RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two bills that would give bicyclists in Virginia more discretion when it comes to navigating traffic are making their way through the state Senate.
SB 1293 passed the Senate after its third reading on Feb. 1, and SB 847 was reported from the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee the following day.
The former would authorize local governing bodies in localities throughout the Commonwealth to allow bicyclists to treat a stop light as a stop sign, and a stop sign as a yield right-of-way sign, provided that certain safety measures are observed.
“Bicyclists are the best judges about whether an intersection is safe to proceed through or not,” Virginia Bicycling Federation President Brantley Tyndall said. “We have really great visibility. We don’t move too quickly, so we can kind of gauge how things are moving in space, and ultimately, it actually prevents us from being as exposed to crashes from the rear at stop signs where drivers are approaching a stop sign very quickly.”
Tyndall told 8News on Monday that the latter measure, SB 847 was effectively dead for the 2023 General Assembly session, with plans to revisit the legislation next year.
If passed, SB 847 would have allowed individuals riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, or motorized skateboard or scooter to follow the pedestrian control signal at an intersection when traveling in the direction of the signal, provided they yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk traveling in the same direction.
Two years ago, Tyndall noted that Virginia lawmakers considered a proposal similar to SB 1293, but ultimately decided that more information was needed. Since then, he said that studies in other states where similar measures have been implemented have shown a significant reduction in bicyclist-involved crashes.
“Only if the intersection is clear does this law give the bicyclist the opportunity to roll through instead of coming to a complete stop,” Tyndall said. “Coming to a complete stop is actually one of the dangerous factors about bike riding because you are a little more susceptible to crashes from people behind you, and also from other drivers in that perpendicular direction.”
With SB 1293, Tyndall also noted that the measure would not be a statewide mandate, but would instead allow localities to dictate whether the law would be used in their city, town, village or county.
“Some have been optimized for bike riders and some, maybe, have not. So, you know, let’s let localities decide for themselves,” he said. “A key tool in the negotiation would be allowing localities to choose if it’s right for them, recognizing that roads look different in different localities.”
During its most recent reading, SB 1293 passed with 24 votes in favor and 16 against.