Thursday, January 17, 2013

SB 959 - Bill relating to W&OD Trail stop signs

We've mentioned several times that the STOP signs on the W&OD Trail road crossings are not enforceable. The latest incident we discussed was about a ticket issued to a cyclist on the Trail in Falls Church. That ticket was dismissed on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Attorney.

SB 959 is a bill making it's way through the Virginia legislature that "Allows local governing bodies to adopt ordinances requiring users of shared-use paths to stop before crossing highways at marked crosswalks." According to the Virginia Bicycling Federation, yesterday the bill made it out of the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill would in effect make the W&OD Trail STOP signs enforceable.

As we've stated earlier, we think police use the STOP signs as a way of harassing cyclists during "sting" operations along the Trail. We think the current law, which is being modified by the proposed bill,  is sufficient to handle situations where a trail crosses a road with a crosswalk. Pedestrians, and cyclists, must not "enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic" and motorists "shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway." We can't dart out into the crosswalk, but once in the crosswalk motorists must yield. The STOP signs just complicate the situation and have been used as an excuse by motorists not to stop for bicyclists in the crosswalk.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Favola based on a request by the Loudoun Sheriff Department. This is the same department that ticketed cyclists for not putting a foot down at an intersection along the route of the  Reston Century this year.  Loudoun sheriffs are also notorious for targeting cyclists on the MS 150 in 2009. A representative from the department spoke in support of the bill. Thankfully a rep from NVRPA spoke out against the bill.

We have contacted Senator Favola's office and stated our concerns. We're hoping she will abandon the bill.

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