Active Prince William

Helping to make Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park a More Livable, Sustainable Community.

Tag: Virginia Legislature

Action Alert: Support Pro-Bike Bills in the Virginia House of Delegates

 

Update:  On February 15, the Criminal Laws Subcommittee of the House Court of Justice Committee tabled (killed) SB 1339 on an unrecorded party-line vote, while on February 13 Subcommittee #1 of the House Transportation Committee killed SB 1338 on a 3-4 vote.  Thus, both bills are now dead for 2017.  Delegate Rich Anderson (R, HD-51) helped kill SB 1338, while Delegate Jackson Miller (R, HD-50) helped kill SB 1339.  Ask Delegates Anderson and Miller to support future legislation to better protect pedestrians and bicyclists from irresponsible motorists.

Two bicycling-friendly bills, filed for the 2017 Virginia General Assembly by Senator Scott Surovell (D, Senate District 36, which includes part of Prince William County), were approved by the Virginia Senate and are now before the Virginia House of Delegates.

SB 1338 would establish a traffic infraction when a motorist drives in a bicycle lane to pass or attempt to pass another vehicle.  (This bill also generally prohibits travel in a bicycle lane via motor vehicle or moped for the first time.)  The Virginia Senate passed SB 1338 on a 23-17 vote, with only four Republicans voting in favor.

SB 1339 would establish a traffic infraction when a careless or distracted motorist is the proximate cause of serious physical injury to a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other “vulnerable road user”, as defined in this bill.   The Virginia Senate passed SB 1339 on a 21-19 vote, with only two Republicans voting in favor.

On February 13, both SB 1338 and SB 1339 were heard by the seven-member Subcommittee #1 of the House Transportation Committee.   Delegate Rich Anderson, a Republican who represents House District 51 through a wide swath of Prince William County, is the only local member of this subcommittee.

As recorded here, Subcommittee #1 failed to report SB 1338 to the full House Transportation Committee on a 3-4 vote.  Thus, unless someone (such as Del. Anderson) who voted against reporting SB 1338 changes his mind and asks that SB 1338 be reconsidered in the full Transportation Committee, SB 1338 is now dead.  If SB 1338 is miraculously resurrected I will update this post.

Subcommittee #1 recommended that SB 1339 be referred to the House Courts of Justice Committee, so SB 1339 is still alive.  The Courts of Justice Committee meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons, so SB 1339 may go before that committee in a few days.

Delegate Jackson Miller (R, HD-50) is the only member of the House Courts of Justice Committee from Prince William County.  Please call or email Delegate Miller as soon as possible to ask him to support SB 1339.

Del. Jackson Miller, R, HD-50 (Manassas), 804-698-1050, DelJMiller@house.virginia.gov

A short and simple request to support SB 1339 should suffice.  Please include your home address and contact information, so Delegate Miller knows you are a constituent or live near his district.  Here’s a sample message:


Subject: Support SB 1339

Dear Delegate Miller,

Please vote for SB 1339, which is now before the House Courts of Justice Committee.   SB 1339 would hold a careless or distracted motorist accountable when his or her negligence causes serious injury to a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other “vulnerable road user”.

As a Prince William County [or Manassas] resident, I would greatly appreciate your votes for this simple and straightforward traffic-law improvement, to help make me and my family safer when we travel by foot or bicycle.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Your Street Address
Your City, VA Zipcode


More Resources

Map of Del. Rich Anderson’s House District 51

Map of Del. Jackson Miller’s House District 50

Map of all House of Delegate Districts in Prince William County (pdf file)

Bike-Related Bills for the 2017 Virginia General Assembly Session

Photo courtesy of Mike Beaty

Prince William County Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly
Public Hearing for the 2017 Legislative Session, January 7, 2017
Statement by Allen Muchnick, board member
Virginia Bicycling Federation and Active Prince William

Good afternoon. I’m Allen Muchnick, a board member of both the Virginia Bicycling Federation and Active Prince William.  Active Prince William was founded one year ago to advance bicycling, walking, and public transportation in Prince William County and greater Manassas.

For the past eight years, the Virginia Bicycling Federation has sought to improve justice for bicyclists injured by negligent motorists.  As a result, the General Assembly has modified Virginia’s traffic laws to finally prohibit motorists from following or passing a bicyclist too closely and from carelessly opening the driver’s door of a parked vehicle into the path of approaching traffic. While we appreciate these long-needed changes, more must be done to hold careless and distracted motorists accountable for their negligence.

Last year, Senator Surovell and Delegate Sullivan each introduced bills to charge a careless or distracted motorist with a Class 1 misdemeanor and to suspend their driver’s license for one to three years if their negligence is “the proximate cause of serious physical injury to a vulnerable road user.”   Although both bills died in committee last year, we are pleased that both legislators will file similar bills this year.  Delegate Sullivan’s new bill is HB 1633.  We ask the entire Prince William County delegation to endorse both bills as co-patrons.

Distracted driving due to handheld electronic devices has been a growing cause of traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths for well over a decade.  We strongly support Senator Surovell’s SB 860, which would generally prohibit the manual operation of a handheld personal communications device while driving a motor vehicle and would establish a reckless driving charge if a violation of this new prohibition is concurrent with an additional traffic offense or if the violation results in a crash.  We ask the Prince William County delegation to strongly support this bill as well.

Senator Surovell has also prefiled a bill to establish a reckless driving charge for motorists who pass, or attempt to pass, another vehicle by driving in a bicycle lane.  We fully support that bill and would also support a reckless driving charge when a motorist passes another same-direction-motorist who is stopped at a marked crosswalk for pedestrian or bicycle traffic.

In 2015 and 2016, bills were filed to not reduce highway maintenance payments to municipalities that have implemented road diets, whereby the space occupied by one or more conventional travel lanes is reallocated to create one or more bike lanes.  Road diets are widely used, including in Northern Virginia, to effectively retrofit bike lanes while simultaneously improving a road’s capacity and safety for motorists; they should not be discouraged with counterproductive disincentives.  We expect Delegate Villanueva to carry the road diet bill this year, and we ask you to endorse it as co-patrons.  Cities, including Manassas and Manassas Park, would benefit significantly from this legislation.

Thank you for considering my requests, and best wishes for a productive legislative session.