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/
During legislative session, Virginia Bicycle Federation’s Champe Burnley and Bud Vye haunt Capitol Hill to push or block bills of interest. They attend committee hearings, testify, and meet with legislators and staff. They provide regular updates to people who are interested. They stay in touch with people with direct connections or who live in key districts who can send a letter or a phone call at just the right moment.
If you find the RIDE Solutions legislative updates interesting, be sure to check out Bud’s reports on the Virginia Bicycle Federation website!
Distracted driving: HB1811 will allow one swipe or one tap of a phone mounted on the dashboard, so you can start your navigation but you can’t write a text message. With strong support from both parties, it has passed House Courts of Justice Subcommittee 1. Responding to concerns that this legislation could result in racial profiling, a requirement that of an annual report on who received tickets under this bill raised fiscal concerns. To get around that, the legislation allows for the chairs of the Courts of Justice committees to request the report annually. Another measure to allay concerns of racial profiling was to delay enactment of the bill until 2020 to allow training and education of law enforcement.
Vulnerable Road Users: I was surprised that the vulnerable road user bill, SB1550, may get further this year than it did last year. SB1550 makes it a traffic infraction if a careless or distracted driver hits a vulnerable road user. Senator Surovell, a Democrat, found a Republican co-patron this year in Senator DeSteph. When DeSteph didn’t make it to the committee hearing on time it was voted down, 6 to 6. But that’s not the end of it. DeSteph and Surovell asked that it be brought back up for another vote. (The process fascinates me – I didn’t know you could do that!) The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys opposes SB1550, believing that police officers can use existing laws (3-foot passing law, following too closely) and that education of police officers could solve this problem better than legislation.
Electric scooters: On the House side, the e-scooter bills are HB2214, HB2232, and HB2752. These will probably get rolled into a single bill, HB2752. That means that HB2214 has been voted down. HB2232 is assigned to Transportation Subcommittee #1 and HB2752 is assigned to the full Transportation Committee. Virginia Bicycle Federation is keeping a close eye on how e-scooter bills might affect bicyclists.
Due care: SB1154 was prompted by frustrations of police officers who could see a clearly distracted driver but not have probable cause to pull them over. This was assigned to the Transportation Committee which referred it to the Courts of Justice.