Thursday, August 13, 2009
 

FABB Alert - Proposed changes to Vienna Bikeway Plan

The Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, August 17 at 8pm to discuss proposed amendments to the Town Bikeway Plan. The current plan is outdated and needs revision, but FABB is opposed to one of the proposed amendments: "(e) Bicyclists riding on sidewalks and bikepaths shall be required to stop at all intersections, crosswalks and/or street crossings."

We agree that riding on the sidewalk is very dangerous. However, we think the proposed change is contrary to existing Virginia Code, which currently states that no pedestrian (or bicyclist) shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic. It also states that "The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian (bicyclists on the sidewalk are considered pedestrians) crossing such highway:" The likely effect of the proposed code will be to transfer the responsibility for avoiding crashes from motorists to bicyclists.

Vienna is making some strides toward becoming a bicycle-friendly community. They have proposed establishing a Bicycle Advisory Committee and have recently approved a Vienna Bikeway Map. We suggest that the Town Council postpone a decision on the Bikeway Plan amendments until the formation of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. There are outdated sections of the Bikeway Plan that need to be changed, and the committee could provide advice on the proposed amendments, developing a list of comprehensive changes to the Bikeway Plan.

We urge cyclists, especially those who live in or near Vienna, to attend the public hearing and provide constructive comments on the proposed ordinance and the need to make Vienna more bicycle-friendly. If you cannot attend, please write to write to Mayor Seaman, and other council members (Laurie Cole, Edythe Kelleher, George Lovelace , Michael Polychrones, Laurie DiRocco, and Howard Springsteen):



1. Many people want to use bicycles for transportation but current conditions are dangerous and need to be improved.
2. We agree that bicycling on the sidewalk is dangerous but the proposed ordinance will not solve the problem.
3. Comprehensive bicycle education should be provided to Vienna citizens to make them aware of: proper riding techniques; the dangers of riding on the sidewalk; and current Virginia laws that apply to bicyclists.
4. The best solution is to make the streets of Vienna more bicycle-friendly.
5. The proposed Bicycle Advisory Committee should review the proposed amendments and other sections of the Bikeway Plan and make a single list of recommendations to the Council.

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Comments:
In Atlanta and other places the police have done "sting" operations targeting all users. As part of the pedestrian safety program has Fairfax considered doing similar stings? I have only heard about stings targeting pedestrians for jaywalking, etc. Have they done stings for motorists, and if not should we be pressing on the pedestrian staff, police and other officials to do this? They can be very effective in conditioning motorists to follow the law.
 
In 2002, Montgomery County Police were conducting sting operations in crosswalks to target motorists who failed to yield. This was an outcome of their Blue Ribbon Panel on Pedestrian Safety [pdf]. Fairfax County police reviewed the work and their response to conducting similar stings in Fairfax was that they were too dangerous:

"MPO Robert Barton, while present at one such pedestrian "sting" operation, observed the plains-clothes officer placing him/herself in the direct line of traffic as they cross multiple lanes of traffic, at times risking serious bodily injury. Such practices, although effective in the media, risk becoming symbols of ineffectiveness by that same media. Any positives that may come from the success of the program in the number of citations written will become meaningless if even one injury occurs as a result of an officer being "struck" in the roadway conducting this form of "sting" operation."

Yes, we know it's dangerous, and why isn't something being done?
 
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