Each year, the Virginia Bicycle Federation monitors and advocates for or against 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 bills at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/
The midpoint of the legislative session is Crossover, the date on which any bill introduced in the House or Senate must cross over to the Senate or the House for consideration. If a bill has not passed the side it was introduced on yet, it is done for the session. Crossover was February 12.
A bill that crosses over and passes both sides is not home free yet. If the version that ended up passing the second side is different than what crossed over, even by a single word, it must go to conference committee for the differences to be worked out. This tactic took down the Hands Free bill last year AND the year before. Then, of course, it must be signed by the Governor.
A surprising number of bills of interest made it to Crossover this year.
Passed Both Houses
Two bills from the House that crossed over have already been passed the Senate:
HB543 (similar to SB871) adds a definition for electric bikes (ebikes).
HB874 (similar to SB160), a Hands Free bill that will prohibit driving while holding a mobile device.
Four bills from the House that crossed over await a hearing in a Senate committee:
HB886 reauthorizes the State Trails Advisory Committee.
HB1439. This bill contains a number of transportation safety initiatives. It has been amended numerous times so that its relevance to biking and walking is less clear. It does still contain provisions for photo speed enforcement in school zones.
HB1644 prohibits a vehicle from passing another vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk, also known as “multiple threat” to a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
HB1705 changes “yield” to “stop” for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, which is much easier to communicate and to enforce.
One bill from the Senate that crossed over awaits a hearing in a House committee:
SB687, Requires the Virginia Department of Transportation to post Share the Road signs where pedestrian or bicycle traffic is high.
Three bills from the Senate that crossed over have passed out of committee and await a vote on the House floor:
SB160 (similar to HB874), a Hands Free bill that will prohibit driving while holding a mobile device.
SB437, Increases penalties of traffic infractions that result in harm to a vulnerable road user, such as a bicyclist, pedestrian, wheelchair user, etc.
SB871 (similar to HB543), adds a definition of electric bikes (ebikes).
These three failed in committee:
HB247 (similar to SB437), Increased penalties for a traffic infraction that results in injury to a pedestrian or wheelchair user. The failure of HB247 is ominous for the similar bill SB437.
SB659, Allow vulnerable road users to recover costs in court. Virginia’s “contributory negligence” laws prevent many vulnerable road users injured in traffic crashes from recovering their costs, even when the driver was at fault.
SB759, Allow automated photo speed enforcement.