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VDOT Updates Safety Policies After Bicyclist-SUV Collision

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Since the crash between a biker and an SUV on the Berkley Bridge pedestrian pathway two days ago, stronger safety measures have been Instituted, The Virginian-Pilot reports. After an investigation by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the department pushed forward to incorporate additional safety policies.

VDOT has instructed bridge tenders to not use their vehicles when rotating between shifts. If, for whatever reason, a vehicle is necessary, it must be accompanied by a walking pedestrian. Private traffic control devices will be introduced to discourage vehicle entry and safely guide vehicles that do use the pathway.

It is a swift introduction of  new safety precautions to protect pedestrians. Given the confusion regarding the jurisdictional responsibility described in an earlier article, it is a welcome change as well.

A VDOT contractor drove the SUV that collided with bicyclist Kelley Howell.  It is routinely used by bridge tenders like the VDOT contractor during shift changes, and there are signs posted in both directions to caution pedestrians about passing vehicles. But it is clear that such measures were insufficient to prevent the crash that took place. The video of the incident shows that the bridge was progressively turning, obscuring a clear visual of oncoming pedestrians or vehicles. Cemented and fenced, the walls further obstructed the view for both driver and pedestrian.

The victory belongs to pedestrians and bicyclists if VDOT pursues a change in policy. It also belongs to Kelley Howell, a bicycle safety advocate who creates educational videos for conscientious bike riding. It is fortunate that she sustained only very minor injuries, which is often not the case when a bicyclist collides with a SUV. Since the bridge is the only pathway safe for bicyclists along I-264, VDOT must take precautions very seriously when it is certain that vehicles will frequently encounter pedestrians in close quarters. This time, it was a few scrapes and bruises. The next time, it could mean serious injury to the pedestrian.

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