Once again, Virginia bike riders find their safety pushed aside as new bike safety legislation was halted in the state House of Representatives over partisan politics. Due to recent changes in leadership, bicyclists finally thought that much needed strives could be put into action to help protect riders on the road. According to House Republican Del. Barbara J. Comstock (Fairfax), Virginia is one of the only states in the country that does not have any tailgating laws in place to protect cyclists.
The goal was to change that this year. However, cycling advocates were shocked to learn that this most recent bill attempt was passed over in the Democratic-led Senate’s Transportation Committee. The would-be bill would have made it illegal to follow a bike too closely.
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) stated that, although he once approved of the bill in past years, he ultimately voted against it this time because of “concerns from state police that the measure would have been difficult to enforce.”
Bike advocates, including the president of the board of the Washington Area Bicycle Association believe, however, that this bill is not really about fiscal policy-making or culture wars between drivers and riders, but simply about basic road safety.
Ultimately, the cycling community would like bike safety legislation to pass so that drivers who cause serious bike accidents can be held accountable for their negligence. Too often, police are reluctant to press reckless driving charges in bike accidents. “It’s one less argument that a cyclist’s attorney can use,” said Bruce Wright of the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling.
According to Del. Comstock, the Virginia Department of Transportation has tried to get the state a “Bicycle Friendly” rating from the League of American Bicyclists, but has failed.
People on both ends of issue seem to agree that the inability to get legislation passed is most likely due to culture clash (in rural areas) and road rage (in higher populated areas). Many drivers may simply be too impatient behind the wheel.
Bicycle safety is an important issue in our communities. Reach out to your local policy makers and let them know your concerns!