2017 Bicycle Friendly State ranking: Virginia rides into Top 10

BicycleFriendlyState_Header-VA

The League of American Bicyclists released its 2017 Bicycle Friendly State ranking last week; their 9th Bicycle Friendly State ranking and first since 2015. There was plenty of good news for Virginia.

Reports like this one give states, regions, localities, and even communities goals and types of planning that should be targeted for improvements to our bicycle infrastructure. From the report:

Washington led the state rankings, as it has each year since 2008, while Minnesota comes in again at second. In this latest ranking, California moved up from eighth to third on the strength of its new statewide bike plan. Virginia makes its first appearance in the top 10 in 10th place. Two states made their way to the top 20 for the first time: Vermont (14th) and Georgia (19th).

Good for the Commonwealth. The report for Virginia [.PDF] details several factors as to why it moved up in the rankings. As far as government is concerned, few stand out more than others.

First off, moving lanes:

Since 2015, Virginia law has been amended so that cities do not face reduced maintenance payments if they choose to remove “moving lanes” as part of a road diet. Virginia’s new law allows cities to make decisions about their roadway designs without worrying as much about preserving non-bicycle lane “moving lanes.” VDOT should work with cities to help them understand this new law, found at §33.2-319(D), so that cities can update their planning to take advantage of this change.

Complete streets are roadway corridors designed and operated to enable safe use and support mobility for all users. Those include people of all ages and abilities, regardless of whether they are travelling as drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, or public transportation riders. From the report:

Through Instructional and Information Memorandum IIMTMPD-1.0, the Virginia DOT has adopted a framework and published metrics to track Virginia’s complete streets policy implementation. This is a great step to ensuring stronger compliance with current policy and complements Virginia’s maintenance funding change that makes the implementation of bike lanes easier. Virginia DOT should ensure that there is adequate funding and staffing for the implementation of this framework.

And dooring:

Since 2015, the Virginia legislature adopted § 46.2-818.1, which prohibits a motorist from opening an automobile’s door unless the motorist is able to do so safely. This law protects bicyclists from “dooring.” Now only 9 states lack such a law. An education campaign aimed at motorists should be used to educate the public about this new law and how motorists can comply with it, such as using the “dutch reach” method of opening a car door.

What? You’ve never heard of the Dutch Reach? A technique where drivers open car doors using their far rather than near hand, which allows the person opening a door to look behind while also limiting how far their door can open. Check this quick instructional video:

 

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