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.


Let’s Include a Greenway in the DC to Richmond High Speed Rail Corridor

DC to Richmond (RVA) High Speed Rail

The new rail corridor plan should include greenway, as has already been done for the Petersburg to Raleigh segment. We’ve submitted our comments. Please submit your comments before next Tuesday, November 7.

The Virginia Bicycling Federation supports this project to increase travel options including high speed rail from Richmond to Washington, DC. However, we believe that this project is not fully vetted by not looking at all of the multimodal options for the corridor and the benefits could be vastly increased with the inclusion of a parallel greenway similar to that recommended on the Southern High Speed Rail segment from Petersburg to Raleigh, NC.

Billions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on this project. Once completed, this corridor upgrade will likely be unchanged for the next hundred years or more. We have only one chance to get this project right for many generations to come and it is imperative that our limited tax-dollars be used most effectively.

Providing a greenway along this corridor increases access to train stations, gives citizens more local transportation choices, decreases car parking demands at the train stations, reduces air pollution and provides health, recreation and tourism benefits for all of the communities it passes through.

In addition, providing a separated greenway provides a safe, off-road travel option for bikes and pedestrians and could save the lives of countless citizens over decades to come. More importantly, more citizens would likely use the greenway on a daily basis – particularly in Northern Virginia – than would use the high-speed trains, thus reducing transportation demands on local roads and highways.

Please add a parallel greenway to this project.

Virginia 10th Overall in Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, 1st in Southern Region

For the first time, Virginia is one of the top ten Bicycle Friendly States in the League of American Bicyclists’ rankings. The new 10th place is way up from 23rd in 2008, and hovering in the teens since 2010. Virginia ranks first among the League’s Southern Region states.

Rank is based on the following factors:

  • Infrastructure & Funding — 20%
  • Education & Encouragement — 15%
  • Legislation & Enforcement — 15%
  • Policies & Programs — 20%
  • Evaluation & Planning — 20%
  • Discretionary Scoring — 10%

Virginia scored a full, 15/15 points for advocacy — a nice compliment about our work here at the Virginia Bicycling Federation, especially in the state legislature, and being engaged with VDOT. From the Report Card:

“Virginia has taken numerous steps through its legislature
and through its Department of Transportation to take action
on some past key feedback points. These steps, in some
cases, have addressed long-standing complaints from bicycle
and pedestrian advocates, particularly Virginia’s former law
that punished communities that implemented road diets.
Hopefully, these steps are emblematic of a broader embrace
of bicycling and walking as part of Virginia’s transportation

Download the 2017 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card (PDF, 3 pages), and the accompanying guide (PDF, 13 pages).

Bikes on Trains webinar

Champe rolls a bike off the train at the Amtrak demonstration at the National Bike Summit in March

Join the League of American Bicyclists with their free webinar on Bikes on Trains on August 2.

From their site:


by Caron Whitaker

Please join our Bikes on Amtrak webinar, Wednesday, August 2, from 2 to 3:15pm EDT. Speakers from Amtrak, Adventure Cycling Association, and others will speak about current bicycle accomodations and services, the Amtrak Bicycle Task Force and plans for the future.

Register here:

Check out the latest issue of Bicycle Friendly America magazine for a look at Amtrak’s bike-carrying facilities.

With Amtrak service scheduled to reach Roanoke on October 31, many people want to know, will we be able to bring our bikes on the train? Unfortunately, no. Amtrak says:

Service to Roanoke is an extension of the Northeast Regional service. The service to Roanoke will not have a baggage car/checked baggage, so no checked bike service initially. The Northeast Regional service shares an equipment pool with the entire Northeastern United States. In order to provide carry-on bike service, we’ll need to make extensive modifications to our equipment.

Roanoke’s New Bikeshare System is Open

From the press release:

“This program extends the benefits of bike sharing – long considered exclusively a big-city amenity – to a smaller community. But unlike big-city systems, in which riders must drop off bikes at designated stations for every stop, the built-in lock on every Zagster bike gives users the freedom to ride as long as they want, wherever they want. This hybrid model, which blends dockless locking for mid-trip stops with fixed station locations for beginning and ending rides, allows users to plan their trips around their destinations – and not around station locations. As a result, the bike share promises to not only ease commutes, but to also unlock vast recreational opportunities for exercise and fun.”

The Roanoke Times elaborates:

“Most of the bike stations are downtown to cater to its estimated 2,000 residents. This includes locations next to the Hampton Inn & Suites, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge near the future Amtrak platform, and Big Lick Brewing Co.’s new building on Salem Avenue. There are also stations in Grandin Village, Fallon Park, and the Wasena, Old Southwest and West End neighborhoods.”

More from WSLS 10:

“Bikes are available to members for $40 per year and offered to students at a discounted rate of $30 per year. Riders can pay by the hour, or join the program by signing up for an annual membership. Rides for members, who must be 18 or older, are free for the first hour, and then $3 per hour after that. Nonmembers may rent them for $3 per hour.”

A Bike Rider’s Perspective on “Ride the Drive” Car Free Day on Skyline

On a cold rainy day in February I opened an email from my bike riding sister, Kathy. “Hey Pat, check this out”. A link to the Shenandoah National Parks website advertising “Ride the Drive – Car Free Day on Skyline”. On Sunday, April 23rd, for the first time ever, a 32-mile northern section of Skyline Drive from Front Royal to Thornton Gap would be open only to non-motorized users. Bikers, hikers, and rollerbladers, all free. “Well heck yes”, I replied. March came and I logged on and signed up. Although not smoothly, the website told me I was wait listed for this free event, but later an email arrived and I was able to sign on with a “reserved” parking spot at Skyline High School. I am in.


So it was now March and this ride was beginning to look real. What had I gotten myself into?  I did a Google map of the route (biking option) and it says 32.3 miles and 3,858 feet of climbing (and then turn around and head back). A rider online called it “a beast of a ride.”

A bike – the home built Merlin (with gears!)

And while I do have a surplus of bikes (especially random “vintage” models collected over the years from the local Goodwill), for the last 3 years I have been commuting on a single speed bike. A very, very, nice titanium Habanero, but only one gear. Great for riding on flat roads, but not going to be a good choice for Skyline and around 7,000 feet of climbing.

And as we all know the less weight you carry up a hill, the easier the ride. So while it might be far more effective to lose weight from around by own stomach, that is hard. Online I found a British company, advertising ridiculously lightweight Chinese carbon frames for ridiculously low prices. Yes, indeed. Send me two. Fortunately I already have extra wheels and miscellaneous bike pieces left over in the garage. After a couple of weekends of assembly (and only a few broken pieces) I now have a lightweight Merlin bike with gears. Time to train.


I am 54 years old and overweight. I do however try to stay in shape by bike commuting to work. But I ride the dead flat W&OD rail trail. I do not do hills. But now I do. Upton Hill becomes my trainer. It is 146 feet of climb from the base at 4 Mile Run Creek to Wilson Blvd and close by the house. No more excuses. Day 1. Huffing and puffing I made it.  A week later, huffing again I made it up and down Upton 3 times. And then the next weekend 7 times before my legs give out. And finally 1 week before, 10 hill repeats with 3 climbs up and down Walter Reed thrown in for good measure. Am I ready for Skyline?

The Forecast 

A week until the ride and sister Kathy has read the weather forecast. Mid 40 degrees and an all day soaking rain. Not surprisingly both of us are waffling. Saturday morning, my sister decides it is just not worth the drive. I fully understand. Jeremy, my young neighbor and fellow bike commuter is still ready and willing to go. Saturday evening, the forecast has improved. While the temps will stay in the 40’s, rain could hold off. We are going to do this.

Riding the Drive!

Sunday Morning – 6 am. Coffee and a yogurt. Throw the bikes in the back of the Honda Fit and we are off.  From Arlington, it is an easy drive. Volunteers at Skyline High School checked my ticket and we parked around a mile from the park entrance. We rolled on in. The park rangers at the gate said they had cut the registration off at the first 4,000 riders but the rangers never asked to see any tickets. With the bad weather forecast, they probably knew that there would be a lot of no shows and stopped worrying about being over crowded.

From the entrance the first five miles to the top of Dickey Ridge are simple. Climb. Steep but not too steep. Just grind it up. 2,000 + feet for around 5 miles. Slow and steady. The rain held off, the roads were dry. Too many clothes and I stripped off the hat at mile 1, and the wind breaker, the gloves, long pants came off around mile 2. So worth it for the gorgeous views. Spring is bringing the park to life with spectacular greens and wildflowers and every color blossoms and blooms bursting from every three. Without cars, the park is silent except for the birds. The morning fog rolls in one section, and next rolls back out. We rode through and then up and over the clouds hanging over the beautiful Shenandoah valley. And then there was the panorama of the river and valley spread out beneath us. Pictures and especially my words cannot describe these views, the sound, the smell. You really have to experience this for yourself.

And then finally, finally, finally after cresting the top of the first ridge (and a bit sweaty). it is “oh my goodness Wooohooooo!!!” The first of many spectacular long descents. The thrill of the descent, coasting as fast as you desire feels as close to flying as anything I can imagine. It feels like absolute freedom. And these descents go on and on. On perfectly maintained roads across wide sweeping turns. Gorgeous views, and not a car around to worry about. Repeat for the next 64 miles.

About mile 14 and halfway up Mt. Marshall, at one of the many overlooks the Park Rangers and volunteers had set up a rest station. Jeremy and I pulled over and chatted with the folks. A young female ranger was unloading her bike and along with her husband was planning on spending the day riding. She warned us about Hogback Mountain, around mile 21. “Stop there and turnaround because riding back up Hogback has broken the hearts of many a rider”. This is the steepest climb of Skyline Drive at around 7-8% grade.

We make it to the top of Hogback and Jeremy and I are feeling fine. “Ride on” says Jeremy and down Hogback we go. Another spectacular descent, but on the way down we do see a couple of folks pushing their bikes coming the other way. They must have started from the opposite entrance at Thornton Gap and look to be struggling.

We make it to the barricade at Thorton Gap, do a U-turn and head back. While the Park service and volunteers have done a nice job setting up rest stops with port-a-johns and first aid, the only obvious stop for food or water is the Elkwallow Wayside, a convenience store with a grill around mile marker 24. French fries and chicken nuggets. And bear claws and chocolate milk. All good. A whole lot of very nice and beautiful bikes are parked outside. Just a lot of very nice and friendly fellow riders.

With lunch sitting heavily and legs a bit stiff from sitting too long, we started the climb back up Hogback mountain. Just as advertised. Plenty long. Not as long as the ride up Dickey but long and steep enough. I found my lowest gear and stayed there.

And yet, all too soon we were back at the top of Dickey Ridge. Then the beautiful five-mile descent back down to Front Royal. Just relax, lower into the drops, and let the bike run. With the biggest stupidest grin across my face. Oh what a glorious feeling and what a glorious ride.

Thanks to my sister for the inspiration, to neighbor Jeremy for the company, and thanks so much to all the volunteers, the National Park Service and everyone who made this ride possible. It really is a most excellent adventure.

Our guest writer, Pat O’Briant “The Science Giant” in his own words, ” Fat, old, and nearly bald, Pat O’Briant is a dad and an aerospace engineer with a passion for teaching cool science hacks.  With way too many old bicycles in his garage, he commutes to and from work on the beautiful W&OD trail from Arlington to Dulles.”

Vision Zero

I always find it interesting when talking to people about traffic crashes and fatalities, they seem to be resigned to the fact that there will always be carnage on our roads. But if you ask them how many traffic fatalities would be acceptable in their own family the answer is always zero. So why do we have this big disconnect in accepting the status quo for traffic deaths? When a plane, or train, crashes there is high visibility coverage, and much discussion about why it happened. However, when one of the more than 110 people in the U.S. die each day on our roadways, there is very little response from the media.

To make matters worse, in 2016 the number of people killed on our roads spiked upward, with a disproportionate effect on people walking and biking. Have we decided that it is just part of the cost of mobility, a cost that has resulted in an estimated 2 million walking, biking and driving deaths in the U.S. from 1945 to 2015, or are we willing to make changes?

Vision Zero is a program to reduce the number of traffic deaths and severe injuries to zero. [click to continue…]

Advocate of the Year: Champe Burnley!

Our president, Champe Burnley, was in for a surprise last week when he attended the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. The League of American Bicyclists named him the Advocate of the Year.

According to the League, “This award goes to a leader of a bicycling and/or walking advocacy organization who has shown tireless commitment to promoting bicycling and walking in his/her state/community. This person goes above and beyond the call of duty to transform his/her state/community into a great place for biking and walking. His or her time, knowledge, creativity, and commitment are the highest standard of excellence exemplifying a role model for peers.”

That describes Champe, who has devoted countless hours to promote bicycling in Virginia. [click to continue…]