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Rocky road: Some transportation bills await Youngkin’s action, while others stalled out

A road with an unprotected bike lane. A cross walk can bee seen in the distance as can cars driving
Scott Elmquist
/
VPM News File
A bike lane and crosswalk on Church Road near Short Pump sit in front of Gayton Elementary School.

One proposal from Del. Carr stemmed from a constituent's cycling story.

Roughly 50 transportation bills were approved by both chambers of the General Assembly this session. They now await action by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who can amend, veto or sign them into law.

The proposals included everything from allowing localities to impound all-terrain vehicles in some situations to lowering speed limits.

The Virginia Bicycling Federation supported 20-plus bills this session.

“Probably our most signature one is the ‘safety stop’ to allow bicyclists to yield at some stop signs,” said Brantley Tyndall, the organization’s director.

Tyndall was talking about a bill sponsored by Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), who said she wrote the proposal because of a constituent’s story.

“There was a big truck coming up behind her,” Carr said, recounting the cyclist’s story. “And she knew that the truck could not see her; it was barreling down. And in order to survive, literally, she just went on through [the stop sign] and kind of saved herself.”

At least eight states, as well as Washington D.C., allow the practice, according to the League of American Bicyclists. The law lets cyclists treat stop signs as yield signs, and stop lights as stop signs. It’s also known as the “Idaho stop” — because of where it first was made legal back in 1982.

But only the House approved Carr’s bill.

“They said that they wanted to do some further study about it and look at it in other states,” said Carr. “And so, it just didn't go.”

Carr sponsored another proposal that did pass both chambers and is awaiting Youngkin's action. It would allow localities to reduce speed limits to be below 25 mph — but not below 15 mph — in business or residential areas.

Carr said she introduced the bill a few years ago, too.

“We had heard that a number of localities had wanted to utilize this piece of code, but we're not allowed to because there was disagreement about whether they had the right to — or whether it was VDOT,” Carr said.

She said the bill clarifies the language around that issue.

“What I'm hearing from the administration is that they're gonna maybe make some amendments, but hopefully it's gonna go through,” said Carr.

Tyndall said the bike federation was encouraged by Carr’s speed bill.

“It adds some clarity about how localities can do it on state-maintained routes,” he said. “It's taken some tweaking since then, and we're happy to see that one go to the governor.”

For Tyndall, the 2024 session wasn’t all good or all bad.

“This session, we saw — as far as I've been involved with the General Assembly — more transportation safety bills than I've ever seen,” he said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm about speed cameras, about allowing new freedoms for bicyclists that have proven safety benefits.”

But not all the bills the organization championed made it through.

“It's hard not to be disappointed when most of the bills that we watched didn't make it,” Tyndall said. “And many of them did not make it — not because there were a lot of strong opponents to it, more that there was just not enough unified agreement on the bills themselves.”

Tyndall said the federation is discussing how to gather additional data and analysis for future safety bills.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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