If you’re passing a cyclist or group of riders in a vehicle, you’ll soon have to change lanes a lot more.
A new law going into effect July 1 will require drivers to switch lanes if they can’t maintain three feet of distance when passing cyclists.
The Fairfax County Police Department says this means motorists may have to cross double yellow lines, imploring people to “share the road.” Police told Reston Now that they hope people will abide by the new legislation and help keep everyone safe on roadways.
“I think it’s going to be huge in the long run,” Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright said Monday while stopping during a bicycle ride on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. He acknowledged that the change may require some education.
Wright says the new law means that vehicles will generally need to shift lanes, because lanes in the state are typically 11 or 12 feet wide.
“In effect, almost every lane in Virginia will require a motorist to safely pass,” he said.
The state law was adopted in February after General Assembly legislators removed a provision that would have allowed cyclists to treat stop signs like a yield sign.
Some states, including Delaware, allow the so-called “Idaho stop” for bicycle riders. Like Virginia, Washington, D.C., considered the stop-as-yield measure but also declined to adopt it.
The new law also ends a requirement for cyclists to file into a single lane when being passed.
Tensions between cyclists and drivers played out on the county police department’s Facebook post about the issue. Several people noted cyclists should obey traffic laws, too.
Wright says those online arguments between cyclists and drivers are similar to honking as well as dangerous behaviors on the road.
“There’s so much animosity, and it’s aggressive,” Wright said.
Some people on social media questioned whether double yellow lines should ever be crossed.
Current law already allows drivers to cross double yellow lines when passing others, including cyclists, skateboarders, and scooters. Another provision involves giving enough distance to mopeds, animal-drawn vehicles, and more when drivers pass them.
Pedestrian and bicycle safety is a persistent concern in Fairfax County, where seven pedestrians and two cyclists have died in car crashes so far this year. Whether these new laws help alleviate those issues remains to be seen.
David Rohrer, deputy county executive for public safety, will take over as interim police chief for the Fairfax County Police Chief on Feb. 1.
The appointment was made by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a meeting yesterday as Edwin Roessler, the current police chief, retires next month.
It isn’t the first time Rohrer has worked for FCPD. From July 2004 to October 2012, Rohrer was appointed as the first-ever deputy county executive for public safety. He jumpstarted his career in 1980 as a patrol officer in Fairfax County. During his 32-year tenure, he worked his way up to several ranks of the department as captain, major and deputy police chief.
In a statement, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said he expects the transition to be “seamless.“
“I work closely with Deputy County Executive Rohrer on a daily basis and I could not be more confident in his ability to see the Police Department through this period while we search for a new chief,” he said.
Rohrer currently. oversees the Police and Fire and Rescue Departments, the Department of Public Safety Communications, the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Animal Sheltering and the McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center.
Meanwhile, a nationwide search is underway to select the next new police chief. The county is working with POLIHIRE to conduct the search. A community survey to identify key skills, characteristics, and traits for the new hire is open through Saturday.
Photo via Fairfax County Government
A new audit from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission has found a dozen items that Metro needs to correct as soon as possible and before the opening of Silver Line Phase 2.
Many of the items are related to the lack of guidance and training for employees on a new structural inspection manual. Additionally, the audit also says Metrorail does not review contracted inspectors’ credentials or qualifications thoroughly enough.
In all, how Metro currently handles structural inspections creates “the risk that safety issues could be misidentified or slip through the cracks.”
Another issue is that Metrorail has yet to provide load ratings for its elevated structures, meaning it’s unclear the size and weight limit of trains and equipment that can safely traverse a bridge or station. This creates a risk that the structures “could be inadvertently overloaded,” according to the audit.
The audit makes the conclusion that all of these issues “demonstrates a separate significant, ongoing problem facing Metrorail: siloed departments that do not fully coordinate on work instructions, materials or procedures.”
All aspects of Metro are audited over a three-year cycle, but the structural inspection process was audited now “due to other othersight work that identified concerns,” a WMSC spokesperson tells Reston Now.
Metrorail has 45 days to submit corrective action plans for the issues to the safety commission.
Beyond that, the timeline isn’t clear of when these required changes will actually take place.
The WMSC spokesperson also tells Reston Now that while some of these items are “relatively straight forward” others, like proper training, could take more time.
When reached for comment, a Metro spokesperson wrote Reston Now via email that they are addressing the issues:
Metro appreciates the efforts of the WMSC in completing this audit, especially the acknowledgement of the substantial progress that Metro has made with our structural assessment and maintenance programs. We require inspection of bridges and related structures at least every two years, more frequently in some instances, to ensure structural integrity and the safety of the riding public.
In addition to inspection and maintenance programs, Metro is investing in an aggressive capital program to ensure the state of good repair of our elevated structures, including addressing priority projects. As we review the findings of this audit and develop our responses, we remain committed to continuous improvement of our program and enhancing the safety of the system.
All of this has left the status and timeline of Silver Line Phase 2, which includes the opening of Reston Town Center Station, Herndon Station, and four other stations extending into Northern Virginia, up in the air.
Over the last several months, a number of audits and reports have called out Metro and have threatened to delay the openings.
In the fall, a WMSC audit reported that Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center is a “toxic workplace” with “racial and sexual comments, harassment, and other unprofessional behavior.”
In September, a report from the Metro’s Office of Inspector General found 342 cracks in concrete panels at a number of Silver Lane Phase 2 stations. This was due to the use of faulty materials, read the report.
As of last month, Phase 2 could still open by the fall this year, but that’s at the earliest.
Reston Now followed up with the Metro spokesperson about an updated timeline for the opening of Silver Line Phase 2, but has yet to receive an answer as of publication.
Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
A potentially dangerous area along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail now has improved safety.
NOVA Parks installed flashing beacons at the intersection of Hunter Mill Road and the W&OD Trail over the summer.
“When activated by trail users attempting to cross Hunter Mill Road, the push-button flashing beacons provide an additional visual indicator to oncoming drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road,” said Brian Nolan, director of planning and development for NOVA Parks.
The project was completed earlier this month for roughly $80,000, Nolan told Reston Now.
Flashing beacons are a common, low-cost fix to improve safety. The Federal Highway Administration has issued interim approval to use the devices. State and local agencies must receive permission prior to installing flashing beacons.
Photo via W&OD Trail/Facebook
To keep party-goers safe on St. Patrick’s Day, Lyft teamed up with several businesses and organizations in Northern Virginia to offer free and discounted rides back home.
The promotion will be valid from 4 p.m. on Tuesday (March 17) until 4 a.m. on Wednesday, according to a press release, which added that rides up to $15 will be covered with a code that will be released shortly after the promotion starts.
Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), a local non-profit, is one of the main sponsors of the program. The nonprofit aims to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking, according to its website.
To take advantage of the promotion, users must be over the age of 21 and have the app downloaded on their phones. People can find the code online.
Roughly 40% of all U.S. traffic deaths involve drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This story also appeared on our sister site Tysons Reporter.
Image via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue
Restaurants Recognized for Safety Practices — Founding Farmers at Reston Station and the Hyatt Regency in Reston Town Center were recently recognized for promoting safety through actively managing practices. [Fairfax County Government]
Where to Report Potholes — “VDOT’s online reporting tool makes it easier to pinpoint exactly where you see a pothole. You can also report potholes directly from your mobile device and include images (**but NOT while driving!).” [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via R. Dawson/Flickr
Local police deemed that a “possible threat” directed at Herndon High School earlier this week was not credible, according to school officials.
In an email to parents, Herndon HS Principal Liz Noto stated that police discovered the possible threat on social media.
Police interviewed the student who posted the message and determined there was no risk to the school or students.
The administration did not release any other details about the incident due to piracy restrictions.
For precautionary purposes, the school had extra security present on Wednesday (Jan. 15).
Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools
Safety Tips for Candles — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has advice on how to prevent fires this holiday season. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
New Tenants at Reston Station — “During 2019, Comstock Holding Companies, Inc., has announced the signing of more than 500,000 Sq. Ft. of new office leases in the Reston Station development, which covers nearly 40 acres surrounding the Wiehle-Reston East Station on Metro’s Silver Line… Most recently, Solar Winds signed a lease covering 16,349 Sq. Ft. at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza.” [GlobeNewswire]
Where to Dine Out on Christmas — Here are some restaurants that will be open on Dec. 25 around the Reston area. [Reston Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
In an attempt to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation plan to install new flashing crosswalk signs in Herndon and Reston.
Five new Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons will be installed at various crosswalks throughout Hunter Mill District, according to a press release.
“When applied in the right context, rectangular rapid flashing beacons are an excellent tool to draw attention to people crossing the street and encourage drivers to yield,” Chris Wells, a Fairfax County spokesperson, said.
The beacons will be funded by VDOT and the Federal Highway Authority’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, through a roughly $1,263,000 grant to improve safety, the press release added.
Though the project focuses on the Hunter Mill District, is also encompasses the Mount Vernon, Sully and Providence districts within Fairfax County.
Photo courtesy Fairfax County/VDOT
The Town of Herndon has appointed its first-ever risk manager.
Fox Simkins, who previously worked with GEICO’s claims liability management team, was appointed to the newly created position this week.
As risk manager, Simkins is responsible for planning and managing the town’s insurance and risk programs, including risk management programs like workers’ compensation, injury management, and liability management. She will also analyze the town’s risk management processes, including reviewing risk elimination measures and determining controls.
“The establishment of this position fulfills a primary objective of the Town Council, to ensure that the town operates in a manner that optimizes productivity on behalf of citizens while mitigating unnecessary risk,” said Town Attorney Lesa Yeatts
Here’s more about Simkins from a media release:
Fox Simkins held positions of increasing responsibility at GEICO, culminating in a seat on the insurance company’s Claims Liability School management development team. In that role, she was responsible for developing curricula for supervisory programs and instruction, as well as managing their execution; working with multiple departments on regional and national compliance in risk management procedures; serving as a lead negotiation instructor; and working with company leadership on risk management issues. She was also a founding member of GEICO’s national training center.
Simkins has a B.A. in political science from Hofstra University. She begins her position on Dec. 2.