Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vienna to propose new bicycle regulations

According to a Vienna Connection article entitled "Eye to Eye Program Launched"Police Department rolls out bicycle safety program", the Town of Vienna is considering requiring bicyclists to yield to motorists when riding on the sidewalk, contrary to state law. According to Virginia code 46.2-904, operation of bicycles on sidewalks and crosswalks and shared-use paths, "A person riding a bicycle... on a sidewalk, shared-use path, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances."

Since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, we doubt that the Town can pass a local ordinance contrary to state law. What Vienna should be doing is working to make Vienna more bicycle-friendly. It makes little sense to pass a local ordinance that would only apply in Vienna.

Other measures being considered are: "We've suggested that riders be required to use audible signals at greater than 50 feet away when approaching pedestrians when riders are using the sidewalk and W & OD trail. Another consideration is to require all bike riders to stop before traversing a roadway or intersection when coming off a sidewalk." The same code referenced above, 46.2-904, already states that "A person riding a bicycle... shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian." Requiring bicyclists to "stop before traversing a roadway or intersection when coming off a sidewalk" is also contrary to existing code.

According to the news article above, Vienna has "adopted Portland, Oregon's Eye to Eye safety program". However, we doubt that Portland's Eye to Eye campaign would focus most of their efforts on bicyclist behavior. The motto of Portland's campaign is "Our Streets Belong to Everyone" (see their banner image above). Officer Murray wasn't kidding when he says that while they've been conferring with others, "We've elected to go on our own with this campaign."

We think more motorist education and enforcement is needed to help make cyclists safer in the Town. A more bike-friendly Vienna is the best solution for improving bicycle safety.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on August 17 to discuss proposed changes to the Town code regarding bicyclists on sidewalks. Town Council meetings begin at 8pm and are held at 127 Center St. South, Vienna, Virginia. We'll provide more information as it becomes available.

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