Road Cycling Safety

Bike helmets


Everyone should wear a helmet while bicycling. Bicycle helmets greatly reduce the risk of serious brain injury and skull fracture from a bicycle crash.  There is no statewide helmet law, but the Code of Virginia [§ 46.2-906.1] gives a county, city, or town the authority to require anyone 14 years old or younger to wear a helmet when riding or being carried on a bicycle. The Town of Leesburg and the County of Loudoun have both enacted the law requiring anyone under 14 to wear a helmet.  Although adults are not required by law to wear helmets, we encourage all riders regardless of age to wear helmets.  


Some newer Helmets now offer a helmet technology called Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). This thin, low-friction liner inside the helmet allows the outer shell to slide a few millimeters across the skull on impact, reducing rotational force and the amount of energy transferred to the head. Rotational force is a thought to be a factor in concussion.  Consumer Reports tested two pairs of the same brand and model helmets—one MIPS, one not—the MIPS helmets reduced rotational force up to 43 percent compared to non-MIPs helmets. The MIPS helmets cost around $20 more than non-MIPS versions of the same brand. Bike Loudoun encourages all riders to use MIPs enabled Helmets at all times. Consumer Reports also has a great graphic below to help you get the right helmet

Road Cycling Safety Tips

Riding 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 fun to ride, but also have the potential for vehicle and cyclist interactions. Although Virginia State Law allows for 2 persons riding abreast, Bike Loudoun strongly encourages all riders to ride only single file on such roads. Stay alert at all times, and when stopping or pausing, make sure you and your bicycle are completely off the road. Virginia Law requires that motorists distance themselves at least three feet away from bicyclists as they pass the cyclists. Motorists are also allowed to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist as long as the oncoming lane is clear. Despite this law, there are times when motorists fail to notice cyclists. Ride defensively at all times on these narrow roads.  Be safe out there.


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.  


Ride in a straight-line


Motorists must share the road with cyclists, per Virginia law.  But, bicyclists need to be predictable.  If there is no bike lane, don’t weave in and out between parked cars. Drivers can’t always see bicyclists in the parking areas and may squeeze out cyclists when cyclists merge back into traffic.

   

Sharrows


Shared Lane Markings [Sharrows - See pictures on right 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.   


Parked Cars and Opening Doors


Bicyclists should avoid traveling too close to parked cars to avoid the risk of having a door open in front of them!   While biking, take the lane and travel at least five feet from parked cars to stay out of their door-opening zone.   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.”