Archive | February, 2013

Legislature Leaves Cyclists (Almost) Empty-Handed

20 Feb


SB1060 — Following too Close

I am sad to report that SB1060, a bill that would have amended the state code to make “don’t follow too closely” apply to all vehicles included bicycles, was defeated 42-55 on the House floor.  Bud Vye, the tireless advocate, provides the details at the Virginia Bicycling Federation, including who voted against.  If one of them is your delegate, it’s still worth sending a note or calling to ask why they did so and express your disapproval.  I know that my delegate, Jennifer McClellan, voted in favor, but a number of others from this region voted against.

Cracking Down on Texting

I nearly titled this post “Legislature Leaves Cyclists Empty-Handed,” but I just read a piece in the RTD that the state Senate has backed a bill making texting while driving a primary offense (meaning you can be stopped just for that), and raising the fine to $250.  Distracted driving of all kinds is one of the greatest dangers to cyclists (and pedestrians and other motorists), so this is good news.

What to Make of Webb’s Conviction?

The other big news story we’ve been following — also related to advocacy efforts — is the trial and recent conviction of Elias Webb for hit-and-run.  Style asked three local advocates to respond to the Webb conviction.  The fact that Webb was convicted and will likely serve some time is an encouraging sign the Richmonders have a measure of respect for cyclists, since it’s not uncommon for drivers in this kind of situation to get a slap on the wrist or less.

Although the comments in response to this piece are not as strongly bike vs. car as some others have been, it’s clear that cyclists and motorists tend to blame one another.  Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that, yes, some cyclists could do more to be visible and predictable, and motorists should also get used to seeing and accepting bicyclists and take more care around them?  BOTH need more education and awareness.  Admitting that you could maybe do better — either as a cyclist or motorist or both — is the first step toward getting away from this eternal finger-pointing.

Keeping Track of Injuries and Fatalities

The League of American Bicyclists has just put out a call asking folks to contact Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to demand that statistics and goals for pedestrian and bicycle safety be included in transportation planning by the DOT.  According to the League:

The US Department of Transportation is required by the new transportation law to establish national safety goals and performance measures to guide the states. Right now, they are NOT proposing any separate national goals or performance measures to improve the safety of bicyclists and/or pedestrians. We cannot let this happen – these measures will be used to guide traffic safety policy and funding at the national and state level for years to come.

Click here and look for the top alert if you would like to send an email.  It’ll only take a few seconds!


One Last Push

18 Feb

The Virginia Bicycling Federation is asking for one last shout-out to your House delegate regarding SB1060.  This bill is going to be voted on by the House of Delegates early this week.  A 3-foot passing provision was taken out (now the law in VA is 2 feet, in many other states it is 3), but what remains is a law against following a bicyclist (or other slower vehicles) too close.  Given that a number of cyclists who have been killed recently were hit from behind, this could hopefully help raise some awareness.  Please follow the link above for details about the bill and how to contact your delegate.  It would be nice to come out of this legislative session with at least one bicycle-friendly bill passing!

Catching Up on Good Stuff

Lest it seem that cycling is all laws and accidents, there are a number of great things happening that I’ve put off posting about…

• Richmond has another blog devoted to cycling in the River CityRide RVA.  Some recent posts have included some info sure to be of interest to local businesses.  Societé 2015 is an effort of the Richmond 2015 to get local businesses in the loop and mobilized with regard to promoting the races and benefiting from them.  Local business owners will also be happy to know that they can now request a bike rack from the city.  See the Ride RVA post here for more details.

Rag and Bones Bike Co-Op has found a new home in Scott’s Addition!  They are now located at 3110 West Leigh Street.  Hours are Tuesday 5-9 p.m. and Saturday 1-5 p.m.  You can also contact the head mechanic to make an appointment if those times don’t work.  They have a full range of tools and can help you fix your bike.  You can also purchase used bikes or build one up yourself.

• The scope is much broader than cycling, but Venture Richmond has launched a new site promoting the Richmond riverfront and canal walk.  It includes information on the Capital Trail and mountain biking trails along the James.

• Mary Munford Elementary School won a Safe Routes to School grant that will pay for improved cross walks and sidewalks as well as warning lights.  The program also covers improvements to make cycling to school safer and easier.  Although the most recent federal transportation bill eliminated separate SRTS funding, it appears that the program still exists.  See the SRTS site for more details.

What Will It Take?

15 Feb

The trail of Elias Webb has ended.  Webb was charged with hit-and-run in connection with an accident that killed  24 year-old Lanie Kruszewski, who was cycling home from work along River Road.  The Times-Dispatch reports that Webb was found guilty and that the jury has recommended a prison term of three years (the actual sentencing is in May).  The maximum he could have received was ten years and the minimum was no jail time.

The thought that keeps nagging me is that, as far as I know, the sentence has no impact on Webb’s ability to drive a car after he serves his time.  This is especially disturbing because Webb was reported to have had a number of serious driving violations prior to this one.  Let’s just say it’s not clear he’s a very careful driver.

Perhaps the image of Webb riding a bicycle to work represents a kind of higher justice in my mind, but aside from that, it highlights just how difficult it is in this country to lose your right to drive, which in turn reflects the assumption that driving is the way to travel.  Please tell me that leaving the scene of an accident in which the driver killed someone means that the driver will not be allowed to drive for a long time!

Mixed News from Capitol Square

It is fitting — but ultimately disappointing — that Webb’s trial has coincided with another frustrating legislative session.  This week’s Style includes a report on this year’s lobbying efforts and bills related to cycling that have made it a bit further than they usually do, perhaps in part due to Lanie’s death.  I’m sad to say that Style went to press before a couple of the bills — including the one on dooring and the 3-foot passing part of another one — died once again in the House Transportation Committee, thanks in part to that reliable enemy of cyclists, Rep. John Cox of Hanover.*  See RVA News’ coverage of the dooring bill and the Virginia Bicycling Federation site for more details on what happened and where things stand.

A law against following slower vehicles too close (with which the 3-foot passing law was formerly included) did make it through committee, though, so it still makes sense to contact your delegate to encourage them to vote for it.  See the VBF site for links to find your delegate.

There’s no doubt that legislation to benefit and/or protect cyclists is getting a better reception than in the past, but geez — if a high-profile death of a young woman (not to mention the long-standing efforts of local advocates) is not enough to overcome apathy or hostility toward bicyclists, what will???

For the sake of not making this post a too lengthy (if it wasn’t already), I’ll leave some of the more unabashedly positive, fun stuff for the next one…  Stay tuned!

*If you are a constituent of Cox please let him know that you’re not happy with his repeated opposition to reasonable legislation to protect cyclists.  Cox seems to follow an unfortunately not-uncommon but flawed logic regarding cyclists: if they don’t follow all laws to the letter (and perhaps irritate him in the process), they don’t deserve protection.  It’s like saying pedestrians don’t deserve laws protecting them in crosswalks because some of them jaywalk.

Contact Your Reps!

5 Feb

From an advocacy alert that just came in:

We have just received word that both SB736 “dooring” and SB959 will be heard in House Transportation Subcommittee #2 tomorrow at 7am at the General Assembly. The public is welcome to attend.
Please take a moment and send a simple email, especially if you are either Delegate Cox or Delegate Carr’s constituent. Find out who your constituent is here, or email the entire committee (addresses at the bottom). This is derived from a post on Virginia Bicycling Federation, so please share the link on Facebook & Twitter.
Thanks for your support!