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Virginia House Passes Bike, Pedestrian and Driver Bills Aimed at Safety
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Virginia House Passes Bike, Pedestrian and Driver Bills Aimed at Safety

New Assembly makeup allows for more safety legislation.

Stopping for a pedestrian or bicyclist in the crosswalk may be Driving 101 for most drivers, but not all. It’s become such an issue, Del. Kay Kory (D-38) partnered with Del. Ken Plum (D-36) to address the issue with House Bill 1705. That bill was among seven bills passed recently to increase the safety for pedestrians and bicyclists across the state.

Kory has been working on a crosswalk bill since 2011, and finally found an opportunity to get it passed with new Democratic majorities in office. “There were no objections,” she said.

The bill contains language that clarifies the duties of vehicle drivers to stop when yielding to pedestrians at clearly marked crosswalks, whether at midblock or at the end of any block; any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block; or any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway where the maximum speed limit is not more than 35 miles per hour.

“It’s a big issue,” said Shawn Newman of the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB). “We’ve had a number of incidents,” he added, noting that cyclists and pedestrians are “vulnerable road users.”

Plum got some safety ideas from Reston cyclist Bruce Wright who discussed the unsafe situation at the W&OD Trail and Wiehle Avenue. “Some people stop and some people don’t stop,” Plum said. With HB 1705, he’s looking at the educational function to go along with enforcement. It’s not all about penalizing. “We’re trying to educate people as well,” he said.

Kory mentioned the possibility of signs at the crosswalks, or looking into other methods that signal drivers. In Charlottesville, she said, they use a flashing light at crosswalks. “I think it makes sense, I want to look into it,” she said,

Senator Scott Surovell sponsored another vulnerable road users bill (SB 437) that increases the penalty for drivers who carelessly injure or kill a vulnerable road user and also prohibits using bike lanes to pass other vehicles.

Other bills included HB 874 by Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne (D-71) which prohibits any person from holding a handheld personal communications device while driving a motor vehicle.

SB 871, Sen. David Marsden’s bill, clarifies the rules on e-bikes and helps ensure e-bikes have a place in the future of Virginia’s transportation mix. Plum also sponsored HB 886 that continues the State Trails Advisory Committee’s work to improve our state-wide trail network through 2027.

HB 1442, the Automated photo speed enforcement bill will give localities a new tool to help prevent speeding-related crashes in school zones and highway work zones.

FABB calls the bills “a slew of important and bipartisan bills that will make bicycling in Fairfax and across the state safer and more enjoyable.” Although FABB is a local group, they want to highlight bike issues across the state. “We work very closely with other bike and pedestrian groups across the state,” Newman said.

At the county Board of Supervisors meeting, a group of bicyclists made their presence known when the bills were passed. “They were just thrilled,” said Kory.

Speed Photo Enforcement Comes to Virginia

HB 1442 authorizes state and local law-enforcement agencies to operate photo speed monitoring devices, defined in the bill, in or around school crossing zones and highway work zones for the purpose of recording images of vehicles that are traveling at speeds of at least 10 miles per hour above the posted school crossing zone or highway work zone speed limit within such school crossing zone or highway work zone when such zone is indicated by conspicuously placed signs displaying the maximum speed limit and that such photo speed monitoring devices are used in the area. The bill provides that the operator of a vehicle shall be liable for a monetary civil penalty, not to exceed $100, if such vehicle is found to be traveling at speeds of at least 10 miles per hour above the posted highway work zone or school crossing zone speed limit by the photo speed monitoring device.