Thursday, January 28, 2010

Share the road pocket guide and bookmark

Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) is printing copies of a new pocket guide Sharing the Road in VIRGINIA: Laws & Safety Tips for Bicyclists & Pedestrians [large pdf] and bookmark Sharing the Road in VIRGINIA: Know the Law. According to Debbie Spiliotopoulos of NVRC,
NVRC has a transportation enhancement project to print a pocket guide and bookmark, Sharing the Road in Virginia, developed by Bike Walk Virginia, Virginia DMV, VDOT, DOH, DCR, and DOE and other bicycle/pedestrian safety leaders in Virginia. As the sponsor of a transportation enhancement grant for the development and printing of this booklet, NVRC is looking for points of distribution of these materials.
The publications will be useful guides to Virginia bike laws, although we don't agree with the wording of some of the sections. They've used a literal interpretation of the law in the Know the Law section such as "Keep one hand on handlebars when carrying articles." While it's true that if you carry articles in your hand while riding, at least one hand must be on the handlebars (46.2-906). We think it's a bad idea to carry anything in your hand while riding.

Another quibble regards where to ride in the road: "Stay as far right as safely possible or use shoulder." What the law actually states (46.2-905) is "ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway." There is a difference between "possible" and "practicable."

Another example is "Don't wear earphones in both ears. (46.2-1078)" We suggest not using earphones at all. Finally, we hope this one will be need to be updated soon with passage of HB 163/SB 566: "Motorists: Allow at least two feet between you and bicyclists when passing. (46.2-839)" Even so, it would have been better to suggest allowing at least three feet when passing, regardless of the current law.

Despite our reservations about some of the text, overall these will be a useful handouts. There's also a website, Sharing the Road in Virginia.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

WABA bike safety at NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo

Yesterday we volunteered at the WABA bike safety booth at the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo. It was great to see so many kids having fun on bikes and learning about bike safety. WABA staff laid out a short course using orange cones that included several stations: the ABC (Air, Brakes, Chain and Cranks) Spin Check, weaving around cones, riding straight through parallel lines of cones, stopping at a stop sign and looking both ways, and walking their bike through a crosswalk.

WABA has a trailer filled with bikes of various sizes, including a few with training wheels, and several boxes of helmets. All kids were required to wear "cootie caps", shower caps to keep the helmets clean.

It was a fun but tiring morning and well worth the effort. With so little bicycle education available in the schools, WABA provides a great service to the community with events like this. They also conduct Safe Routes to School programs at several DC schools.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vienna bicycle safety

Vienna police appeared before the Town council last night to discuss bicycle safety once again. "Bicyclists plying sidewalks along heavily trafficked Maple Avenue are by far the likeliest to collide with vehicles, Vienna police officials told the Vienna Town Council at its Nov. 9 work session."

Similar information was presented to the council when changes to the Vienna Bikeway Plan were proposed. The solution then was to force bicyclists to yield to motorists, contrary to existing state law. Those changes were deferred until the Bicycle Advisory Committee could weigh in.

One good suggestion was received in the bicycle and pedestrian safety survey conducted by police: "Other residents suggested banning right turns on red along Maple Avenue. This would solve many of the bicycle crashes, but likely lead to sizable traffic backups, said Vienna Police Chief Robert Carlisle."

Most of the traffic in Vienna is along Maple Ave. While side street traffic is heavy, we don't feel it would be greatly affected by banning right on red, especially during rush hour when there is a continuous stream of traffic on Maple Ave. with few chances to turn right on red. We think this solution should be investigated further.

Allen Muchnick of Virginia Bicycling Federation made a good suggestion in his comment on the above news article. He noted that cyclists are "much safer when traveling on the roadway (even on Maple Ave and other busy roads) than on the adjacent sidewalk, and few roadway bicyclists know that, for their safety, they should control (i.e., ride near the center) of the right-most through travel lane, unless that lane is at least 14 feet wide and thus safely sharable laterally with a typical auto." He went on to state that "Town or VDOT should install shared-lane markings (aka "sharrows") in the center of both curb lanes to inform the public that these lanes are shared by bicyclists and motorists."

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vienna to propose new bicycle regulations

According to a Vienna Connection article entitled "Eye to Eye Program Launched"Police Department rolls out bicycle safety program", the Town of Vienna is considering requiring bicyclists to yield to motorists when riding on the sidewalk, contrary to state law. According to Virginia code 46.2-904, operation of bicycles on sidewalks and crosswalks and shared-use paths, "A person riding a bicycle... on a sidewalk, shared-use path, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances."

Since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, we doubt that the Town can pass a local ordinance contrary to state law. What Vienna should be doing is working to make Vienna more bicycle-friendly. It makes little sense to pass a local ordinance that would only apply in Vienna.

Other measures being considered are: "We've suggested that riders be required to use audible signals at greater than 50 feet away when approaching pedestrians when riders are using the sidewalk and W & OD trail. Another consideration is to require all bike riders to stop before traversing a roadway or intersection when coming off a sidewalk." The same code referenced above, 46.2-904, already states that "A person riding a bicycle... shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian." Requiring bicyclists to "stop before traversing a roadway or intersection when coming off a sidewalk" is also contrary to existing code.

According to the news article above, Vienna has "adopted Portland, Oregon's Eye to Eye safety program". However, we doubt that Portland's Eye to Eye campaign would focus most of their efforts on bicyclist behavior. The motto of Portland's campaign is "Our Streets Belong to Everyone" (see their banner image above). Officer Murray wasn't kidding when he says that while they've been conferring with others, "We've elected to go on our own with this campaign."

We think more motorist education and enforcement is needed to help make cyclists safer in the Town. A more bike-friendly Vienna is the best solution for improving bicycle safety.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on August 17 to discuss proposed changes to the Town code regarding bicyclists on sidewalks. Town Council meetings begin at 8pm and are held at 127 Center St. South, Vienna, Virginia. We'll provide more information as it becomes available.

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