Not the post-General Assembly blog I wanted to post

by Kevin O’Brien, Virginia Organizer

Two weeks ago I wrote that we were on the verge of major change in Virginia. Our bicycle safety-focused bills had passed the full House and were headed to the Senate where versions of the legislation had passed the previous year. I even traveled to Richmond to meet with the bill patrons and came away cautiously optimistic that the clear research and many personal testimonies would prove overwhelmingly compelling in the Senate. 

Unfortunately, this didn’t bear out and each of the WABA- and Virginia Bicycling Federation-supported bills – which would have allowed bicyclists to proceed with the WALK signal at crosswalks, utilize the Safety Stop, and ride two-abreast – failed to advance out of the Senate Transportation Committee. The chief culprits: continued opposition from the Virginia State Police and the Department of Motor Vehicles, paired with a non-committal stance from VDOT.  

It’s a deeply disappointing end to the legislative session but won’t be the end of the story. Several of our allies in the legislature have already declared intentions to reintroduce bike safety legislation next year and to work together with state agency staff and advocates in the meantime to try to find consensus and solutions to the epidemic of roadway violence. 

But what gives me the most hope is YOU and the thousands of Virginians like you who signed our petitions, took our actions, emailed legislators, and who continue to ride a bike despite a less-than-welcoming legal and physical environment. We may not be able to declare that Virginia is for Bicyclists just yet, but you have me feeling undeterred that together we will get there soon. 

So what can we do now? 

  1. Stay plugged into bike advocacy efforts. Whether via WABA or any of the amazing state and local organizations we partner with like VBF, Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, Bike Falls Church, Sustainability Mobility for Arlington County, and the Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, there’s almost always some action, budget, or project that can be improved by your perspective as a person who bicycles.
  2. Continue to speak up for bicyclist and pedestrian safety. To your neighbors, your friends, and especially your local legislators and agency staff. Let the businesses you shop at know you biked there, encourage other parents at pickup/dropoff, and get your coworkers involved.
  3. Continue to ride! Because it’s faster, or more relaxing, because it’s good for your body or for the planet. Ride because you have to or because you want to. Just being out there and visible, as often as we can, remains the most fundamental way to support the bicycle movement.

Advocates from across the region will be putting our heads together for a legislative debrief and to strategize in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned for more news. And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or ideas.