anything listed in the next few days.

Advocacy Update 3

As reported over the weekend, a Dangerous Dogs bill, HB271/carried by Mark Cole, which increases some of the requirements for owners of dogs that are declared to be dangerous was heard in House Agriculture, Sub committee 1 Monday at 4:30. As with several of the sub committee meeting venues in the Pocahontas Building, the rooms are small and this meeting was packed wall to wall with interested people, with several waiting outside who couldn’t get in. Fortunately for Champe & me, it was heard first, and Del. Cole gave it a good presentation, citing an incident where one of his constituents in the Fredericksburg area had been injured by a dangerous dog which had gotten away from its owner, so the bill was intended to tighten up some of the conditions of the Dangerous Dogs Registry and prevent this type of situation.

As the situation was similar to the incident we had on Jordan Drive in Henrico county with several RABA rides, resulting in Pat Reddington being severely bitten, by the pit bull we eventually had cited and registered on the Dangerous Dogs Registry, I testified in favor of the bill.

After a woman from an SPCA group testified that better enforcement of the existing conditions of the Registry would be sufficient to handle such incidents, and several members of the dog sympathetic committee agreed with her, the bill failed by a unanimous 8-0 vote.

This morning, House Transportation SubCommittee 1 met at 7 a.m. and ALL the bills on its docket but one were Passed by Indefinitely (PBI’d or killed) on straight, party line votes, with all the R’s voting to PBI; all of the D’s opposed. Included in the bills that failed were–

HB9/Krizek & HB1272/Watts slightly different bills that would require ALL occupants of a passenger vehicle to utilize seat belts when the vehicle is moving, with failure to do so a primary offense

HB207/Mullin A penalty for operating a vehicle after failing to clear accumulated snow or ice from it, as is the law in most states to the north of here

HB811/O’Quinn A penalty for motor vehicles traveling at “slower than normal speed for existing conditions” if they are not in the far right lane

HB464/Carter Driver must STOP for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk

All of these bills were well presented, and were fully discussed, with speakers (including Champe Burnley for the Pedestrians in Crosswalks) speaking in support, but all were PBI’d on party line votes.

The only bill still surviving is HB308/Watts which would prohibit motor vehicles from passing in bike lanes. After extensive discussion, including my support, she requested, and was granted, that it be Passed By for the Day, so she can change some of the language prior to it being brought back and heard at the next meeting of the SubCommittee.

Since the hearing of these bills in SubComm took right up to about 8:15, the rest of the members of the Full Committee joined the SubComm members to make up the full House Trans Comm for their docket which was scheduled for 8:30. Those of us who make the trip down there are thrilled to now have the SubComm1 on Tuesday (rather than Monday, as previously, for a number of years) and have it be followed by the Full Committee meeting, thereby saving one early morning trip.

Since the entire docket consisted of routine matters, it went very quickly,

with the following bills referred to other committees — HB672/Kilgore Suspension of License for unsatisfied Judgments to Courts; HB1021/ Adams, LR Use of speed monitoring systems in school crossing zones to Militia & Police; HB134/Bell, John Raise minimum cost requiring Value Engineering from $5 to 15 million to General Laws; HB59/Bell, John, Use of Practical Design Methods to General Laws

and two license plate bills, a naming of a bridge, and a naming of a section of highway being handled reported out routinely.

Now we look forward to Senate Trans Tomorrow which appears to have only the two Value Engineering bills SB117/Favola & SB125/Black of interest to us, as we try to make sure that Bike/Ped components of highway projects don’t get “Value Engineered” out of the projects in an effort to save money.

Advocacy Report — Week 1

As reported Wednesday, extreme partisanship returned as a backlash to Governor Northam’s speech, with the result that three of the bills we were interested in FAILED by party line votes of 6 – 7 in Senate Transportation, as the word had been put out to kill any bills carried by D patrons.

In this category were SB46/Favola Stop for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk

SB87/Surovell Providing a penalty for a motorist who injures a vulnerable road user

SB88/Surovell No passing by a motor vehicle in a bike lane

Surprisingly, SB74/Surovell expanding the prohibition on using a handheld personal communication device while operating a motor vehicle unless it is being operated in a hands free manner was reported on to the Senate floor by a 9-4 vote, as Republican Sens. Chase, Cosgrove, & DeSteph crossed the party line, which was a tribute to Drive Smart Virginia’s Janet Brooking who had lined up a strong supporting contingent including Triple A & Geico in addition to VBF.

On Thursday, in Senate Agriculture, Champe Burnley was representing us and surprisingly was the only one speaking against SB375/Chafin which was to permit Sunday hunting of deer & bear. In the past, Garden club, Equestrian groups, & other conservation oriented groups have also opposed such legislation, but this year were conspicuous by their absence. For some reason, another bill carried by Sen. Kilgore was rolled into this one, which only permits Sunday hunting of raccoons, and the amended bill was reported on to the floor by 14-0. Raccoons are generally hunted at night, but there is no day time prohibition in this bill so it appears to be a classic “camel’s nose under the tent” for Sunday hunting, which the hunters have been trying to get for a number of years.

Additionally, we noticed a Dangerous Dogs bill, HB271/Mark Cole which increases some of the requirements for owners of dogs that are declared to be dangerous. This bill will be in House Agriculture, Sub committee 1 which meets Monday at 4:30. With a Republican patron, it stands a good chance of being reported, but you can never be sure with dog bills, and we will see on Monday. I expect that this meeting will be streamed for those who may want to watch it. It’s a little tricky to find the links to the committee broadcasts on the legislative home page, but they are there, and its a huge improvement over previous years!vAs reported Wednesday, extreme partisanship returned as a backlash to Governor Northam’s speech, with the result that three of the bills we were interested in FAILED by party line votes of 6 – 7 in Senate Transportation, as the word had been put out to kill any bills carried by D patrons.

In this category were SB46/Favola Stop for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk

SB87/Surovell Providing a penalty for a motorist who injures a vulnerable road user

SB88/Surovell No passing by a motor vehicle in a bike lane

Surprisingly, SB74/Surovell expanding the prohibition on using a handheld personal communication device while operating a motor vehicle unless it is being operated in a hands free manner was reported on to the Senate floor by a 9-4 vote, as Republican Sens. Chase, Cosgrove, & DeSteph crossed the party line, which was a tribute to Drive Smart Virginia’s Janet Brooking who had lined up a strong supporting contingent including Triple A & Geico in addition to VBF.

On Thursday, in Senate Agriculture, Champe Burnley was representing us and surprisingly was the only one speaking against SB375/Chafin which was to permit Sunday hunting of deer & bear. In the past, Garden club, Equestrian groups, & other conservation oriented groups have also opposed such legislation, but this year were conspicuous by their absence. For some reason, another bill carried by Sen. Kilgore was rolled into this one, which only permits Sunday hunting of raccoons, and the amended bill was reported on to the floor by 14-0. Raccoons are generally hunted at night, but there is no day time prohibition in this bill so it appears to be a classic “camel’s nose under the tent” for Sunday hunting, which the hunters have been trying to get for a number of years.

Additionally, we noticed a Dangerous Dogs bill, HB271/Mark Cole which increases some of the requirements for owners of dogs that are declared to be dangerous. This bill will be in House Agriculture, Sub committee 1 which meets Monday at 4:30. With a Republican patron, it stands a good chance of being reported, but you can never be sure with dog bills, and we will see on Monday. I expect that this meeting will be streamed for those who may want to watch it. It’s a little tricky to find the links to the committee broadcasts on the legislative home page, but they are there, and its a huge improvement over previous years!

Today’s Senate Transportation Committee Meeting

…just concluded at 4:33 p.m.

For the first time, all were able to follow the proceedings as they were streamed, without being there, and Champe Burnley was there in person to testify on several of the bills. In order to get the streamed coverage of sessions, click on the link for the session you are interested in on the home page of the General Assembly website. It’s really helpful!

Of the bills we were interested in, it was encouraging that

SB74, carried by Scott Surovell, which expands the prohibition on using a handheld personal communication device while operating a motor vehicle unless it is being operated in a hands free manner PASSED by a 9-4 vote

Three of the other bills we were interested in FAILED by a 6-7 vote, along party lines, with the D’s voting for & the R’s against. These bills included

SB46/Favola STOP for a pedestrian in a marked Crosswalk

SB87/Surovell this year’s Vulnerable Road User bill, which was opposed by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Assn. rep. who this week is from Emporia

SB88/Surovell No passing by a motor vehicle driving in a bike lane

Two other bills we were interested in also Failed

SB97/Marsden No person shall operate a moving motor vehicle with an animal on their lap Failed to receive a motion to report

SB744/Barker Requiring Seat belts to be used & fastened while in the back seat of moving vehicles Failed 9-3

Annual Meeting Rescheduled to Saturday, December 16

Varina Library -- Henrico, VA

Varina Library — Henrico, VA


We have rescheduled the VBF Annual Meeting to Saturday, December 16 from 10am to 3pm at the Varina Library, 1875 New Market Rd, Henrico, VA 23231.

We will hold the business meeting from 10 until noon, then John Bolecek from VDOT will be giving you an update.

The library is located across the street from the VA Capital Trail.

For those who can stick around, we’ll plan a ride on the trail after the meeting.

I look forward to seeing you.

–Champe