Each year, the Virginia Bicycle Federation watches for bills that might affect bicycling and walking in Virginia, bills that could make it safer and easier or more dangerous and difficult to bicycle and walk. RIDE Solutions reports on the bills that the Virginia Bicycle Federation is watching. This article is for informational purposes; RIDE Solutions neither endorses nor opposes proposed legislation. You can find more information and track these bills at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/
Thousands of bills are filed each year. Few become law. In the eagerness to winnow down the field, bills die regardless of merit. This week saw the demise of many innocent bills.
Bud Vye of the Virginia Bicycle Federation commented that the sweeping Democrat victories in November disrupted the long-term relationships that the bicyclists had developed with Republican delegates and senators, with the result that transportation became partisan this year, with traffic safety and bicycling seen as Democrat issues.
House Transportation Subcommittee #1 has one more Republican than Democrat member, and several traffic safety bills in this committee went down along party lines:
- HB9 and HB1272, would require all occupants of a passenger vehicle to wear seatbelts with the vehicle is in motion.
- HB207, penalty for operating a vehicle without clearing accumulated ice and snow from it.
- HB464, driver must stop for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.
- HB308, which would prohibit motor vehicles from using the bicycle lane to pass on the right, was “passed by for the day” so it could be amended. However, the committee voted it down when it came back the following week.
The Courts of Justice committee dashed the high hopes for SB74, a ban on handheld devices while driving. SB74 passed the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate floor, so it was natural to think it would go to the House at Crossover, the halfway point in the session when bills that have passed either the House or Senate then go to the Senate or the House. However, it was then referred to the Courts of Justice committee where it failed.
Not all bills are dead yet. The House Transportation Committee referred two bills of bike/ped relevance to another committee, the General Laws Committee:
- HB134 would raise the Value Engineering threshold from $5 million to $10 million. Because bike/ped features that win public support tend to get “value engineered” out of projects by the engineer, increasing the threshold to trigger Value Engineering will help bike/ped infrastructure remain in projects.
- HB59, “Practical Design”, would eliminate bike/ped infrastructure from many projects. This is a false economy, since inexpensive bike/ped accommodations see a higher return on investment than expensive highways.
Delegate Dan Marshall from Danville has been trying for several years to curtail mopeds on highways, after an experience where he popped up over a hill to encounter a slow moped in front of him and an oncoming tractor-trailer. His past efforts to explicitly ban mopeds have failed, and this year’s HB428 to establish a minimum speed limit of 45 mph on limited access roads seems to be another tactic – but one that would effectively ban bicycles on roads such as Hershberger. Such roads are uncomfortable to bicycle on, but are often the only option. House Transportation Subcommittee 3 passed HB428.