Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Action Needed Now on Two Important Virgina Bicycling Bills

Today we sent out the following alert to all FABB contacts:
Dear FABB supporter,

Today WABA sent out the following alert regarding two important bills in the Virginia legislature. Please take action:

Tomorrow, a transportation subcommittee in the Virginia State House will consider two very important bills which will greatly affect area bicyclists. Please take action immediately!
Virginia SB736 would make it illegal in Virginia to "open the door of a motor vehicle on the side adjacent to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so." The bill will be heard tomorrow morning (Wed., Feb. 6) in the House Transportation Sub-committee #2. Please contact members of the committee ASAP (preferably before 7:00 a.m. tomorrow) and ask them to support SB736. Take action now.

Virginia SB959 would allow local governments to adopt ordinances requiring users of shared-use paths to stop before crossing highways, even when no other parties are present. This bill needlessly introduces redundant regulation and excessive fines (even more than if a car ran a stop sign, in some cases!) and should be voted down. Please contact members of the committee ASAP, preferably before 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, and ask them to oppose SB959Take action now.

Thank you for acting on very short notice on both of these key pieces of legislation in Virginia. The Virginia State Legislative session is very short and bills move quickly. We try to only email you at critical moments.  This is one of those moments.

Thank you for helping to make Virginia safer!
Greg Billing
WABA Advocacy Coorindator

In response I received a message from one of those contacts stating that it's not clear why we oppose SB959. This was my response:
Current Virginia code states that trail users should not enter a crosswalk in disregard of approaching traffic. It doesn't require that we come to a complete, foot-down stop when there is no cross traffic. It doesn't require pedestrians and runners to come to a stop. We think the legislation is not needed and will be used by police to blame trail users when they are hit in a crosswalk by a motorist. 

On the W&OD Trail police have been known to ticket cyclists for not coming to a complete, foot-down stop at the trail stop signs, even when there is no crossing traffic. At least two of those tickets have been thrown out of court when contested. I have video of bicycle police who roll through the W&OD Trail stop signs, as do 95% of cyclists when there is no cross traffic. SB959 will make the signs enforceable. We think that's a bad idea. 

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