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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Bikesharing Commuter Benefit to Be Introduced Tomorrow

Photo credit: Mr.TinDC

Tomorrow is a big day for bikesharing in Congress.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York will introduce an amendment that allows commuters to pay for bikesharing with their transportation benefits. Last summer, the IRS ruled that paying for bikesharing was not allowed under the bike commuting fringe benefit. This amendment will fix this issue and allow commuters to pay bikesharing-related expenses with their benefits.

The Senate Finance Committee will vote on a tax extender package tomorrow that includes commuter parity, giving those who take the bus the same tax breaks given to those who drive. In January, the maximum transit benefit was cut in half to $130 per month,  while the parking tax subsidy stayed steady at $250 per month.

In a statement released by his office, Schumer says, “Bike share programs are an efficient, healthy, and clean form of mass transportation, and they should be treated the same way under the tax code as we treat car and mass transit commuters. It makes no sense for cars, trains, buses, and private bicycles to be covered by this program but not bike shares, and this legislation will fix that.”

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia is co-sponsoring the amendment.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, the amendment will have the following effects:

  • Last summer, the IRS ruled that costs associated with bike share memberships were not eligible under the commuter benefit statute as currently drafted. This amendment would change that.
  • Specifically, it adds bikeshare costs to the list of recognized expenses eligible for the transportation fringe benefit.
  • Like the Bike Commuter Benefit (for those who ride their own bike to work), employees using a bikeshare program to commute to work would now be eligible to receive $20 per month on a tax-free basis from their employer to subsidize their bikesshare membership.

Please take one minute and ask your Senator to support the bikesharing commuter amendment now.

Virginia’s Three-Foot Passing Bill is a Victory

Biking on Blue Grass Valley Road

On March 8, the Virginia General Assembly passed SB97, the three-foot passing bill. We are happy to report that this bill, the first pro-bike legislation in recent Virginia history, has passed.

SB97 is one of a few pro-bicycling bills in Virginia that WABA tracked and supported this legislative session, and the only one to pass. It requires vehicles to give three feet of space when passing bicyclists. This is an improvement over the current two feet.

There is a final step: Governor Terry McAuliffe has to sign the bill into law. We expect him to do this in the next two to three months.

The bill first passed the Senate Transportation Committee by a vote of 13 to one on January 15. It passed the full Senate by a vote of 31 to seven on Jan. 21. It then crossed over to the House, where the House Transportation Subcommittee #2 passed to by a vote of 52 on Feb. 24. On Feb. 27, the House Transportation Committee passed the bill by a vote of 16 to six. Finally, on March 5, the full House voted 72 to 27 to pass the bill. The full legislative records of SB97 are available online.

WABA, in coordination with the Virginia Bicycling Federation, provided strong support for SB97. We worked to get the word out about the bill, and Virginia residents responded in kind. Virginians sent over 1,800 letters to their legislators to support pro-bike legislation. In both the House and Senate, there was strong bike-partisan support for SB97. With the governor’s approval of this bill, Virginia will join 22 other states that already have a three-foot passing law in place. SB97 fixes one of the major differences in bicycling laws in the Washington area, bringing Virginia law in line with laws in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Thank you to the WABA members and supporters who fought for the passage of this bill. There were several other bicycling-related bills that did not pass in Virginia this year, and we will keep up the fight to improve conditions for cycling in the year to come.

See how your representatives voted on this bill and the other bike-related bills below the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alexandria Board Recommends Delay of Plan to Calm Traffic on King Street

King Street is the missing gap in the bicycle network. The City’s traffic calming plan will improve conditions for pedestrian and transit riders. Source: City of Alexandria.

Dan Mehaffey and Jim Durham are City of Alexandria residents and local advocates for safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Richard Baier, Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services Director, presented on Monday a plan to meet the direction of City Council and calm traffic on King Street. The plan is the outcome of professional work by City Staff, numerous community meetings, and a compromise to keep as much parking as possible on King Street. The meeting went into the early hours of Tuesday when the Traffic and Parking Board voted 5-2 to recommend delay in implementing the plan, a change from a similar November 25th vote of 6-0 recommending delay. Board members Greg Cota and Kevin Posey voted against further delay after listening to Mr. Baier’s presentation and public comments, in which a majority of speakers, all Alexandria residents, spoke in favor of the City’s plan.                                                                                            

The flashpoint in the plan is the 27 parking spaces on King Street between West Cedar and Highland, where the majority of houses face North Terrace View, not King Street. Chairman Thomas “Jay” Johnson, Jr. heard testimony about the parking usage by City Staff. In 20 random samplings of the 27 spaces, the average count was 1.2 cars. At most, five cars were parked in the 27 spaces.  The 27 spaces do not include the 10 spaces west of Highland which were kept as parking spaces as part of a compromise that also added three additional spaces to the street parking on the other side of King Street.

Mr. Baier’s expert testimony focused on how the traffic calming measure before the board would re-allocate the use of public right-of way to create a safer King Street in a section that is heavily used by pedestrians to access the King Street transit hub. The Alexandria Transportation Commission, the Environmental Policy Commission, the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the Park and Recreation Commission submitted letters of support for the plan.

The board also heard from Alexandria residents including residents of the affected neighborhood who favor the city’s plan and want the safety measures afforded by the city plan. The safety measures include pedestrian crossings, separation of use for walkers, bikers, and motorists, and a compliant lane narrowing shown by the Highway Capacity Manual to reduce speeds by between 1.9 and 6.6 miles per hour. The King Street speed limit is 25 miles per hour in the section, but motorist speeds are well in excess of the limit. Opponents of the plan also cited safety as a reason for their opposition to the plan described as safe by not only the professional planners on city staff but also in an independent review by a  professional engineering firm.

The traffic calming plan now goes to City Council for a March 15th hearing with the Traffic and Parking Board’s recommendation.

A clarification, from the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee: “Although the original parking information was technically correct, parking needs are based on peak usage not average usage. In an effort to be as clear as possible, we have updated the numbers to stress the peak usage for all parking in the stretch (six cars for 37 spaces) instead of the average usage for the 27 spaces that will be removed (just over 1 car).”

 

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Show Your Support Tonight for King Street Traffic Calming

Tonight, the City of Alexandria Traffic and Parking Board will hear public testimony for the King Street Traffic Calming project at 7:30 pm at City Hall. Will you attend tonight’s hearing and show your support for safer streets in Alexandria?

The City of Alexandria is proposing to calm traffic and improve conditions for pedestrians, transit riders and bicyclists by constructing bike lanes on King St from Russell Road to Janneys Lane and by adding and upgrading crosswalks. Neighbors have long complained of safety issues on this street caused by drivers frequently speeding and rolling through stop signs. This project will address these safety issues. The City’s proposal will also make the street safer for pedestrians creating a safe space on the street for bicyclists, removing them from the sidewalks. Learn more about the City of Alexandria’s proposal online on the City’s websiteThis proposal directly benefits pedestrians, residents, bicyclists, bus riders and drivers.

The Traffic and Parking Board already heard the public testimony about this project in November. The overwhelming majority spoke in favor of the project but they deferred the vote. Do not let them defer safe streets tonight.

There are a few vocal and well connected neighbors opposing this project because of a loss of a small number of public parking spaces. This stretch of King Street is a neighborhood street with mostly single family homes with driveways. The City of Alexandria observed about 95% of the parking spaces were vacant over a three month period this year. This unused public space should be utilized to make our streets safer for all. Kids should be able to bike to school, residents should be safe walking to the Metro station, and visitors should feel comfortable riding Capital Bikeshare to shop in Old Town.

There is a definite possibility that the vote will go against the bike lanes or be delayed. The opposition is vocal and motivated. Please attend the public meeting and support King Street Traffic Calming!

Transportation and Parking Board Hearing
Monday, February 24th, 7:30 pm (Tonight)
Council Chambers, City Hall (Market Square, King St at Royal St)
Info: http://www.alexandriava.gov/TrafficParkingBoard
You must sign up to testify by 7:45 p.m. – download the speaker form (pdf)

After tonight’s hearing, the Alexandria City Council will hold a public hearing in March and vote on this project. A favorable vote from the Traffic and Parking Board tonight will go along way to a vote to proceed from City Council. Tonight’s vote is important.

Share with the City of Alexandria your personal experience biking, walking or driving on this stretch of King Street. If you cannot make tonight’s hearing, send an email to the Traffic and Parking Board in support of the King Street Traffic Calming.

Delegate and Senator Voting Records on Bike Bills in the 2014 Virginia Legislative Session

The Virginia state legislature is about halfway through its 2014 legislative session. There are a number of bills related to bicycling that are working through  the Senate and House of Delegates. We posted a quick rundown of bills WABA is watching on the blog a couple of weeks ago.

Both Senate bills (SB 225 and SB 97) have passed a full Senate vote and will now go to the House. On the House side, two bills failed to report (which means that they failed to be passed out of committee) from the Transportation Committee: Both bills (HB277 and HB320) sought to clarify the law for drivers stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks or passing another car that has stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. One bill (HB 82) passed a full House vote and will go to the Senate.

You can see how your elected representatives voted below. If you don’t know who your state representatives are, use our easy legislator look-up tool to find out.

House of Delegate Voting Record (through Feb 1)

Senate Voting Record (through Feb 1)

King Street Bike Lanes Decision Appealed

king-street-is-the-missing-link

King Street is the missing link in the bicycle network. Bike lanes would connect the exciting and planned network. Source: City of Alexandria.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the city of Alexandria will hold additional public meetings on the controversial King Street bike lanes. In December, Director Rich Brier wrote a letter to residents along King Street saying that he would direct his staff to proceed with the installation of the bike lanes. Residents upset with Brier’s decision are using a 50-year-old city law to appeal his decision.

Alexandria, in an effort to be transparent about the decision, will allow two additional opportunities to comment on the bike lane project. The first public hearing will be on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Traffic and Parking Board meeting. The Traffic and Parking Board will make a recommendation to the Alexandria city council. In November, 56 speakers testified at a TPB hearing; 38 spoke in favor of the bike lanes and 18 spoke in opposition. The TBP voted to defer its decision. The second public meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. on Sat., March 15  as part of the city council’s consideration of the TPB recommendation.

During the first public hearings about the bike lanes in fall 2013, concerns from some members of the public centered on the planned loss of all 37 on-street parking spaces on the stretch of King Street that would have the lanes. During a November meeting of the Traffic and Parking Board, staff from the city of Alexandria presented data collected over several months in the spring of 2013. On average, three cars per day were parked in those 37 on-street parking spaces. The revised plan presented in November will retain 10 on-street parking spaces in direct response to citizen concerns.

On-street bike lanes make streets safer for all users. When bike lanes are installed, the average speeds of car drivers are reduced, making the street better for bicyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers. Lanes give cyclists a safe place on the road and an alternative to narrow sidewalks, making those sidewalks better for pedestrians. Alexandria’s professional engineering and traffic planning staff, along with its independent traffic and engineering firm agree that bike lanes on King Street are a wise choice to accommodate all road users.

WABA will continue to advocate on behalf of our Alexandria members and supporters for the installation of the King Street bike lanes. Sign up below to receive email alerts when new updates or action is needed for the King Street Bike Lanes.

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Bike Theft is on the Rise. Take 10 Minutes and Do This Now.

Last week, we gave you a brief overview of what to do in the event that your bike is stolen. In that post, we mentioned WABA’s bicycle owner record sheet, which we’d like to discuss in a bit more detail today.

When a bike is stolen, the first thing you should do is to call the police and report the bicycle stolen. An officer will come and meet you to file a stolen property report. To file the report, they will need the following information: type of bike, color, serial number, a photo, etc.

To make sure you have this information available in the event that you need it, use our form. Download this PDF with fillable fields, enter all the relevant information, and save a hard copy in a safe place. Take some photos of your bike, making sure to capture any distinguishing characteristics (modifications you’ve made to the bike, damage or signs of wear and tear, stickers or other bling). Attach the photos to the record sheet. This information on this form will also be required by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance if you decide to make a stolen property claim.

You can significantly reduce the risk of your bike being stolen by using proper locking techniques with a strong u-lock at secure parking spot in a well-lit area where there’s good foot traffic. DDOT, WMATA, private property managers, and others are working to increase the amount of secure bike parking in the region, but there is still a shortage—and still a chance your bike could be stolen.

The Washington Post recently covered the increase in bike theft in and around D.C., and Fox5 ran a story about an upcoming documentary about a professional bike thief. We hope you’ll never have to use this information, but if you do need it, providing the police with a complete record of your stolen bike could greatly help in its recovery.

Take Action: Bike Bills to Be Voted on Next Monday

HB277 would require drivers to stop to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross highways, such as when they are continuing on a trail. Image via Rails-to-Trails.

We sent this email to our Virginia supporters this afternoon. If you’re a Virginia resident, take action now to show your support for the following bills, which will be voted on on Monday.

At 7 a.m. next Monday morning (Jan. 20), the Virginia House of Representatives’ Transportation subcommittee will vote on four bills relevant to people who ride bikes in the Commonwealth.

We need you to take action immediately by telling your representative that you support the following bills. It is critical that you reach out to your representative today or over the weekend, because the session is early on Monday morning. Take action now here.

The bills to be voted on are:

You can see the full docket for the Transportation subcommittee here. For more information about bills to watch this year, see our blog.

If you’re a constituent of Del. LeMunyon, it is especially important that you reach out to him and ask him to support these bills. Del. LeMunyon is the sole Northern Virginia representative on the Transportation subcommittee.

Thank you for acting on such short notice to make Virginia safer and better for bicyclists. Contact your representative here.

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 (waba.org/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.

 

 

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