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Should bicycles be required to stop at intersections?

Bicycle Tax
Charles Rex Arbogast
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Chicago, a lone cyclist navigates a street.

Lawmakers in Richmond are debating how automobiles and bicycles can share the road.

What happens when a cyclist approaches a stop sign? Senator Creigh Deeds is a Democrat from Charlottesville who says cyclists should be able to proceed through intersections without stopping provided that they slow to a reasonable speed and yield the right of way.

"A lot of people that ride bikes tell me that the momentum makes it difficult to come to a stop, and actually more dangerous in some situations to come to a stop," Deeds explains. "But from my perspective, I still thought a statewide bill would probably be a difficult pill to swallow, particularly for some rural areas."

He proposed legislation that would give local governments authority to adopt local ordinances giving cyclists more leeway at stop signs. But the momentum of the legislation stalled after Republican Delegate Tim Anderson of Virginia Beach voiced his concern.

"It's just crazily dangerous, inherently dangerous, to leave it up to the judgment of a bicyclist to decide if it's safe to go through an intersection," Anderson said. "I just wouldn’t want to encourage a bicyclist to say, ‘Yeah, you don’t have to stop at this stop sign.’” 

The bill failed in a Republican-controlled House committee Tuesday morning.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.