Dooring Bill is Now Law in Virginia!

dooring The Virginia General Assembly closed its 2016 legislative session on March 12th with some welcome news for bicyclists across the state and the Washington region. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of Virginia residents, advocates, and legislators, SB 117, the “dooring” bill, passed both the Virginia House and Senate. On April 1, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law. SB 117 requires drivers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. A violation constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $50. Getting “doored” is an all too common cause of crashes between bikes and cars, often resulting in severe injury to the bicyclist. After many years of advocacy and many iterations of this bill, Virginia finally joins the District of Columbia, Maryland and 39 other states in placing responsibility with the driver to avoid dooring another road user. While codifying a new traffic infraction may not seem significant at first glance, it means a great deal to a bicyclist dealing with the aftermath of a dooring crash. Until now, a driver could blindly throw open their door into the path of a bicyclist, cause a crash, and drive away without citation or any legal responsibility. The law now correctly puts fault where it is due, and should help some bicyclists recover damages, even despite Virginia’s outdated contributory negligence standard. Without question, this is a massive win! A special thank you goes to our partners at the Virginia Bicycling Federation for their tireless advocacy efforts on this legislative initiative.

Preventing Dooring

This law is very good news for anyone who gets doored in Virginia, but every road user has a role to play in preventing dooring crashes. Here are a few tips.

Drivers & Passengers

  • Before opening your door, check behind you. Use your mirror and turn your body to look before opening a car door, especially when inside the car.
  • Open car doors slowly.
  • Adopt this habit; Release the latch of the driver side door with your right hand. This practice forces you to look behind you before opening the door.
  • Remind passengers to check it’s clear to open their car door before they exit.

Bicyclists

  • Avoid riding in the “door zone.”  Car doors can extend 4-5 feet from a car and open quickly. Leave 3-5 feet between you and parked cars. On narrow streets, many bike lanes are placed in the “door zone,” so hug the left side of the lane.
  • Stay alert: Keep your eyes up, scan for activity ahead of you, and be on the lookout for drivers and passengers inside cars.
  • Be predictable and visible: Ride in a straight line and ride where drivers expect bicyclists to be. Use a front light when riding at night.
  • Learn and practice crash avoidance maneuvers: Take a City Cycling Class with WABA.

Other Legislation

Another bill, SB 669 was continued in the House Transportation Committee to 2017. SB 669 would have removed a disincentive for cities and towns to replace traffic lanes with bike lanes. Currently, highway maintenance funding is calculated based on the number of lane miles the city or town maintains. Under this bill, municipalities would not have their maintenance funding reduced if motor vehicle lane miles are converted to bicycle-only lanes. This would have helped municipalities wishing to engage in traffic calming, road diets, and other street safety projects. This bill made significant headway, passing in the Senate, but never made it out of the House Transportation Committee. continued to 2017. This means that this bill will be back on the calendar for the 2017 legislative session.

Montgomery County Council Should Back a Protected Bike Lane Network in Silver Spring

Silver Spring Network Update: At Thursday’s T&E Committee Meeting the committee voted unanimously in support of funding a network of protected bike lanes in Silver Spring and a number of other important bike projects in the county. Thanks to all the county residents who contacted the council and special thanks to Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen,Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer for their leadership and support for safe, popular biking in the county.
It has already been a year of promising news and big plans for biking in Montgomery County. Just on the heels of plans for protected bike lanes coming to Silver Spring by this summer, comes a chance to create a whole network of protected bike lanes over the next five years. Yesterday, Councilmember Hans Riemer introduced a proposal to substantially increase funding to the county’s Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) program to speed up implementation of a Silver Spring bicycle network. The BPPA program concentrates resources for rapid planning, design and construction of pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the places they are needed most. Of the 30 designated priority areas in the county, Silver Spring CBD, Grosvenor, Glenmont, Wheaton CBD, and Randolph/Veirs Mill are getting attention first. The program is funded through the county’s long term Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget at $1 million per year over five years. The BPPA program is already responsible for pedestrian improvements at intersections, new bike parking, and the forthcoming and well-received Spring and Cedar St protected bike lanes. Councilmember Riemer proposes to expand the BPPA program’s budget from $1 million to $2.5 million annually in the 2017-’22 CIP budget. This increased funding would allow for planning and construction of a full network of bikeways in Silver Spring and improvements to other priority areas by 2020. As he writes in the proposal memo, “the latest bicycle research shows that people are more likely to bicycle in lower-stress environments that provide protection from motor vehicles and separation from pedestrians. Facilities like separated bike lanes and protected intersections are crucial to strengthening the walkable, bikeable urban areas that we want for our residents.” Few urban areas are better suited for these improvements than Silver Spring. By 2020, three major regional trails will connect into Silver Spring’s downtown core, but without improvements to the street grid, bicyclists will not have a safe route to their destination. Read the full proposal and see the network map.

Ask Councilmembers Hucker, Floreen & Berliner to support increased BPPA funding

On Thursday March 3rd, the Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) will discuss this proposal and decide whether or not to include this funding increase in the package of recommended budget amendments. As the three standing members of the T&E Committee, Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker are already strong supporters of biking in the county, but with so many priorities in the balance, we need your help to ensure they support this proposal on Thursday. If you live or work in Montgomery County, please email or call the members of the T&E Committee and tell them why expanding BPPA funding is important to you and essential to making Silver Spring into the walkable, bikeable place we want it to be. If you have the time, call into their offices to discuss the importance of this funding increase and what it will enable. Regardless of where you live in the county, the T&E committee represents you in these budget decisions. T&E Committee Contact Details Tom Hucker – councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov 240-777-7960 Nancy Floreen – councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov  240-777-7959 Roger Berliner – councilmember.berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov  240-777-7828

Bike Legislation in Virginia in the 2016 Session

Buffered Bike Lane Arlington   As Virginia cruises through its short legislative session, two bike-relevant bills under consideration need your support.  Northern Virginia is a powerhouse and a leader on bicycle issues, but county and city governments don’t have control over all of the aspects of the NoVa bike network, so some changes have to happen at the state level. It only takes a minute to send a letter to your representatives, and it makes a big difference when they hear from you.

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Here are the bills that need your support:

SB 117: Dooring— This bill makes opening a vehicle door into the path of an oncoming bicycle a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $50.  As too many of us know, dooring can cause severe injury to bicyclists.  Currently, there is no penalty in VA for passengers and drivers who put cyclists at risk in this manner. The lack of a ticketable infraction makes it harder for the victim of dooring to recover damages from insurance companies for his/her injuries. The creation of this traffic infraction would change that. SB 669: Converting traffic lanes to bicycle lanes will not reduce highway maintenance funds— This bill would remove a disincentive for cities and towns to replace traffic lanes with bike lanes. Currently, highway maintenance funding is calculated based on the number of lane miles the city or town maintains. Under this bill, municipalities will not have their maintenance funding reduced if motor vehicle lane miles are converted to bicycle-only lanes. This is great for municipalities wishing to engage in traffic calming, road diets, and other street safety projects.

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