New bike laws impact everyone come July 1

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jun 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-26 19:56:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. --  Edwuan Whitehead is like so many in Richmond who use their bicycles to get around town.

"This is probably one of the biggest bike riding cities I've been in," Whitehead said.

While it may be convenient, it is not necessarily always safe. Whitehead says he was almost hit by a car last week.

"Her side mirror actually closed on my sidearm," Whitehead said. "That is how close she was."

Last year 600 bicyclists were injured and eight died on Virginia roads.

Virginia officials are hoping to improve numbers with a new "three feet passing law" that goes into effect July 1.

Under the law, drivers in vehicles must give at least three feet of room when passing bicyclists.

The traffic infraction will be considered an improper passing violation, which could result in fines, court costs, and three points deducted on a driver's license.

DMV Commissioner Rick Holcomb believes the three feet of room will make a difference.

"We believe it will," Holcomb said.

Holcomb said that law enforcement officers are being trained to properly identify what exactly three feet looks like in a situation that involves a bike and car.

The law, sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves, was the result of years of lobbying by advocates like the Virginia Bicycling Federation.

"What I hope this does is educate drivers to slow down and don't sneak pass a bicyclist," Champe Burnley,  President of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, said.

Burnley hopes to get "safe following" laws passed in the next General Assembly Session, as well as "dooring" regulations that would prohibit drivers from hitting cyclists when they open their car door.

Both have failed in previous sessions of the General Assembly.