Legislative Update 1/28/10

Long meeting in Senate Transportation Committee today. Started a little after 2, adjourned just before 6.

Unlucky for Bruce Drees of Tidewater Bicycling Assn., who had made the trip up from VA Beach, only to see our bill be the very last one on the docket. I commend him for hanging in until the very end, and for his testimony before the committee. Champe was also in attendance for a while, but bailed out before our bill was called.

After 2 1/2 hours with very little of interest to us, except for the reporting of a seat belt bill that will require ALL occupants of a vehicle (not just the front seats, as now) to be buckled up, and Sen. Norment’s SB517, (by a 10 – 5 vote) which will ban Cell Phone use in motor vehicles, except in the hands free mode, it was finally Sen. Ticer’s turn.

First, it was announced that HB1048, the similar House 3 foot passing bill to Ticer’s SB 566, would be rolled into SB566, so that only 566 will now be active. I regard this as good news, since I would rather see the bill go through the Senate first, where if we make it through we may be able to go directly to House Transportation, without having to clear the additional hurdle of a small Sub-Committee.

Then, as I had reported last Thursday, the section dealing with Careless Driving was deleted from the bill on the advice of Sen. Ryan McDougle of Hanover. Since it would establish a new category of Misdemeanor, and its fine would have to be established, if this section remained in the bill the entire bill would have to be referred to the Courts of Justice Committee, which would definitely jeopardize the passage of the bill. Not wanting to lose this chance to get three foot passing, I agreed to this amendment.

Then, in the course of discussion on the bill, Sen. John Watkins of Powhatan & Chesterfield noted that if the Following too Closely section were left in the bill, and if it applied to all vehicles, not just motor vehicles, and if bicycles were considered a vehicle, then bicyclists would often be riding illegally, since he often sees them riding less than two or three feet behind the bicycle in front of them. Seeing where this was heading, and not wanting to lose this chance to get three foot passing, I agreed to Sen. Watkins’ suggestion to delete this section from the bill.

Once this deletion was made, the question was called and SB 566 was reported unanimously, containing only the change of minimum passing distance from two feet to three feet when overtaking a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal- drawn vehicle.

Now its on to the full Senate, where I don’t anticipate any problems. Nevertheless, this is not the time to relax, so —

Everyone should now contact their Senator’s office and urge them to support SB566 — three foot passing of bicycles, when it comes up on the Senate floor during the next few days.

Thanks for the constituent’s calls and Emails to their Committee members so far, now everyone has one person (their Senator) to call. We have rounded first base and are heading for second. Let’s see if we can make it all the way around this time.

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