Bike Walk RVA: What we got at the General Assembly in 2020
By: Brantley Tyndall, Bike Walk RVA Director of Outreach
Hey everyone. It’s March 19, and we’ve now had a full week of COVID-19 shakeups to our daily lives, work routines, and activity and social schedules. Many of us are holed up at home, working remotely and trying to keep our social distance up.
I’m sure a lot of us could use a little something positive to look forward to. RVA Bike Month will be heavily adapted to bring our community socially responsible ways to get outside, get the heart rate up, and see new bike lanes expected this year. And it’s great news that the General Assembly delivered some of the goods this year.
If you want to start with where we left off, here’s our last General Assembly update from January.
Hands Free Driving passed! – HB 874
After years of work from both parties and both houses, this law prohibiting holding a phone while driving regardless of what app you’re using will finally go into effect in January. And because the bill was finished somewhat early in the process, it has already been signed by the Governor! Tons of credit goes to Drive Smart VA who built a strong and tireless coalition to get this over the line.
Automatic Speed Enforcement – HB 1442
This bill was a big focus for us this year as an effort to reach Vision Zero goals by improving safety for our most vulnerable citizens by allowing for improved speeding enforcement in school zones and work zones. The bills took many forms over the course of the session and finally were combined and successfully passed both houses. Localities will be allowed to install speeding cameras in school and work zones only, and drivers who exceed 10mph over the posted speed limit will receive a fine in the mail. Warning signage is required, as well as privacy standards for the photo evidence. In a state with extremely high pedestrian fatalities, this is a needed tool for saving lives.
Central Virginia Transportation Authority – HB 1541
It passed! This is a big bill that will bring transportation money into our region, some of which will be used for biking and walking infrastructure like the Ashland to Petersburg Trail. It will take some time to get the money rolling, and there are some moving parts to get everything set up, but our region has successfully removed a barrier that has made other regions in the Commonwealth more competitive for transportation funding.
Stop for Pedestrians passed! – HB 1705
No longer will we have to listen to the pedantic argument that drivers don’t have to stop for pedestrians, just yield, as if we as drivers really should be flirting with the bare minimum to keep people walking alive. As a result of combining HB1644, this bill has two elements: drivers must yield by stopping for people in marked crosswalks, and that if another drivers is stopped, all other approaching drivers must stop. That means no gunning it around a stopped car whose driver is lawfully waiting for a pedestrian to cross.
Vulnerable User passes! – SB 437
This bill is great and took several years by patron Senator Surovell. It makes injuring a person biking, walking, scooting, etc. a misdemeanor AND prevents driving in a bike lane to pass. Can you dig it?
Not everything we wanted to succeed lived through the process. Making failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense died and took along with it the ability for localities to lower residential speed limits below 25mph. The houses failed to agree on prohibiting driving with an open container of alcohol in the car. These would save lives, so there is more work to do next year. And with all that said, the Governor has until mid-April to sign all of these bills into law. He may tweak them by Governor’s amendment or try to veto. But we don’t have a reason at this time to think he won’t sign them.
Director of Outreach
Bike Walk RVA