Advice to Motorists

Driving Loudoun's Rural Roads

Loudoun County like much of Virginia has very narrow paved rural roads with little or no shoulders. These are very scenic and enjoyable to drive, but have the potential for vehicle and cyclist interactions. Although Virginia State Law allows for 2 persons riding abreast, Bike Loudoun strongly encourages all bicycle riders to ride only single file on such roads. As drivers, please stay alert at all times, and please don't pass cyclists when nearing a crest of a hill or entering a turn.

Virginia Law requires that motorists distance themselves at least three feet away from bicyclists as they pass the cyclists. Motorists are allowed to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist as long as the oncoming lane is clear. Share the Road is an important axiom for us all. There are also large trucks, farm vehicles and tractors, horse trailers and even horse and riders especially on gravel roads, all sharing Loudoun's scenic beauty. Please slow down, drive gently and watch out for each other out there.  


Slow Down

 Motorists’ speeding is a major factor in crashes with pedestrians and cyclists. According to a 2011 study by the AAA Foundation, the fatality rate for pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling at 32 mph is 25%. This rate is doubled when speed is increased by 10 mph (50% fatality rate at 42 mph).  

Bike Trail and Road Intersections

Motorists must yield to pedestrians and bicylists in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked. Cars should not automatically stop at a signed bike crossing.  The stop sign is always on the Bike side of the intersection, requiring bicyclists to stop, cars have the right of way.  There are yellow diamond signs alerting drivers to the possible presence of bicyclists or pedestrians that could be in the intersection / striped cross walk area. Drivers are obligated by law to stop is if there is a cyclist or a pedestrian already in the intersection on the white striped crosswalk.  If the car comes up to such and sees the pedestrian or cyclist already in the crosswalk, then the car must stop. But cars have the right of way at these intersections and cyclists and pedestrians must wait for clear conditions. Many vehicle to vehicle accidents occur as cars are rear-ended because a driver is being nice to a cyclist and motioning them to go ahead. The next car behind them does not notice the stopped car in time. This is also especially dangerous on 4 lane roadways, where cyclists may not be aware of oncoming traffic in the second lane. It is best for everyone to slow down, look both ways and ensure a safe and clear path ahead.

 Don’t block the crosswalk

 A driver should not pass the white stop bar and encroach on the crosswalk while waiting for the signal to change. This prevents walkers and bicyclists from safely using the crosswalk in front of the car.Similarly, a driver should not enter the intersection until there is sufficient space to clear the intersection on the other side. Otherwise he will end up blocking the crosswalk on the far side.

 Drivers, look left-right-left In addition to other vehicles, motorists should look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for bicyclists and pedestrians, particularly at heavily used intersections and trail intersections. Also, be aware at all times. Many pedestrian-motorist crashes occur when the pedestrian is crossing the road, either mid-block or at intersections.  

Sharrows

Shared Lane Markings [Sharrows - See picture above] are road markings used to indicate the safest place to ride within the lane. They are used next to parked cars to help a bicyclist avoid being hit suddenly by car doors being opened and on lanes that are too narrow for cars and bicycles to comfortably travel side by side in the same lane. Occasionally they are used on steep downhill slopes to allow the bicyclist more maneuvering space to react when traveling at a high speed.  

Bike Lanes

Bike lanes are for the exclusive use of bicyclists. They are marked with white lines and icons / symbols on the pavement. Motorists are only allowed to drive over bike lanes when turning right.    

Parked Cars and Opening Doors

Although, bicyclists should avoid traveling too close to parked cars, drivers must look before opening car doors for cyclists.   Virginia law (§ 46.2-818.1) fines drivers who open a vehicle door on the side of passing traffic without confirming that it was “reasonably safe to do so.”