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Bikes Can Run Red Lights Under New Virginia Law

Because the sensors under the street lights can't always detect the presence of two-wheeler, a new law will allow bikers to ride through a red light.

By Danny Rathbun, Capital News Service

RICHMOND-- you probably know the frustration of getting stuck at a red light that just won’t change – because the sensors under the street can’t detect your two-wheeler.

Two-wheel vehicles will be allowed to run those red lights, under certain situations, under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

House Bill 1981 will let motorcyclists, moped riders and bicyclists pass through red lights, as long as there is no oncoming traffic, after waiting 120 seconds or two cycles of the light. The law will take effect July 1.

Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, said riders of two-wheel vehicles often end up trapped at red lights, with no safe, legal option about what to do, because motorcycles and bikes aren’t heavy enough or don’t have enough metal to trip the sensor.

“Most of the traffic signals today have a wire in the road – so it’s an induction loop. And frequently there’s just not enough metallic mass for the induction loop to pick up a cycle that goes over there,” Burnley said.

“If you’re on a bike and you get to a stoplight – and I stop for stoplights religiously – it puts me into a difficult position. Because if the light doesn’t change, I’ve either got to wait for a car to come up behind me to trip the stoplight, or I’ve got to break the law – and I don’t like to do that.”

Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, who sponsored HB 1981, said the legislation will make things much safer for riders.

“The bill is designed to increase the safety for those riders who ride motorcycles, mopeds or bicycles,” Greason said. “When they approach and are stranded at an intersection, and the weight of their vehicle is not great enough to trigger the light, and so they’re stranded at a red light, and they really don’t have any legal options available to them under today’s code.”

Greason, a Republican from Potomac Falls, said some people raised questions about who would be at fault if a motorcycle runs a red light and causes an accident. But those questions have been addressed in the bill, he said.

“Imagine that the red light is a stop sign: If the motorcyclist pulls out into oncoming traffic and causes an accident, he would have the same liability if he was at a red light or if he was at a stop sign,” Greason said.

Under his measure, motorcycles and bicycles must come to a complete stop at a red light and wait for 120 seconds or two cycles of the light.

“Then they proceed with caution, as if they were at a stop sign, and they must maintain all the liability, and give way to oncoming traffic, from either direction,” Greason said. “So there is no transfer of liability.”

Delegate Bill Janis, R-Glen Allen, introduced a similar measure – HB 1991. His proposal was folded into Greason’s bill.

HB 1981 passed the House on a 75-24 vote in January. The Senate then unanimously approved the bill – with an amendment emphasizing that bicyclists and motorcyclists who proceed through a red light must yield to oncoming traffic. The House then voted 87-11 in favor of the amended bill.

Allen Muchnick July 01, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Waiting at least 120 seconds at a non-responsive traffic signal and then treating it as a stop sign is hardly "running a red light". Also, the problem is typically NOT that the magnetic induction loop sensors CAN'T be adjusted to detect waiting bicycles and motorcycles. Rather, it's usually that agency traffic signal technicians sometimes fail to adjust the sensors properly.
marina hoffman July 02, 2011 at 11:24 PM
It's asking for trouble and I would not be surprised if accidents involving cars and "two wheeled vehicles" rise in the near future. There are enough bike riders out there that ignore the trails and insist on riding on the road and are even rude when a 4 wheeled vehicle passes them, they will be out of controll now that they are exempt from 'riding the red'.
Allen Muchnick July 08, 2011 at 08:09 PM
With very few exceptions (such as Interstate highways and the George Washington Memorial Parkway), bicyclists may legally travel on any roadway in NoVA and have no obligation to use any "trail", which is typically a shoddy and less safe *pedestrian* facility. If the bicyclists you pass on the roadway are acting rudely toward you, you are almost certainly doing something to provoke that behavior.
Steven Larsen July 11, 2011 at 03:36 PM
I’m delighted that Champe Burnley stops for stop lights. I doubt that fewer than 1 in 20 others do (and far fewer stop for stop signs.) This new law is not carte blanche for bicyclists to blow through either, although I fear that it will be perceived as such and we will see more accidents and close calls as Marina points out. Pedestrians fare the worst in this battle. The “coast” through approach to stop signs by bicyclists (and many cars) might now be (wrongly) legitimized in the mind of cyclists, leading to even more danger to those on foot. We all need to share the road with cyclists & fight for better and more dedicated bike lanes and trails with the limited available funding. But most importantly, bicyclists must follow vehicular laws. And, where trails exist, they should be used - perhaps the laws should be changed to require it.
Steven Larsen July 11, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Continued........As for the GW Parkway, the National Park Service should enforce the no ride law. Recent articles stated that the Park Police "looks the other way" on weekends and other low volume times. Champe, I’m sure the VBF doesn’t sanction the local club and race groups using the parkway, but weekends see dozens of groups doing “unofficial” training rides. Nothing is easy in dealing with the National Park Service, but perhaps a dedicated “bikes only” Saturday and/or Sunday closure from 6 to 10 am would be a great way to accommodate everyone? The Bronx River Parkway in Westchester County, NY does this with great success. Just a thought………
marina hoffman July 13, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Allen Muchnick MR...Muchnick...I am neither rude nor inappropriate while driving ( or at any other time) and your assumption that I am either, is proof of the arrogance of cyclists, as is your assumption that I do not ride - I am sure the "Share the road" motto was intended for both 2 wheeled and 4 wheeled vehicles, motorised or otherwise, it does not give cyclists the right to ride side by side, and it certainly does not give you the right to be discourteous either on the road or in print. Perhaps a little humility...MR...... Muchnick?
marina hoffman July 13, 2011 at 12:49 AM
That would be a very valid option to consider. As a former RN with more than enough experience in closed head injuries and the devastation that such injuries cause, I would be the first to support such a bill.
Allen Muchnick July 13, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Ms Hoffman: You stated "bike riders out there...are even rude when a 4 wheeled vehicle passes them", and I merely observed that individuals rarely act rudely without provocation. I never said that you were rude, only that you may be provoking a "rude" reaction in the bicyclists you encounter on the roadway. If you overtake a bicyclist carefully and without honking or comment, why would that bicyclist act rudely? In what way are such individual bicyclists "rude"? Just by being "in your way"? On the other hand, some bicyclists on group bicycle rides are often inconsiderate of motorists, and I'd consider such behavior rude without provocation. Please remember, however, that bicyclists and motorists come from the same population of citizens.
Allen Muchnick July 13, 2011 at 07:33 PM
This new law does *nothing* to encourage bicyclists or motorcyclists to disregard red lights or stop signs; it merely allows cyclists to treat *defective* traffic signals as stop signs and then proceed at their own risk after waiting at least 120 seconds. If anything, this new law will increase red light compliance by cyclists by providing and defining a lawful approach to such *defective* traffic signals.
Thats what she said July 14, 2011 at 03:01 AM
"If the bicyclists you pass on the roadway are acting rudely toward you, you are almost certainly doing something to provoke that behavior." more likely they're just being a typical cyclist
Thats what she said July 14, 2011 at 03:04 AM
silly law. 1% of cyclists will wait 12 seconds at a red light, 0% will wait 120 seconds.
marina hoffman July 14, 2011 at 03:13 AM
MR. Muchnick, again you make assumptions. I have never personally evoked a negative reaction from a cyclist though I have inthe past received a single digit salute from drivers for slowing down for bikers , I do however think it rude of cyclists who feel that they own the road and ride close to the center line. I do not honk and I do not lower myself to the standards of those who "comment". Perhaps you judge me by your own reactions?
Allen Muchnick July 14, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Ms Hoffman: The only assumption I have ever made about you is that you *may* be an intelligent and rational human being capable of a civil discussion. So far, you've written nothing that supports that assumption. How can you know what these "rude cyclists" think or feel? Most likely, those bicyclists you deem "rude" for "hogging the roadway" (or whatever) are merely positioned where they are for their own safety.
marina hoffman July 14, 2011 at 03:48 AM
How can any cyclist possibly be safe in the middle of the GW Parkway? And now you assume that I 'may' be intelligent? You also presume to know what I think . Take a minute to get off your high horse and actually read and digest what I have written. I feel it may beneath me to further converse with you since the effort to comprend the written word is , on your part, futile.
Allen Muchnick July 14, 2011 at 04:48 AM
Ms Hoffman: Now that you've *finally* described what you consider to be "rude" bicyclist behavior (i.e., riding in the "middle of GW Parkway"), it's clear that your complaint is unjustified. The GW Parkway has four 11-foot wide travel lanes, so the bicyclists you encounter are most likely just in the middle of the rightmost travel lanes, not actually in the center of the highway. Like most travel lanes, the GW Parkway lanes are barely wide enough for one car or truck and not wide enough for a car and a bicyclist to *safely* share laterally. Thus, the *only* safe place to ride a bicycle on this roadway *is* in the middle of the outside travel lane. Moreover, since this highway has an inside passing lane in each direction, bicyclists riding in the middle of the outside lanes do not significantly delay motorists, except *maybe* during peak commuting hours. Experienced adult bicyclists who ride in the middle of the outside lane are reasonably safe, especially in broad daylight, as evidenced by the fact that they are plainly visible to following motorists at a considerable distance and that direct rear-end car-bike collisions are very rare. These bicyclists would encounter far more frequent crash risks on the substandard, poorly designed, and overcrowded Mt Vernon Trail, from inexperienced bicyclists and pedestrians, from hazardous design, and from poorly maintained wood and asphalt surfaces. I had a bad bike crash (a solo fall) on that trail nearly 30 years ago.
Allen Muchnick July 14, 2011 at 05:08 AM
In conclusion, Ms Hoffman, you deem bicyclists "rude" merely for traveling in the safest practical way and having the audacity to be "in your way". How inconvenient and difficult is it to make a simple lane change on the GW Parkway? Clearly, it's you, ma'am, who's arrogant and lacks humility. Now, maybe we'll see whether you have the intelligence to comprehend what I've plainly written.
marina hoffman July 14, 2011 at 05:23 AM
It is illegal to ride a.bike on the GW Parkway.. Not only are you Arrogant but you condone breaking the law and endangering others. The "trail" too shoddy for you? Really? Time to reflect on your lack of innovative discussion since you must revert to your orrigiinal discourse of repetition, insult and intimidation to attain a modicum of self worth. I sincerely hope you have a good night.
Carl July 14, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Maria, Given Allen Muchinck's threat of physical violence posted in this comment thread (http://ballston.patch.com/blog_posts/bikers-and-why-you-irk-me) you may be best just leaving the issue alone. He definitely seems to be unhinged.
Allen Muchnick July 14, 2011 at 12:55 PM
While technically illegal, violating an obscure and *unposted* NPS regulation that bans bicycling on the GW Parkway south of Old Town is no more "rude" than driving 5 miles above the posted speed limit, something that nearly all motorists *purposely* practice routinely. Furthermore, this relatively recent NPS regulation is not based on *any* documented safety or traffic-flow problem. Undoubtedly, this arbitrary, capricious, and unnecessary bike ban was issued *solely* in response to political pressure from arrogant, self-important motorists, such as yourself, who are offended by the mere presence of a solitary bicyclist on "their" roadway. Clearly, any further discussion here would be a total waste of my time. Sadly, the insults you have flung at me in *each* of your responses are obvious projections of your own character flaws and insecurities. Good day!
Allen Muchnick July 14, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Somehow, I doubt you could devise an improvement to this law.
Allen Muchnick July 14, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Carl's statement is libelous. I did not threaten anything and merely advised the author that she is at risk for being sued if she ever injures a bicyclist.
Carl July 14, 2011 at 08:58 PM
You also compared discrimination against cyclists to discrimination against African Americans. You are a raving nut.
Allen Muchnick July 15, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Analogies are seldom perfect. The opinion piece advocated threatening bicyclists with physical injury (by revving ones motor vehicle engine), and bicyclists are a cultural minority that is ridiculed and discriminated against by *some* members of the dominant motorist culture. Furthermore, African American cultural identity, like bicycling, *is* a lifestyle choice. In noting a similarity, I hardly claimed an identity, only that threatening and advocating violence against any distinct group of people is inappropriate. Do you disagree? As for your posts, Carl, insults and ad hominem attacks are inappropriate in any forum and completely undermine the attacker's credibility.
marina hoffman July 15, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Thanks Carl- since it's in writing, it cannot be disputed. I guess I am not the only intelligent female he seems to want to dominate...(intimidate- ) Allen Muchnick 4:19pm on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 "Ms Whelan: Keep your personal liability insurance up to date, and buy the highest limits possible. It sounds like you'll need it." hey ohhhhhh that sounds like a threat! (and a real one too not the fake revving and engine type) Allen Muchnick League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling Instructor (LCI) #538-M allenmuchnick@yahoo.com 703-271-0895 Arlington VA http://www.facebook.com/allen.muchnick http://www.linkedin.com/pub/allen-muchnick/14/812/885
marina hoffman July 15, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Does that apply to you and the attacks you made on me? Or are you a selective abuser?
Allen Muchnick July 15, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Ms. Hoffman: It certainly applies to the attacks that *you initiated* against me. Polite--but firm--disagreement is not a personal attack, but you evidently can't tolerate being proven wrong.
Allen Muchnick July 15, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Anyone who thinks I threatened Ms Whelan (who has publicly admitted to assaulting bicyclists on the roadway) does not understand that personal liability insurance protects THE INSURED against future suits for injuring others. Furthermore, claiming that I threatened Ms Whelan is LIBEL.
Naomi Nix July 15, 2011 at 02:42 PM
I am closing this comment thread, because the content of some of these comments violate our terms of service.

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