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Report from the General Assembly #4, Thurs. Jan. 19, 2017

The meeting of the House Transportation Committee at 8:30 this morning led off with a 40 minute, very thorough and well presented briefing by Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne on how the construction project selection process under the House Bill 2 rules has been working. The Committee members and spectators all were impressed by the way the Secretary handled the briefing, as well as the way things seem to be working, which most felt was a big improvement over the way the Commonwealth Transportation Board had operated previously.

The briefing concluded, Chairman Villanueva proceeded to address the bills on the Docket, requesting that his HB 1606 bill (prohibiting the use by a driver of a hand held communication device in a work zone) be passed by for the day, which means it should be on the Docket along with his HB2021 (trail permitted on the unused light rail right of way between Va. Beach & Norfolk) & HB 2016 (Drone vehicles permitted on sidewalks and trails) at the Committee meeting next Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

Then he called for his other bill, HB 2023 (the Maintenance Reimbursement bill) to be heard, asking Del. Garrett seated next to him to take over, while he came down front to present the bill, which he did after a very short preamble. A very few questions from the Committee members with only Del. Minchew of Loudoun making some comments in a negative vein. Then the call for any supporting the bill to step up, which was answered by Brian Solis, the City’s Transportation and Transit Manager, and Wayne Wilcox, the Senior Planner in the City’s Parks and Recreation Dept. (both of whom had made the trip up from Virginia Beach), plus a young lady from Richmond who stated that both she and her husband did not have a car and rode to work and around town on their bicycles, so were very strong supporters of bike lanes. Seeing that the proceedings were going very smoothly, and having learned long ago that there was no need for additional testimony when that was the case, both Champe and I stayed in our seats.

Prior to the meeting, we had shown the “Level of Service” language in the bill (which several of our members had expressed concern about) to several knowledgeable people, all of whom felt that the language at the end that stated “or if it will be reduced that the associated roadway network will retain adequate capacity to meet current and future mobility needs of all users” would cover any problems a reduction in level of service might present. Accordingly, we decided not to try to amend the bill, but to let it sail on through, as is.

With no more testimony, the vote was called, which was posted as 20-0 for reporting the bill, later amended to 22-0 as the proxies for two committee members who were out of the room were added in. Now the bill goes on to the House floor in the next few days. It really is a pleasure to have a bill being carried by a Committee Chairman, a luxury I’ve never experienced before.

Report from the General Assembly #3, Wed., Jan. 18, 2017

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

As quiet as things were at the GAB on Friday, they were just the opposite on Monday, with several groups having their Lobby Days on the Martin Luther King Holiday. The building was packed, making it difficult for Champe & me to wade through the traffic and make our contacts, as we continued to try to line up Co-Patrons for the bills we are supporting. One thing did bother me, as a person who supports the 2nd Amendment rights, but does not see the need for citizens to have Assault Rifles, was to see several of them being carried around the building, their owners proudly stating that they had a right to do so, while sporting their “Guns Save Lives” decals. While in another area, we saw a group telling their delegate that they would like to be able to prohibit guns from being brought into their church during services, which apparently is being done at present.

Beyond that we discovered an additional bill of interest to us that had been filed by Senator George Barker of Alexandria — SB 1223 making it a Class 2 Misdemeanor to ride a bicycle, SegWay, moped, or electric power assisted bicycle on a highway while intoxicated. Wondering what the motivation for this was, his aide told us he regularly speaks to a high school Civics class in his area and gives them a project of recommending legislation that they think is needed, and why, and this is what they came up with. As we were shown the reasons, we saw several we questioned, the most notable being a citation that “21% of cycling fatalities involved intoxicated cyclists”. Since I have never seen an intoxicated cyclist, and have never heard of one being involved in a fatality, we intend to stay neutral on the bill until we hear what the arguments are. Although we think the bill is unnecessary, as intoxicated cyclists would be unlikely to hurt anyone but themselves, we certainly don’t condone or endorse intoxicated cycling, and would have difficulty taking a position against the bill.

Today being not nearly as busy at the GAB, we were able to meet with Del. Rip Sullivan and discuss his HB 1633 Vulnerable User bill, which has been assigned to the House Courts of Justice Criminal Law sub-committee, which meets on Mondays & Wednesdays, 1/2 hour after adjournment (that usually means around 1:30 to 2:00). Since it wasn’t on the docket today, we will look for it on Monday. Shortly after our meeting, we ran into Del. Jim LeMunyon, who informed us that he had signed on to the bill as a co-patron, which was very good news, balancing the Democrat patron with a Republican co-patron, and making it a bi-partisan bill, which is always helpful. Shortly after that, we got some bad news, as Sen. Bill DeSteph from Va. Beach informed us that he had declined to sign on as Co-Patron on Sen. Surovell’s similar Vulnerable User bill, SB 1339.

A little later we learned that DMV, their Medical Staff, and the patrons of the two Driver Vision Testing bills, HB 1504 & SB 1229, were making some changes to the vision requirements so the bills are being passed by until they are ready. This meant that SB 1229, which was on the docket in Senate Trans would not be heard this afternoon.

With a huge crowd of Latinos (about twice as many as the Hearing Room could hold) on hand to support SB 1345 which would permit DMV to issue Driver Privilege Cards (not a full fledged driver’s license, but which would permit the holder to have ID and drive, but not vote, as long as they showed evidence of paying taxes. After extensive discussion, the bill failed 7-6, along party lines, as the R’s obviously did not want to legitimize what they felt were “illegal aliens” that are the responsibility of the Federal government even tho many of them have been in this country as long as 20 years, driving without a license when they drive, or not being able to get around if they don’t have public transportation. Since the representative of the State Police estimated that there may be as many as 300,000 of these in the state, this problem will continue to be out there.

Once that bill was dispensed with, it wasn’t long before SB 1223 Barker’s Cycling While Intoxicated, Surovell’s SB 1338 Motor Vehicle Passing in a Bike Lane, and Dunnavant’s SB1229 Vision Testing bills were all Passed By until the next meeting. That left only Surovell’s SB 860 Prohibiting Use of Personal Communication Devices While Driving of our bills to be heard. After a good presentation by Sen. Surovell and strong support by me, Drive Smart Virginia, and several other witnesses, the bill failed by a 7-6 vote, along straight party lines as we could not get a single R to vote in favor of the bill.

Now, its on to House Transportation on Thursday morning, where we look forward to seeing Chairman Villanueva’s HB 2023 Maintenance Reimbursement & HB 1606 Prohibiting Hand Held Personal Communication Devices by Drivers In Work Zones.

Report from the General Assembly, Friday, January 13, 2017

Relatively few visitors at the GA on a Friday, so Champe Burnley and I were able to talk to a number of Legislators and Aides in a more leisurely fashion as we were making the rounds to ask them to consider signing on as Co-Patrons to Del. Villanueva’s Maintenance Reimbursement bill; Sen. Surovell’s Due Care bill, & Del. Sullivan’s similar Due Care bill.

It appears that most of the bills have now been filed, and assigned numbers, as Legislative Services is catching up to the crush of last minute filings, so that the list of the ones we are interested in looks like —-

Del. Villanueva HB 2023 Maintenance Reimbursement (We’ll see next week how many of our contacts have signed on as co-patrons — the deadline is next Friday — but I expect the list will be lengthy; I don’t get the impression that Del. Villanueva is a fan of attending sub committee meetings so wouldn’t be surprised if he, as Chairman, assigns this one directly to House Transportation Committee. We’ll see, when the Dockets are posted, over the weekend)

HB 2016 Relating to Electric Personal Delivery Devices (I warn anyone printing a copy of this one, that it is 10 pages long, with all of the definitions taking up the first 7 pages.) This bill, which addresses unoccupied, 3 wheeled, battery powered, personal delivery vehicles traveling on sidewalks and shared use paths at not more that 10 miles per hour, will certainly generate a lot of discussion, reminding me of the hearings where the Segways were being introduced a number of years ago. This time, it sounds like someone is envisioning Pizza, package, or some other kind of deliveries via these unmanned drone vehicles operating on sidewalks and trails. This one I definitely want to be there for.

Sen. Surovell SB 1339 The Vulnerable User or Due Care bill

SB 1338 Prohibiting a Motor Vehicle from Passing in a Bike Lane

SB 860 Prohibiting the Use of Hand Held Personal Communication Devices while Driving

Del. Anderson HB 1834 A similar bill to Surovell’s SB 860, but this adds a new infraction called “Distracted Driving”, which is less severe than “Reckless Driving”, to the Code.

Del. Sullivan HB 1633 a similar bill to Surovell’s SB 1339 Vulnerable User bill (This bill, which was heard in House Transportation Sub Committee 1 last year, has been assigned to a Courts of Justice subcommittee this year, so we will not see it at 7 a.m. on a Monday, but rather in the early afternoon on a Monday or Wednesday, in front of a completely different group consisting mostly of attorneys.

And we learned today that the two House bills aimed at getting drivers with poor vision off the road, have now been joined by two identical bills on the Senate side, so that we have…

Del. Fowler HB 1504 and Sen. Dunnavant SB 1229 Both increasing the required vision of new applicants for Driver’s Licenses. We learned today that there are a total of 634 machines throughout the statewide DMV offices that are used to test applicant’s horizontal field of vision, and that they would cost approx. $2.2 million to replace, which will be a serious obstacle for this proposal to overcome.

Del. Fowler HB 1514 and Sen. Dunnavant SB 1024 both of which would exempt Medical personnel from civil liability when they report persons who should not be driving to DMV. It should be noted that such reporting is voluntary, and not required, but some medical personnel do make such reports, and the feeling is that more might do so if this immunity were provided.

Report from the First Day of the 2017 Virginia General Assembly

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

A very productive opening day at the G.A., as Champe Burnley & I were able to meet with Del. Villanueva, learn that his bill to provide Maintenance Reimbursement for road diets had been filed and had received the number of HB2023. Agreeing that he would welcome co-patrons for the bill, later in the day we met with a number of legislators (or their aides) who had been co-patrons of the similar SB669 last year (which had failed at the last minute) asking them to sign on again this year as co-patrons.

We then met with Sen. Surovell, who was filing his “Due Care” and “No Passing another motor vehicle while driving in a bike lane” bills later today, at which time we expect to get those bill numbers. We learned that he had filed SB860 recently, which would prohibit usage of handheld personal communication devices while driving, which we will support.

We then met with Sen. DeSteph…  (to ask him to sign on as Co-Patron with Sen. Surovell’s “Due Care” bill)

Then we met with Del. Anderson’s aide and received a copy of his HB 1834 which adds a “Distracted Driving” offense to the section of the Code that prohibits Reckless Driving (46.2-868). This will not be a primary charge a law enforcement officer can make, but a driver charged with “Reckless Driving” could have the charge reduced by the Judge to “Distracted Driving” with a fine of $125 ($250 for 2nd offense), as is now the case with Improper Driving. As is the case with the “Due Care” bills, this will add a lesser infraction to the code for infractions that are not as severe as to warrant “Reckless Driving” which has traditionally been considered a very severe charge in this state. We will certainly support this bill, as Del. Anderson continues to work hard to legislatively address the problems caused by distracted drivers.

Along the way, we met with Del. Fowler and discussed HB 1504 & HB 1514, the two bills attempting to get drivers with poor vision off the road that he had filed at the request of Dr. Ed Wortham (an ophthalmologist and the father of Carrie Wortham, who had been killed in Sept. of ’15 by a driver with poor vision who drove into her as she was cycling on Rt. 33). We told Del. Fowler we would be there to support them when they are heard.

6 Newly-Designated League Cycling Instructors (LCI) in the Shenandoah Valley

The League of American Bicyclists held a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar in Harrisonburg, VA November 10 thru 13, 2016. The students/new LCIs, instructors, and assistants from left: Randall Wolf (new LCI), Les Leathem (National Coach and LCI), Greg "Yogi" Gillette (new LCI), Dan Wright (new LCI), Nick Cannon (new LCI),  Brian Bauer (LCI assistant), Misty Williams (new LCI), Kyle Lawrence (new LCI), Thanh Dang (LCI assistant), Laura Pyle (LCI assistant), and Dan Finseth, (new LCI).

The League of American Bicyclists held a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar in Harrisonburg, VA November 10 thru 13, 2016. The students/new LCIs, instructors, and assistants from left: Randall Wolf (new LCI), Les Leathem (National Coach and LCI), Greg “Yogi” Gillette (new LCI), Dan Wright (new LCI), Nick Cannon (new LCI), Brian Bauer (LCI assistant), Misty Williams (new LCI), Kyle Lawrence (new LCI), Thanh Dang (LCI assistant), Laura Pyle (LCI assistant), and Dan Finseth, (new LCI).


Harrisonburg, VA – November 14, 2016 – The Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) announced 6 of its members earned the prestigious certification of League Cycling Instructor (LCI) from the League of American Bicyclists, a 136-year-old national bicycling and advocacy organization. The new LCIs are Dan Finseth of Bridgewater, Yogi Gillette of Harrisonburg, Kyle Lawrence of Harrisonburg, Misty Williams of Harrisonburg, Randall Wolf of Stuarts Draft, and Dan Wright of Staunton. They were joined also by Nick Cannon of Wilmington, North Carolina.

“The LCIs complete in-depth training on teaching skills for biking in traffic, on trails, and with groups of riders,” says Bill Nesper, Program Director of the League of American Bicyclists. “The Shenandoah Valley has added to its group of knowledgeable instructors who train all levels of riders how to confidently and effectively cycle for fun, fitness, and transportation.”

LCI Seminars educate participants on how to teach bicycle safety and skills to all levels of riders rather than focusing on technical bicycling knowledge. The League Cycling Instructor designation is only given after a person qualifies for, and excels in, an intense three-day education seminar. “League Cycling Instructors are the backbone of the League’s education program,” said Nesper. “These new LCIs have demonstrated a proficiency in teaching, a love of cycling, and a willingness to share these skills with other riders.”

SVBC awarded scholarships to Finseth, Gillette, Williams, Wolf, and Wright to participate in the LCI Seminar. This is the second time that SVBC has hosted an LCI Seminar in Harrisonburg; the last time was in 2013 at which time 4 SVBC members became certified LCIs. “The SVBC Board is very appreciative of everyone’s dedication to become LCIs and are glad we can help support them,” says Kyle Lawrence, SVBC Board President who also participated in the LCI Seminar. “We look forward to seeing continued growth of bicycling in our communities.”

For more information on SVBC’s Bike Education Committee and their offerings visit http://www.svbcoalition.org/bike-education.

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A Ride on the Tobacco Heritage Trail

Tobacco Heritage Trail - Southside Virginia

Tobacco Heritage Trail – photo by Phil Riggan

If you are looking for a safe, long-distance trail to bike or run in Southside Virginia, give the Tobacco Heritage Trail a ride.

As a part of my work as a transportation planner with the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (part of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission), I was given a chance to study and ride the Tobacco Heritage Trail, a rail-to-trail east of South Hill.

I rode the separated, multiuse trails that connect La Crosse, Brodnax and Lawrenceville in Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties. There are more than 17 miles of 10-foot paved and crushed stone double track trail along the Tobacco Heritage Trail, and the surface is smooth and well-maintained. [click to continue…]

Virginia Regional Transportation Safety Roadshows

Virginia envisions a future where all roadway users arrive safely at their destinations. To save lives and reduce transportation related crashes, all transportation and safety stakeholders play a critical role.

Participate in a regional transportation safety roadshow meeting to:

  • Hear the latest updates to the Virginia Strategic Highway Safety Plan
  • Review regional crash data to understand the local top transportation safety problems
  • Learn about and discuss statewide transportation safety performance measures and targets
  • Prioritize strategies and actions to address regional transportation safety performance
  • Discuss opportunities to implement and evaluate transportation safety programs, policies, and projects for your region

Please join us at one of the following roadshows: [click to continue…]

Comparing Transportation Modes By Land Usage

 

land-use-comparison

You may have seen the meme floating about on Twitter and Facebook that compared the amount of space occupied by different modes on streets. Generally speaking, they show how much space is occupied by cars as compared to buses, people on bikes, and people walking. As I was driving through Atlanta recently, I wondered how much space was taken up by the urban interchange below as compared to other modes.

This interchange north of downtown occupies more land than most cities' central business districts.

This interchange occupies more land than many cities’ central business districts.

This is where I-75 and I-85 split north of downtown Atlanta. It nearly fills the image. Atlantic Station, a large office, residential, and shopping complex, is dwarfed by this tangle of ramps.

To see how much land a similar split of rail transit lines would use, I looked at one in Alexandria, Virginia.

The DC Metro's Yellow and Blue lines split here. A railroad track is adjacent to the right.

The DC Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines split here. A railroad track is adjacent to the right.

Note that I rotated the image to make comparisons easier. As you can see, more tax-yielding businesses and residences are in this picture than in the Atlanta image. Plus, more greenery is present to help fight the urban heat island that afflicts so many US cities, including Atlanta.

But what happens at a split of trails for cyclists and pedestrians?

This junction of two heavily-used commuter bike/pedestrian routes is hard to discern without the highlighting.

This junction of two heavily-used commuter bike/pedestrian routes is hard to discern without the green highlighting.

The infrastructure nearly disappears. This is the intersection of the Mount Vernon Trail and the Four Mile Run Trail in Arlington, Virginia. Both see heavy commuter usage during rush hour, since Washington, DC is located just across the Potomac River to the north while various Virginia suburbs are located to the west and south. The George Washington Memorial Parkway, Amtrak/CSX line, and Metro run parallel to the Mount Vernon Trail here.

The enormous parking lot to the upper right serves Reagan National Airport. Airports are undoubtedly the worst land use gluttons of all (and not just for the runways).

Land use is an important issue in a dense urban environment. Space used for transportation is space that can’t be used for much else. Politicians and planners should take heed.

League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Training in Harrisonburg, Nov. 11-13

TheLEAGUE-SmartCycling

Have you been wanting to get your League Cycling Instructor certification? Complete your training the weekend of November 11-13 in Harrisonburg, at a seminar offered by the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, Harrisonburg Parks & Rec, and of course, the League of American Bicyclists.

A few scholarships may still be available for those who live or work within Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, Augusta, or Rockbridge Counties.

For more information and to register, please visit the SVBC website.

The League Cycling Instructor (LCI) certification is America’s most popular, and most widely-recognized bike safety instructor certification. It qualifies you to teach bike safety courses developed by the League of American Bicyclists, frequently offered by transportation authorities, parks and recreation departments, schools and universities, bike shops, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, YMCAs, etc.

Beyond Cell and Spare Tube, You Need to Bike with Auto Insurance

Cross-posted from bikelaw.com

Yes, often your car insurance will cover a bike crash.

Before heading out for a ride most of us intuitively check our air, brakes, chains and cranks and do a once over of our bikes.  We confirm our helmets are secure, our cell phones and Garmins are charged, and that we have lights, if we think we’ll need them.  If we are going any significant distance, we ensure our saddlebags have tools, spare tubes, CO2 cartridges and that our jersey pockets have got what we need to stay shielded from the elements and sufficiently fueled to go the distance.

How many of those among us, though, run through this checklist before heading off on our bikes?

  • Life Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Automobile Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Homeowners Insurance

Likewise, how many of those among us know our state minimum automobile insurance coverage statutes or how our own automobile insurance may apply in the event of a bicycle crash?  What about our knowledge of our health insurance plans, the scope of that coverage and how much in co-pays and deductibles we must pay before our insurer is obligated to start making payments? 

Let’s be honest. We’d prefer to read race results and track KOMs on Strava than study the amendments and endorsements to our insurance policies.  At the beginning of each riding season, we’d rather think about the color and texture of our new handlebar tape than about the size and scope of our uninsured and underinsured coverage.  And, when there is money to spare, we’d rather spend it on new cleats, a new wheelset or on a cool commuter bike than on insurance. 

While riding bikes makes us all feel like five-year-olds on our big wheels, thinking about insurance reminds us of our own mortality.  As a result, many of us simply ignore it until it is too late. 

The reality is that when we get injured in an automobile v. bicycle crash and suffer physical and other damages, insurance matters. 

A Current Example:  The Kalamazoo Tragedy

Let’s take this month’s horrific and unimaginable tragedy in Michigan as a current example of why we as bicyclists need to start caring more about insurance.  While I cannot purport to even coming close to understanding the losses and damages of the families of the five bicyclists who were killed in the crash and the four bicyclists who were injured in the crash, when I think about insurance and remedies for these people and families, I cannot help but think about the possibility that their extensive losses and damages might not be covered by Mr. Pickett (the driver accused of negligently and recklessly causing the crash) and his insurer(s), if any.   [click to continue…]