FABB Testimony to Vienna Town Council - DRAFT

August 17, 2009

We are encouraged that the Town Council is focusing attention on bicycling as more people are choosing bicycling as a mode of transportation. Now is a good time to modify the Vienna Bikeway Plan. However, we do not think the proposed change to require bicyclists to "stop at all intersections, crosswalks and/or street crossings" is necessary.

We agree with Vienna police that riding on the sidewalk is dangerous. Riding in the road, with traffic, using effective cycling techniques, has been shown to be much safer than riding on the sidewalk, even on roads like Maple Ave. However, many cyclists choose to avoid Maple Ave and ride on the sidewalk.

We think the best solution to dangerous sidewalk riding is to improve conditions for bicyclists on the Vienna streets. Some efforts are underway to help make Vienna more bike-friendly such as the recently proposed bicycle advisory committee and the completion of a Vienna bicycle route map.

However, we think the proposed ordinance will not reduce bicycle crashes and will only transfer the responsibility for avoiding crashes from motorists to bicyclists. This measure would have the unintended consequence of making drivers less attentive to their surroundings. To foster a sense of a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly community drivers need to be made more aware of their surroundings not less. FABB is particularly concerned that children, who often ride on sidewalks and are not necessarily aware of traffic laws, could be made more vulnerable by such a rule change. What about runners or people on roller blades or skateboards, many of whom travel as fast as someone on a bicycle.

Current Virginia code already requires that bicyclists shall not enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic. We think existing code is sufficient and that since the proposed code is more restrictive than the Virginia code, it is in conflict with the Dillon Rule and could be challenged in court: Virginia code (15.2-1102 General grant of power; enumeration of powers not exclusive; limitations on exercise of power.)

Other parts of the bikeway plan need revision. Under Article 4, there are two outdated provisions: "Sec. 21-18 In General. At their option, bicyclists resident in the Vienna community may have their bicycles inspected and licensed by the Community Services Officer of the Police Department." and "Sec. 21-19 Bicycle Rental Agencies. No bicycle rental agency shall offer for riding any bicycle unless it is inspected and licensed by the Community Services Officer and is equipped as required in Article 3."

We suggest that the proposed amendments to the Bikeway Plan be postponed until such time as the bicycle advisory committee is formed and has time to review all aspects of the Plan. The committee can then propose a comprehensive set of changes to the Plan that can be enacted at once. It could become a real bicycle plan as defined by VDOT and include such features as:

We would like to be part of that process which we think will help make Vienna a more bicycle-friendly place.

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