Virginia and Maryland Legislative Update

Last week, we posted a quick listing of the primary bike-related bills in the Virginia and Maryland legislatures this session.  Since then, a few procedural steps have been scheduled and we’ve identified a couple more bills of note to the bicycling community.  We will post more on that shortly. But, as promised, things move quickly and we need to take action to move these bills forward. So…

Greg Billing and I will be in Annapolis today for the meeting of the Maryland Bike Caucus to be present for the introduction of HB 52 (Bike Duty Bill) and HB 92 (strengthening the 3 ft. passing law).

Virginia Bicycling Federation (VBF) will be in Richmond for hearings in the Senate Transportation Committee on SB 97 (Three Foot Passing) and SB 225 (Dooring).

From VBF:

If your senator is on this committee, please send them a quick note asking them to support these bills. As Champe Burnley says, “…a quick call or a sentence or two with the bill numbers is all you need to do.  Remind them that this is about safety on our roads, transportation choices, and saving lives.”  If you’d like to go into further detail, we’ve posted talking points.

Use the Who’s My Legislator page to find who your senator is.  If they’re on the Transportation Committee, listed below, please send them a note.  Click on their name for contact info.  You can email them or call.

Sen. Steve Newman (R-Forest) Chair

Sen. Henry Marsh (D-Richmond)

Sen. John Watkins (R-Midlothian)

Sen. Phil Puckett (D-Tazewell)

Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach)

Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath)

Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville)

Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke)

Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Burke)

Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach)

Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-Manassas)

Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson)

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington)

Sen. Kenneth C. Alexander (D-Norfolk)

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of bills in both statehouses–likely on short notice, as that’s things move in these short legislative sessions.  Thank you for helping us get these bills passed to improve the safety of cyclists in both states.

Bike Legislation to Watch in the 2014 Maryland and Virginia Sessions

Green Lanes Planner/Engineer Tour
Annapolis and Richmond are humming today as Virginia and Maryland kick off their 2014 legislative sessions. This year’s sessions present an opportunity for successful passage of many legislative efforts that will protect bicyclists and make regional roads safer for all users.

Both state legislative sessions are short, and bills move quickly. Maryland’s legislation can be no longer than 90 days; this year’s session is scheduled to wrap up by April 7. Across the Potomac, the Virginia legislative sessions is even shorter: 60 days, with the final day on March 8th. Tracking the sessions is often challenging, but we will do our best to keep you updated.

WABA will be closely following a slate of bills in both states that relate to bicycling and support the work of each state-level advocacy organization, the Virgina Bicycling Federation and Bike Maryland.

Virginia Bills:
HB 82 — Following Too Closely: This bill would require drivers of any vehicle to not follow more closely than is reasonable any other vehicle, including bicyclists.

SB 225 – Dooring Legislation: If this law is enacted, drivers and passengers in Virginia will be legally required to exercise care when opening their car doors with respect to adjacent traffic. Dooring of bicyclists by drivers and passengers can cause serious injury and this bill seeks to reduce the potential of dooring.

SB 97 – Three Foot Passing : Current Virgina law requires drivers to exercise care when passing vehicles, including bicyclists, and to give at least two feet when passing. This bill seeks to extend the passing distance to three feet, in line with D.C. and Maryland law.

HB277 – Pedestrians crossing highways: This bill would clarify the duties of vehicles to stop to allow pedestrians (and bicyclists) to cross highways at marked crosswalks. The full bill language helps to define many ambiguities that exist in current law.

HB320: Reckless driving; passing other vehicles at intersections: This bill seeks to amend the legal reckless driving statute by prohibiting a person from overtaking or passing another vehicle stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection when a pedestrian (or bicyclist) is present.

Maryland Bills:
HB92 – Passing a Bicycle, an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device, or a Motor Scooter – Distance Requirement: This bill seeks to strengthen the three-foot passing law by altering the distance a driver of a vehicle is required to maintain while passing to four feet (with some exceptions).

HB52 – Bicycles and Motor Scooters – Rules of the Road: This bill clarifies that the duties of bicyclists are those defined in Maryland law, which ensures that a lawful cyclist who is in a crash is not denied recovery due to other, hypothetical duties not included in law.

WABA will give periodic updates on bills via our blog (–you’re reading it right now!). We will also be sending out targeted action alerts to our members and supporters who live in key legislators’ districts. Sign up below to receive updates and action alerts.



Sign Up for WABA Advocacy Alerts

We’ll alert you when immediate action is needed on bicycling issues. Emails are sent only a few times a month (at most). You can unsubscribe at any time.

First Name:
Last Name:

November: Hot for Bike Advocacy

Green Lanes Planner/Engineer Tour

Behold, the many opportunities to speak up for better bicycling this month!

Winter is coming, but regional bike advocacy opportunities are heating up!

November is packed with public meetings across the D.C. area that will impact bicycling. We’ve listed as many as we know about below. If you can attend, speak up for bicycling. Planners need to hear from you about the impact proposed projects could have on the bicycling community.

You can also bookmark our public Google advocacy calendar, which is full of public meetings, WABA advocacy trainings and other upcoming events. If you have items for the calendar, email them to us at

Rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road NW
Tues., Nov. 5 , 6:30 p.m.
Methodist Home of D.C., 4901 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
DDOT is studying four alternatives for the rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road NW as part of an Environmental Assessment. The section of Broad Branch slated for rehabilitation is 1.5-mile length of roadway between Linnean Avenue and Beach Drive. Only one alternative would include any bicycle facility: Alternative 4 purposes a climbing bike lane on the uphill side and a shared-laned on the downhill side. The EA is being released for 30 days for public comments; please submit your comments to DDOT by Nov. 22, 2013. The complete EA is available for public review on the project website at

Proposed Rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge Alternatives Meeting
Wed., Nov. 13, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
The Little Theater, Washington Lee High School, 1301 North Stafford St., Arlington, Va.
The George Washington Memorial Parkway is holding a public meeting to present alternatives for the proposed rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. All alternatives would resurface the road and repair the sidepath surface, which would be great improvement for commuters. However, no presented alternative improves the bridge’s greatest deficiency: access from the trails on both sides of the river. Any improvement of the bridge should address this major safety issue. There should be direct access to the bridge from the Mount Vernon Trail and trails on the National Mall. Comments may be submitted electronically on the project website at

Community Meeting on the Rock Creek Trail Facility Plan
Wed., Nov. 13, 7 p.m.
Meadowbrook Park Activity Building, 7901 Meadowbrook Lane, Chevy Chase, Md.
Montgomery Parks invites the community to review renovation plans for the Rock Creek Trail, including proposed renovations to the Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail, opportunities to enhance the natural environment along the trail, ways to reduce the frequency of trail maintenance, and ideas to improve safety, pavement conditions, drainage, and accessibility. For more information visit

Fairfax Countywide Dialogue on Transportation
Tues., Nov. 12, 7 p.m., Fairfax County Government Center
Wed., Nov. 13, 7 p.m., Forest Edge Elementary School
Fairfax County is seeking input on how to spend its new transportation funding from Virginia’s recently passed funding bill. How should $1.2 billion be spent over the next 6 years? And how much should be spent on bicycling? Show up to these two public meetings—the last regarding this transportation funding—and demand funding for bicycling be increased. Information about the meeting locations and time, and the entire planning process is online at

A New Option for Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel in Bethesda

As the Washington Post reported recently, Montgomery County planners are working on a plan to redevelop the Apex Building in downtown Bethesda to better accommodate the Purple line’s western terminus. As currently planned, the Bethesda station for the Purple line will be tightly squeezed into the space under the Apex Building. This will force the Capital Crescent Trail out of the tunnel. In early 2012, the Montgomery County Council voted against spending over $50 million to keep the trail in the tunnel due to the high costs of the project and potential of damage to the buildings above during construction.

However, if the county is successful in encouraging the building’s owners to demolish and rebuild the Apex Building, another option would exist. A newly designed Apex Building would allow Purple line planners to build a larger and more efficient station platform, tracks, and connection to Metro’s Red line station. There would also be space for a new Capital Crescent tunnel.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has been working over the past year to plan and design a surface route for the Capital Crescent Trail that includes an at-grade crossing at Wisconsin Avenue. Additionally, Council President Roger Berlinger has tasked MCDOT with building a “gold standard” trail experience for the crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. This new opportunity is an exciting development to provide a grade separated crossing for the trail across the busy state highway.

To prepare for the final design and construction of the Purple line, county planners are working fast to prepare a plan for the redevelopment of the Apex Building. Purple Line planners are hoping to finish the final design in 2014, begin construction in 2015, and open for revenue service in 2020. The county planning department will host three public open houses in September to explain its plans and answer questions.

Please consider attending one of the public open houses and expressing your support for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel through Bethesda. The official meeting announcement from the planning department is below:

The Planning Department will hold Open House Previews of Staff Recommendations for the Bethesda Purple Line Station Plan, at the Bethesda Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane near the intersection of Woodmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. Enter on the plaza level above Chipotle. Each session will include the same information.

The sessions will be held:

* Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 6-9pm
* Saturday, September 7, 2013, 10am-2pm
* Monday, September 9, 2013, 6-9pm.

Please drop in any time during the Open House to learn more about this limited plan and share your thoughts, questions, and comments with the Planning Department team. Staff will prepare a handout summarizing the recommendations for the Open House sessions and will post it online when it is available.

For more information, questions, or to join the mailing list:
Project email:
Twitter:                @bethesdaPL, #bethesdapurpleline
Facebook:           Bethesda Purple Line Station Plan
Phone:                 301.495.2115, Elza Hisel-McCoy, Lead Planner

Image via Washington Post

Stop Senator Rand Paul From Cutting Transportation Alternatives Funding

Just last year Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, that dismantled dedicated funding for biking and walking by combining Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails into one and cutting the funding by 30 percent. The saving grace was that the bill included a local control provision to ensure that mayors and communities could access to these dollars to support local transportation priorities.

Now Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to wipe out what’s left.

Senator Paul has introduced an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations bill to prohibit any money from being used for Transportation Alternatives. Paul’s amendment would redirect that money towards bridge repair.

While we agree that repairing our bridges are important, both for safety and economic development reasons, so are our local economies. Dedicating the small amount of Transportation Alternatives funding to bridge repair couldn’t fix our country’s bridges in 50 years. And, taking that small amount of funding away would dangerously undermine efforts in our cities, towns and counties to provide safe and efficient transportation options for everyone. With rates of bicycling and walking fatalities on the rise, that is a trade we can’t afford to make.

Maryland and Virginia residents, please contact your senators and ask them to save Transportation Alternatives—and the local control provisions that help build bikeable, walkable places—by voting NO on Amendment 1742.

The Senate hopes to finish this bill today or tomorrow. Act soon!

Thanks to the League of American Bicyclists for mobilizing this campaign to save local bike and pedestrian funding.

Ride for Mother’s Day And Women’s Cycling Day

 Mother's Day Picnic Ride


Ride with us in celebration of Mothers of the world and women who bike throughout the world. This Sunday our Women & Bicycles program is joining  BikeArlington and Black Women Bike DC to commemorate Mother’s Day and CycloFemme, the global celebration of women bicycling.

The Mother’s Day Picnic Ride begins in three locations throughout the region and we’ll all meet up at Hains Point for celebratory laps and picnic snacks. To get a better look at the ride routes check out our event map. This is a family-friendly, co-ed “sun dress” ride. We’re inviting the whole family to share the bike love and for the men out there, we encourage you to show your support by wearing your favorite sun dress!

To learn more and share with friends, visit our event page.

Ride with the Marlyand group
Please join WABA at the Silver Spring Metro Station at 12pm. We’ll go for an hour-long leisure ride through the city and meet up at Hains Point. After the picnic, you’ll have the choice to take the Metro home, or return to Silver Spring around 3:30pm.

Ride with the DC group
Meet up with the Silver Spring convoy at 12:45pm at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza (14th St NW and Park St Nw)

Ride with the Virginia group
Please join BikeArlington at the Ballston Metro Station at 12pm. We’ll go for an hour-long ride on some of Arlington’s off street trails and bike lanes through the city, and we will end the ride at Hains point. After the picnic, you’ll have the choice to take the Metro home, or ride home with us.

New to bicycling?
Fantastic! We’re so glad you can join us. Group rides are great opportunities to hone your bike skills through experience and through conversation. We will start and end the ride with a quick skillshare on bicycling and city streets.

What to bring
Your bicycle and helmet are required for this ride. We also suggest bringing water, sunscreen, a picnic item to enjoy by yourself or share, clothing (your sun dress!) that will keep you comfortable depending on the weather, and bring your friends and family. We will have a bike pump, and basic repair tools at the start of all the rides.




What is Cyclofemme?  They’re a socially-driven grass-roots celebration of women on bikes, “We are of a growing community, for a growing community, and 100% volunteer-based. Our annual Mother’s Day ride unites riders, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or bicycle preference to share in the joy of cycling.”  CycloFemme is a day of action, a day to follow through with our pledge to get more women on bikes, and a day to hail the growth of the bicycle movement.  In just one year CycloFemme has gone from 163 registered group rides throughout the world, to 227 rides, and we’re so happy to join in on the celebration. #WeRideTogether

Successes for Cycling in the 2013 Maryland General Assembly

Franklin's Bike Parking

In the Maryland General Assembly, our efforts to promote and defend the interests of bicyclists were reasonably successful this year—especially compared to how things might have turned out. There were no major advances specifically for cycling this year. But WABA and its members and supporters helped stop a bill that would have been very harmful to bicycling. We also helped a coalition of transportation groups to persuade the legislature to increase funding for transportation for the first time in 21 years.

Here is a rundown of the legislation that we followed this year in Maryland.

Bikes on sidewalks
The Maryland code prohibits bicycling on sidewalks, unless the locality enacts a law to legalize it. Delegate Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery) has introduced a bill the last two years to reverse the presumption, so that bicycling on sidewalks would be legal unless the locality prohibits it. Before the legislative session started, we notified Delegate Miller that WABA would not take a position on such a bill this year. Local legislation legalizing sidewalk riding has already been enacted by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, so it was unclear whether this bill would have much of an impact in the Washington area other than in a few municipalities. We doubted that we would be able to devote time and energy to this bill. HB 160 attracted little attention, and received an unfavorable report from the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Mandatory helmet law
Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), who chairs the Environmental Matters Committee, introduced HB 339, which would have required adults to wear helmets when bicycling on any highway, including trails. As soon as the bill was introduced, WABA immediately went into high-gear to do all we could to stop it. Hundreds of our members and supporters sent emails to delegates on the committee asking them to oppose the bill. But it appeared to be an uphill battle because about half the committee had sponsored it.

As Shane Farthing and Greg Billing explained, mandatory helmet laws could undermine the success of a bikesharing system in the Maryland suburbs. It would also force people to choose between breaking the law and not bicycling on occasion, when wearing a helmet is not feasible. Some advocates are also concerned that the effectiveness of helmets has often been overstated on government web sites.

WABA has long been one of the strongest advocates of helmet use in the mid-Atlantic region. We require helmets on all rides. We have long facilitated the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (although it raises its own finds). During the 1990s, we strongly advocated a mandatory helmet law for children under the age of 16, which was eventually enacted. But it is not always a good idea to pass a law that requires adults to do things for their own good. We did not support a law requiring all adults to ride a bike either.

We were fortunate that Delegate McIntosh is an avid cyclist and genuinely supports cycling, while disagreeing with us on the question of a mandatory helmet law. She heard the passion with which bicycle advocates from both Baltimore and the Washington area opposed her legislation (Bike Maryland took no position). Although our logic did not persuade her on the helmet issue, as a good politician she concluded that she would rather work with us on matters where we agree than against us on the helmet bill. In late February, McIntosh decided not to push the helmet bill further this year so that we could work to increase funding for the state’s cycling infrastructure.

Transportation funding
Because Maryland has not raised the gas tax since 1992, the funds available for new transportation infrastructure have been dwindling. Last year, Governor Martin O’Malley proposed to extend the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline, but neither chamber passed the bill.

It was important to increase the funds for transportation this year, because otherwise, federal funding for the Purple Line would be unlikely. Yet prospects did not look good during the first two months of the legislative session. Then, Virginia increased its sales tax to fund transportation near the end of its 60-day session. Shortly thereafter, Maryland’s governor, speaker, and senate preesident announced a plan to increase the gas tax by an amount equal to roughly 1 percent of the retail price of gasoline for each of the next three years.

With the helmet bill behind us, we strongly supported House Bill 1515. Hundreds of our members and supporters wrote their legislators to indicate their willingness to pay higher taxes to increase funding for transportation. The bill passed. As a result, the state will be able to proceed with its Capital Transportation Plan, which allocates about 7 percent of the funding to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Safe-passing bill
Like the District of Columbia and many other states, Maryland generally requires drivers to leave at least three feet of clearance when overtaking a bicyclist. But the Maryland law has several confusing exceptions, including one for narrow highways. No one knows whether that exception includes standard highway lanes in no-passing zones, or only genuinely narrow highways such as one-lane bridges. Bike Maryland championed House Bill 445, which would have removed that exception. Although we endorsed the bill, our focus on the helmet bill made it impractical for us to do anything more than lend out name to their efforts, and the bill received an unfavorable report from the Environmental Matters Subcommittee.

Contributory negligence
The Maryland Court of Appeals is considering a case that could, if successful, repeal the doctrine of contributory negligence. Maryland is one of only five states that retains this legal doctrine, under which a plaintiff who is even minimally at fault cannot successfully sue to recover damages caused by someone else’s negligence. This doctrine is very unfair to cyclists, who may lose the ability to pay for significant medical bills or the loss of earnings after a severe accident.

Last fall, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on whether to replace the doctrine of contributory negligence with comparative fault in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia. The case involves a volunteer soccer coach who smoked pot before practice, tried to swing on a portable goal, and fell on his face. He sued for damages from the soccer league for failing to warn him about this hazard, but the jury found that he was contributorily negligent, so he could not recover damages.

If any such bill has a significant chance of passing, we will work to include an exception for bicyclists who collide with motor-vehicle drivers.

Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Prince George’s County.

Photo by Flickr user Mr. T in DC