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Roanoke Free Press
Monday, February 18, 2013

General Assembly kills all bike safety bills

Bike Tour June 2013

Bike Tour June 21-26, 2013

All bike safety bills were killed in the Virginia House of Delegates but cyclists vow to return in 2014. 

RICHMOND, VA– Today, the House of Delegates killed the last bicycle bill to come before the body in a vote of 55-42. The bill, SB1060 (Sen. Reeves, R-Fredricksburg) simply would have added bicycles to the list of vehicles that cannot be tailgated. Other bills killed by the House include another version of the tailgating bill, and a bill that stated car doors should not be recklessly swung into traffic. All of these bills applied to and benefited all vehicles, not simply bicyclists. All are part of universal vehicular safety.

The down vote on SB1060 ends the 2013 session’s bicycle safety package, advocated by the Virginia Bicycling FederationBike VirginiaRideRichmond, and other regional bicycling organizations. The House of Delegates has consistently opposed any bicycle legislation designed to improve safety of bicyclists on the road.

Champe Burnley, President, Virginia Bicycling Federation:

“Making our roads safe for all users – drivers, pedestrians and cyclists is simply good public policy.”
“As we transition to other forms of transportation over the coming years, it is critical that the laws protect all our road users and penalizes those who cause injury or death to others. These bills would help make our roads safer for everyone. How someone would vote against them is beyond me.”
Michael Gilbert, Co-Founder, RideRichmond:
“We only have one year left before the 2015 World Road Cycling Championships. The vast majority of other states have these laws, and once again, Virginia is being left behind due to a stagnant, outdated House of Delegates and their backwards view on universal vehicular safety.”

In 2015, Virginia will be host of the UCI World Road Cycling Championships with an estimated viewership of 300 million. The United States has not hosted the event for 29 years, since 1986. Over 450,000 spectators from around the world are anticipated in the Central Virginia region. Virginia Bicycling Federation, Bike Virginia, and RideRichmond are committed to improving the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads in anticipation of the event.

On February 12 Senator Chap Petersen’s bicycle safety bill (SB736)failed to pass in the House of Delegates Transportation Committee. The vote was 7-7. In a committee meeting, a tie vote meaning the bill is dead.

SB 736: Opening and closing motor vehicle doors. Requires drivers and passengers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. A violation constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $100.

Members of the Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia, the Virginia Bicycling Federation, Richmond 2015 World Cycling Championships, and others spoke in favor of the bill.

Petersen had worked with a broad coalition of groups to craft the bill and pass it through the Senate. “I’d like to thank everyone who worked so hard to get this bill as far as it did. This is a safety issue, and 40 states, even Alaska, have this exact law. You’re more likely to hit a moose than a bicycle in Alaska, I’m troubled as to why some people don’t want this safety law in Virginia.”

After the committee meeting, Michael Gilbert of Ride Richmond, a nonprofit advocacy organization stated his opinion on why the bill failed to pass. “This was a good bill that would have improved safety for both motorists and cyclists. The only reason why this bill was killed is because certain Delegates in the committee seem to be content with ten deaths and 730 injuries in accidents involving bicycles and cars per year.”

Delegates Brink, Toscano, McQuinn, Carr, Tata, and Filler-Corn voted in favor of the bill.

Delegates May, Cosgrove, Scott E.T., Garrett, Cox J.A., Yancey, and Dudenhefer voted against the bill.

Delegates Rust, Hugo, Villanueva, Comstock, Habeeb, Anderson, Ward, and BaCote were not present during the committee meeting and did not vote.

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