Dooring Bill Passes Senate; Bike Lane Maintenance Funding Clears Senate Committee

SB117 Sen. Petersen’s Dooring bill passed the Senate floor yesterday by 24 – 16 as Republicans Chase (Chesterfield), Cosgrove (Chesapeake), DeSteph (Virginia Beach), Reeves (Fredericksburg), and Suetterlein (Roanoke) voted along with the Democrats.

This vote, though encouraging, compares with a 28 -12 vote in 2014, where it later failed by a 4 -3 margin in House Trans Sub 2, and a 27 -12 vote last year, where we also failed 4-3 in House Trans Sub 2, so we have some work to do before this bill crosses over to the House. It certainly would be in order at this point to thank your Senator (if they are a Democrat, or one of the Republicans noted above) if they supported the bill.

After a lot of testimony and time was spent this afternoon in Senate Transportation on a bill which would permit DMV to issue temporary visitor’s driver’s licenses to applicants who are unable to present valid evidence of legal permanent residency, the bill failed 7-6 on a straight party line vote, with the Republicans in opposition.

With that result clearing about 3/4 of the hearing room of an overflow Latino crowd, things moved much more quickly, and Sen. Barker’s SB 778 placing further restrictions on cell phone usage while driving was reported by a 10-3 vote with only Carrico, Newman, & Suetterlein in opposition, as we spoke in support along with several others.

Last on the docket was Sen. Alexander with SB669, the Highway maintenance reimbursement bill for jurisdictions who convert vehicular lanes to bicycle only lanes. Although several witnesses were lined up to speak in favor of the bill, the Chairman was not in a mood to hear much testimony at that late hour, so promptly asked if there was any opposition in the audience, and hearing none, called for a vote, which was unanimous in favor of reporting.

Now, both of these bills go on to the Senate floor, while the identical House Highway maintenance reimbursement bill to SB669, which is HB 1335 being carried by Del. Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach, is listed as being in House Trans Sub 3, which meets Thursday mornings at 7 a.m., but is NOT on the docket for tomorrow morning, so we’ll see what happens with it.

That leaves us with three bills in House Trans Sub 1 on Monday morning at 7 a.m., which means probably not being able to watch the 2nd half of the Super Bowl. Those bills will be HB461, Del. Rich Anderson’s Cell phone restriction bill (which is identical to Sen. Barker’s SB778); HB 1173, Del. Rip Sullivan’s Vulnerable Road User bill (which is identical to Sen. Scott Surovell’s SB663, which failed in last week’s Senate Transportation Committee); and HB1360, Del. Joe Yost’s bill requiring all bicycle riders 18 years of age and under to wear helmets (which we will not support). More late Monday morning after we see what happens in this SubComm meeting.

Bike-Related Bills in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly

Please link to and share this page. We’ll update it regularly.

With the 2016 session underway, we’re supporting bills for dooring, vulnerable road users, and maintenance funding for bike lanes; and opposing a statewide mandatory helmet law.

Dooring

SB117 states that “No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side adjacent to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so.” “No person” includes drivers and passengers, and “moving traffic” includes people on bicycles. Status: passed by the Senate Feb. 2 in a 24-16 vote.

Vulnerable Road Users

HB1173 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor with license suspension for any driver who, by driving in a careless or distracted manner, causes serious injury to a vulnerable road user, defined as a “person riding a bicycle, electric wheelchair, electric bicycle, wheelchair, skateboard, skates, foot-scooter, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle.” Status: Passed By Indefinitely in House Transportation Subcommittee 1 on Monday, 2/8. So it’s dead for 2016.

Maintenance Funding for Bike Lanes

SB669 provides that state funding based on lane-miles not be cut when those lanes are converted to bike lanes, such as in a road diet. Status: cleared Senate Transportation Committee – onward to a Senate vote.

HB1335 is an identical bill in the House. Status: assigned to House Transportation Subcommittee 3.

Statewide Mandatory Helmet Law — Oppose

HB1360 would require everyone in Virginia under 18 years of age to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or electric assist bicycle. Additionally, it would allow municipalities to pass laws requiring helmets while using power assisted mobility devices or toys, such as electric wheelchairs or hoverboards. We oppose this bill. Status: Reported Out of House Transporttion Subcommittee 3 on Monday, 2/8.

Dooring Clears Senate Transpo; Senate’s Vulnerable User Bill Passed By

This is Bud’s report from Wednesday, January 27.

Senator Scott Surovell led off the Senate Transportation Committee proceedings today with SB663, the Vulnerable Road User bill. After a good bit of discussion, where one of the key points made was that the Class I Misdemeanor, plus having their license suspended, that was provided if someone was guilty of this careless driving and a road user was injured or killed, was more severe than that contained in the Code section that requires a motorist to Move Over when there is an incident being handled by a law enforcement officer.

Getting the sense that the Committee felt that this was a good idea, but with the punishment called for out of proportion to that in other sections of the Code, it was moved to Pass the Bill By for the Year and refer it to the Commission on Transportation Accountability for them to report back with a recommendation at the 2017 Session. This motion was passed 10 to 2 with one Senator absent, and only Deeds & Favola voting against. (Note: an identical bill, HB1173, is working its way through the House.)

Later in the session, Senator Chap Petersen presented SB 117, the Dooring bill which requires drivers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open their vehicle door on the side adjacent to moving traffic. After VBF, the Transit Assn., and the Motorcycling Assn. spoke in favor of the bill, the committee picked at it a bit, offering some minor suggestions as to why “school guards” should be exempted from the provisions of the bill, and preferring to see No “driver” (rather than No “person”) shall open the door etc. I was bemused at this, since the bill had started out last year as No “driver” only to be changed to No “person” when someone on the committee noted that it would be possible for a passenger in the back seat to open their door into moving traffic. In any event, the patron accepted these suggestions as amendments, following which the bill was reported out by a 10-2 vote, with one Senator absent and only Chairman Carrico (keeping his long standing record intact of NEVER voting for one of our Bicycling Safety bills) and Senator Newman (last year’s Chairman) voting against. Now its on to the Senate floor, where it would be helpful for everyone to alert their Senators to be on the lookout for, and support, SB117 as it comes to the floor shortly.

Update: the Senate passed SB117 in a 24-16 vote on Tuesday, 2/20.

A Successful Bike Summit for the Shenandoah Valley

On Nov. 13 in Harrisonburg, “The Bike Capital of Virginia,” the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO) held a very successful bike summit at James Madison University. This will be an annual event, with plans already being made for 2016. Click Thanh’s link below for more information, videos, notes, and reports.

From Thanh Dang:

“The Fourth Annual Harrisonburg & Rockingham Bike-Walk Summit was a hit with our local elected representatives, city/county staff, JMU/EMU, and many of the wonderful volunteer advocates who make it all happen.

For 2015 we enlisted the help of SVBC member Scott Wootten and his Adventure Seen Videos to create three short videos to help us recap some of the great biking and walking activity that has happened in our community over the past year.

The 2015 Summit theme was “Play to Our Strengths: The Secrets to a Biking and Walking Community” with a keynote address from Pete Eshelman, Director of Outdoor Branding with the Roanoke Regional Partnership. His talk and the other sessions focused on understanding the importance of biking and walking to the economy, creating a livable community that attracts and retains businesses and residents, promoting the community’s walking and biking assets, and prioritizing biking and walking planning and investment.

See videos here: http://svbcoalition.org/bike-walk-summit/

Richmond 2015 Team Named Person of the Year; “Cycling” Named Richmonder of the Year

The Richmond Times-Dispatch named the Richmond 2015 team — the group behind September’s bike races that brought international attention to the region — its inaugural Person of the Year on Wednesday.

The team that put on the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, along with 39 other honorees and a dozen Hall of Fame inductees, will be featured in the December edition of Discover Richmond. (Click to read more at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

…and from Richmond Magazine:

Wheels of fortune: We are living in the year of the bicycle.

Wheels of fortune: We are living in the year of the bicycle.

Cycling won 2015 in Richmond. Period. It wasn’t even close, really. We’re talking a Peter Sagan-post-23rd-Street-climb separation from the pack.

Whether the UCI Road World Championships generated an economic windfall is to be answered in a study due this month, but by other measures, the Worlds were a resounding success. Visitors and athletes raved about how well organized the nine-day championships were, how friendly Richmonders are, and how neat RVA is. [click to continue…]

New Federal Transportation Funding Bill Is Now Law — What Does It Mean for Biking?

Federal Bike-Ped Spending 1992-2014

Graph by League of American Bicyclists

On Dec. 4, 2015, President Obama has signed into Law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, aka the FAST Act — the first long-term federal transportation funding bill in a decade. The big-picture news for us is, funding for biking and walking has been preserved, even if capped over the life of the bill. According to People For Bikes:

“The approval of the FAST Act is a victory for bicycling because it grows funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects to $835 million annually for the first two years and $850 million annually for the last three years, over the life of the five-year authorization.”

This is an increase over the current $820 million. Rails to Trails Conservancy notes that the new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) remains similar to its predecessor, Transportation Enhancements; and that the new Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Investment Act (TIFIA) may provide new funding opportunities for trails and active transportation networks. The Recreational Trails Program and Safe Routes to School remain included in TAP.

But the most important aspect of the FAST Act may be the certainty it provides:

“It’s been over a decade since Congress passed a long term bill. Getting a bill longer than a few years has been the number one ask for state and local governments, and transportation stakeholders across the board. This gives some certainty of funding, allowing states to plan and implement long-term transportation projects. This is an important piece for biking as well. We know that over the years, investment in biking and walking facilities has dipped in between long-term reauthorization bills. (You can see those dips in 1998, 2005 and 2014, all years when reauthorization bills were delayed.)”

Please read the rest, from Caron Whittaker at the League of American Bicyclists.

Amtrak’s Roll-On Service Expanded Through Virginia

Bicycle roll-on service is now available on trains serving the Carolinas.

Bicycle roll-on service is now available on these trains.

As you probably know by now, we’ve been working with Amtrak to get bike racks on trains in the eastern US. After much testing, they finally rolled it out on the Capitol Limited, and a few trains serving Richmond for the 2015 World Cycling Championships. Then this week they surprised us by confirming that roll-on service is now available on most trains serving Virginia:

  • The Palmetto Route, which runs from NYC to Miami through DC, Alexandria, Richmond, Petersburg and the eastern Carolinas, on its way to Charleston, Savannah and on to Florida;
  • The Silver Meteor and Silver Star, which also start in NYC and run through DC, Alexandria, Richmond, and Petersburg, but then the central Carolinas including Raleigh and Columbia before Charleston, Savannah and down through Florida;
  • The Crescent Route, which runs between NYC and New Orleans through Charlotte and Atlanta, serving Alexandria, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg.

Read Amtrak’s press releases for the Palmetto, the Silver Service and the Crescent routes.

Now you can bring your bike on most trains serving Virginia, without it being boxed. However, this roll-on service is only available at stations with baggage service; there’s still a $20 fee, and a reservation is required. This is explained on Amtrak’s “Bring Your Bicycle Onboard” page — scroll down to “Walk-Up Checked Bicycle Service.”

When buying a ticket through Amtrak’s website, an option to add a bicycle will appear. Clicking this will add the charge to your ticket, and create the bike rack reservation.

There’s no word yet on the Northeast Corridor trains serving Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, or the new service coming to Roanoke. But as the new baggage cars come online we expect roll-on service to be available there too.

While we’d rather have self-serve bike racks like the Capitol Limited’s, and we may sometimes find the $20 fees prohibitive, the box was always the biggest obstacle for touring cyclists, commuters, and anyone else needing to use their bike to get to and from the station. We’re glad to finally be rid of it, and have many new opportunities for bike travel.

2015 Annual Meeting, Sat. Nov. 14

HHI Hostel in downtown Richmond, VA

HHI Hostel in downtown Richmond, VA

Join us at the new hostel in downtown Richmond at 11:00 AM on Saturday, Nov. 14, for the Virginia Bicycling Federation Annual Meeting. We’ll elect our 2016 board and officers, and start planning our legislative agenda for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly.

We’re starting at 11:00 AM to allow for travel time from around the state. We’ll finish the day with a group ride on the newly completed Virginia Capital Trail. We encourage arriving Friday and staying through the weekend at the brand new hostel.

11:00 – 11:30 VDOT Update – John Bolecek, VDOT Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

11:30 – 12:00 State Trail / VOP Update – Jennifer Wampler, DCR Trails Coordinator

12:00 – 12:30 Lunch

12:30 – 1:00 Business Meeting (Financial Review, Elections)

1:00 – 1:45 Legislative Discussion

1:45 – 2:30 Strategic Directions

2:30 – 5:30 Ride on the Capital Trail

All are welcome. VBF members can vote in board elections, or run for board positions. You may join at the event, but if you’re interested in serving on our board, please contact Tom Bowden ASAP (tlblawplc@gmail.com).

We’ll update this page as the full agenda materializes, so keep checking back.

Hope to see you there!