HB82 ‘Following Too Closely’ Clears Committee, HB320 ‘No Passing At Crosswalks’ Delayed

The only "no" was from Del. T. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg

The only “no” was from Del. T. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg

After some time was spent with introductions of new VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick and some key members of his staff, of the new Director of Rail & Public Transportation, and two key members of the Transportation Secretary’s staff, HB82/Don’t follow too closely sailed right out of House Transportation this morning, 17 – 1, with Delegate Barbara Comstock carrying it, and with very little discussion. It now goes on to the House Floor, where EVERYONE in the state can contact their Delegates, giving them a heads up that the bill is on its way, and urging them to support it.

As mentioned previously, Del. Scott Garrett, who is the House Trans Sub 2 Chair, kept his record intact of never* having supported a bill that would help bicyclists or pedestrians, as he cast the lone dissenting vote.

The other bill on the docket that we are supporting did not have such smooth sailing, as Del. Kory’s HB320 which will penalize drivers who pass other drivers that are stopped at a RR Xing or Crosswalk with a Pedestrian in it, was Passed By for the Day, after some questions were raised by Dels. Hugo & Habeeb regarding the severity of the penalty. Although this bill was supported by the representative of the State Police about as strongly as he ever supports a bill, and is not really adding that much to the existing code, Chairman Rust gave the impression that the language needed some further discussion with the State Police.

Although being Passed By in this fashion is usually only a brief delay, I wasn’t clear if the motion meant until Thursday, or a full week until next Tuesday’s meeting.

It was interesting to note that Chairman Rust seems to want all discussion with witnesses to take place at the SubCommittee level, and not in the Full Committee, as no supporters or opponents were heard on either bill, with the only discussion being with Committee members asking questions of the Patron and inside resource staff, such as State Police, DMV, VDOT, and Legislative Services.

Having been attending these meetings for 14 years now, this is the first time I’ve seen it done this way. It makes the testimony in SubCommittee, and the vote of each of the seven members there, much more important than previously, and definitely shortens the duration of the full committee meeting.

Tomorrow in the morning we have the Bills to repeal the Ban on Hunting on Sunday, which the Hunting groups are said to be bringing all hands to support (so orange caps and vests will be everywhere in the building, as were the “Guns Save Lives” folks with holstered pistols on their hips yesterday.) We have been opposing these bills in the past on the basis of wanting to have one day of the week during hunting season where no one is shooting in the woods, and will again, along with the Equestrians, Mountain Bikers, and Farm Bureau folks, but it may not be enough this time, as some of the bills have more than 50 co-patrons signed on.

In the afternoon, we have Senate Transportation where the Dooring bill will be heard.

Previously, in House Transportation Subcommittee 2:

(From yesterday, Monday, January 20)

More good news than bad.

It was not helpful to the cause that Delegate Jeion Ward (D) from Hampton was absent with a Doctor’s appointment, as HB 277 Krupicka/Stop for Pedestrians in a Crosswalk Failed to Report by a 3 – 3 vote with LeMunyon, Austin & Carr voting to report; Taylor, Villanueva & Chairman Garrett voting nay.

Despite the absence of this probably favorable vote, HB82, Delegate Comstock’s Don’t Follow too closely bill, was Reported by a 5 – 1 vote, with only Chairman Garrett dissenting. The language of this bill was changed to correspond to the language of Del. Lopez’s HB811, so that HB 82 now reads:

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to the speed of both vehicles and the traffic on, and conditions of, the highway at the time.”

Both bills now reading the same, which is what we wanted, Del Lopez withdrew his bill, and Del. Comstock’s bill goes forward.

HB 320 Kory, which added the following clause to the existing code:

“Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, a driver of another vehicle whose vehicle is approaching the stopped vehicle from the rear and who overtakes or passes the stopped vehicle is guilty of reckless driving.”

…was reported by a 4 -2 vote, after being endorsed by the representative of the State Police. The only dissenters were Chairman Garrett (continuing his practice from the last several sessions of NEVER supporting anything that will help the bicyclists or pedestrians) and Vice Chair Villaneuva.

Though disappointing to have new SubComm Chair Garrett continue to be a negative presence, it is encouraging that the new members (Austin & Taylor) seem to have a mind of their own, and are not afraid to vote contrary to the chair, if they are inclined to do so.

Now we are paying close attention to see if these two bills that were reported appear on Tomorrow’s docket for the full House Transportation Committee, which meets Tuesdays & Thursdays at 8:30 a.m.

The Dooring Bill SB225 has been placed on the Docket of the Senate Transportation Comm. for Wednesday, 45 minutes after Senate Adjournment (1 p.m. or a little later), and we are watching closely to see when the bill that makes the wearing of a Mask a felony is listed in the House Courts of Justice Comm, which meets M,W, & F 1/2 hour after House adjournment. Winter cyclists who wear a balaclava or mask, over their face are technically committing a felony, and Del. Delores McQuinn of Richmond is carrying HB542, which is attempting to get Riding to Work and Recreational Riding listed as exceptions.

Calls to the Delegates on the House Trans Comm supporting HB 82 & HB 320 are now in order, as are calls to the Senators on Senate Trans supporting SB 225, the Dooring bill.

*Del. Garrett’s Previous “Support” of Following Too Closely, HB1060 in 2013

From Del Garrett’s Facebook page:

As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I voted on two bills this week that are supported by the cyclist community. I personally own a bicycle, as do my children. Cycling is an excellent source of recreation and exercise and it’s also eco-friendly. Serving on the Transportation Committee, it is a top priority of mine to keep our highways and by-ways safe for all Virginians.

Recently, I voted in favor of SB 1060, which, as amended, would prohibit the driver of any vehicle from following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable. Bicycles and mopeds are included in the definition of “vehicle.” This seems to be reasonable safety legislation to protect all individuals who share the roadways.

Garrett voted for it (SB1060) Last Year only after both Motor’s were struck, and John Cox stated that would make it illegal for bicycles to draft one another, which he would be sure to ask the Sheriff of Hanover county to enforce.

The discussion got so confusing to the delegates that some who had co-patroned the bill ended up voting against it since they weren’t interested in making drafting illegal, while Garrett ended up voting FOR it in order to make drafting illegal.

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