Bicycle-passing bill advances

The Virginia Senate Transportation committee recently has approved a bill increasing the distance at which cars must pass bicycles from 2 feet to 3 feet.

By Lauren McClellan | Capital News Service

The Virginia Senate Transportation committee recently approved a bill increasing the distance at which cars must pass bicycles, from two feet to three feet.

Senate Bill 97, introduced by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, has been unsuccessfully introduced in the past by Reeves and a number of other Republican and Democratic legislators.

Previous opponents of the bill, including Sen. Charles W. Carrico, R-Galax, have cited enforceability issues as a reason for barring passage of the bill, saying that it’s hard for drivers to know the difference between two- and three-foot distances while driving.

This bill would also change the distance at which a car can pass electric personal assistive mobility devices (Segways), mopeds, and animal-drawn vehicles.

Twenty-two other states and Washington, D.C. have similar laws that say drivers must pass bicycles with at least three feet of room.

The Virginia Bicycling Federation supports the bill and its members have been meeting with legislators to advocate for the bill’s passage.

“We had reps from the City of Virginia Beach speaking to the Senate Transportation Committee in support of SB97,” stated Scott Cramer, board member of the VBF from Norfolk, Va. “When city officials, not just cyclists, want to be seen as bike-friendly, that’s a big step forward.”

To Cramer, the new bill would give cyclists another layer of protection from vehicles that have wide trailers or large mirrors. Cramer also thinks that the passage of this bill would help the relationship between Virginia cyclists and drivers.

“It will help Virginia’s standing as a bicycle-friendly state, since having a three-foot pass law is a criterion from the League of American Bicyclists,” Cramer stated in an email. “It sends a message to citizens–drivers and cyclists–that cyclists’ space on the road should be respected.”

In 2013, the League of American Bicyclists rated Virginia the 16th most bike-friendly state. The league provided feedback with their ranking, stating that Virginia should consider enacting a three-foot passing law.

In 2015, Richmond will host the Union Cycliste Internationale World Road Championships. Lee Kallmen, marketing and communications director for the event’s Richmond organizing body, thinks SB 97 could benefit all of the Commonwealth.

“We hope this event is not (only) about bike racing, but making the region more bike-friendly for recreation and transportation,” Kallmen said. “Any legislation that further supports (this) is a good thing as far as we’re concerned.”

photo by Richard Masoner

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