The Virginia General Assembly is in session for 60 days between January and March this year and is considering the outlook for transportation legislation is looking good. A number of House and Senate bills have been proposed to prohibit the use of handheld personal communication devices to reduce the danger from distracted driving.
Another piece of helpful legislation is Senate Bill (SB) 687 on signage and road markings. It requires the Department of Transportation to erect and maintain signs in high pedestrian, Segway, bicycle, moped, animal, and animal-drawn vehicle traffic volume areas signs that say “Share the Road” and that note existing law requiring passing motor vehicles to pass at least three feet to the left of such vehicles. The bill prohibits the driver of a motor vehicle from using a bicycle lane to pass or attempt to pass another vehicle.
House Bill 543 and SB 871 help to clarify rules on e-bikes by amending the definition of “electric power-assisted bicycle” to include three classes of such bicycles, based upon the type of motor and the maximum miles per hour that the motor is capable of propelling the bicycle. The bill also provides that electric power-assisted bicycles and operators are afforded the same rights and privileges as bicycles and operators and limits local and state regulation of the operation of such electric power-assisted bicycles to certain bicycle paths, shared-use paths, and trails. The bill requires manufacturers and distributors of electric power-assisted bicycles to include (i) on each electric power-assisted bicycle, a label indicating certain technical specifications and (ii) on each class three electric power-assisted bicycle, a miles-per-hour speedometer. The bill requires persons operating or riding on a class three electric power-assisted bicycle to wear a helmet.
Finally, SB 437 increases penalties for reckless driver behavior that threatens vulnerable road users. The proposed legislation provides that a person who operates a motor vehicle in a careless or distracted manner and is the proximate cause of serious physical injury to a vulnerable road user is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. In the bill, vulnerable road users are defined as a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, electric wheel chair, electric bicycle, wheelchair, skateboard, skates, motorized skateboard or scooter, or animal-drawn vehicle or riding an animal. The bill also prohibits the driver of a motor vehicle from crossing into a bicycle lane to pass or attempt to pass another vehicle, except in certain circumstances. SB 437 is sponsored by our local State Senator Scott Surovell. The Transportation Committee last week reported out this legislation for full Senate consideration.
FABB is proud to be partnering with Senator Surovell, Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Virginia Bicycling Federation, and Alexandria’s Families for Safe Streets to press for the passage of important bicycle and pedestrian safety legislation.
As always, FABB encourages everyone, drivers and vulnerable road uses, to behave responsibility on our roads to improve safety and move our region toward Vision Zero safety goals of no fatalities and injuries on our roadways.