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Panel OKs Law to Protect Bicyclists

January 20, 2015

By Margo Maier and Stefani Zenteno Rivadineira
Capital News Service

RICHMOND –The House Transportation Committee approved a bill Tuesday to make it illegal for the operator of a motor vehicle to follow a bicycle or moped too closely.

The committee voted 20-2 in favor of House Bill 1342, sponsored by Del. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Under current law, motorists are forbidden to tailgate other motorized vehicles. HB 1342 would prohibit motorists from following non-motorized vehicles – such as bicycles, scooters and electric-powered mobility devices – “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.”

“When you’re comparing the damage of a car rear-ending another car versus a car rear-ending a bicycle or motorized scooter, there simply is no comparison,” DeSteph said in a statement.

“What is an inconvenience for the driver of a car getting bumped from behind can be a life-altering catastrophe for a bicyclist or person on an electric scooter. Everyone on the roadway deserves an equal share of protection from the unsafe actions of others. How we get there is to apply the same standards to everyone.”

The Virginia Bicycling Federation supports the measure.

“This bill gives bicyclists in Virginia the same legal protection from tailgating as given to drivers. If passed by both houses, I’m confident it will reduce crashes and ultimately save lives,” said Champe Burnley, a Richmond bicyclist and president of the federation.

“I think the overwhelming support we saw by the House Transportation Committee this morning shows how serious they are about making Virginia’s roads safer for all users and reduce needless injuries.”

Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, is sponsoring an identical proposal – SB 1220 – in the Senate. It is scheduled to come before the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday afternoon.