It’s true. Thirteen years ago, the county Board of Supervisors adopted a Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan that lays out a safe, comprehensive network of bikeways throughout the county. Since then, little visible movement on it has been made.
But, progress is on the way.
That’s what town and county leaders told supporters of making the county more bike friendly during a meeting Thursday. The event, put on by BikeLoudoun at Rust Library in Leesburg, offered a glimpse of what projects are in the works to help more people leave their cars in the garage and instead ride bike to school, work, or for recreation.
Part of that effort is a recent countywide study that identified missing bicycle and pedestrian links that, if bridged, could help cyclists ride safely to future Metro stations, park-and-ride lots, county parks and other popular destinations.
Fifteen individual projects have been approved, including construction of multi-use paths and designated bike lanes. The county plans to submit four of those projects to be funded through VDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Grant program.
“Now that we know where the missing links are, the next steps will be to secure that funding and build them, with the hopes of implementing them before Metro gets here,” said Kathy Leidich, of the county’s Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure.
She encouraged supporters of making Loudoun a more bike-friendly county to offer their input to the 26-member Stakeholders Committee that is rewriting the county’s Comprehensive Plan. [Learn more here.]
Two projects that will wrap up soon are repainting George Washington Boulevard, which cuts through the George Washington University’s Ashburn campus, and Oakgrove Road in Sterling to create bike lanes.
Danielle McCray, a contractor for the county government’s transportation engineer team, called the exercise of reallocating lanes for another use, whether bike lanes or parking, “road diets.”
“The volume on George Washington Boulevard, for example, doesn’t warrant six lanes so there was an opportunity to reallocate one of those lanes and create more of a campus-like feel there,” she said.
Bicyclists should also soon have an easier, and safer, time getting around Leesburg.
The town is in the process of creating the Leesburg Loop, a network of designated bike routes throughout Leesburg. The first phase of it was the bike lane added a year ago to Plaza Street—the first bike lane in the county—but the eventual concept is to connect the W&OD Trail to Ball’s Bluff Park, just off Battlefield Parkway, and Tuscarora High School, on North King Street. The BikeLoudoun group is also proposing that it connect it to the county’s park and ride lot at Boland Park, where people can catch a bus to a Metro station.
As planned, the loop would pass 14 schools in town and include wayfinding signs that help cyclists know how to safely get to key places in town.
“We’re trying to advocate for more bike routes and bike lanes, but also safe routes,” BikeLoudoun president Dennis Kruse said. “It’s very important that the cars know when and where to expect bicycles and that bicycles know when and where to expect cars.”
Other speakers at Thursday’s meeting included Deputy First Class Eddie Jappell, coordinator of Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office’s bike team, and Officer Greg Parsons with the Leesburg Police Department, who talked about cyclists’ rights and responsibilities.
Judy Galen, the county government’s employer outreach specialist, asked those in the audience to spread the word about the routes and programs available now to help people commute to work by bike.
She said people don’t need fancy cycling clothes and expensive bikes, just a standard bike, a helmet and a lock. She also told people not to be afraid to ask their employers for bike racks or other accommodations to make it possible for them and their colleagues to ride to work.
“In my department, we like to encourage employers to accommodate all types of commuters including cyclists,” she said. “You’re doing a huge service to everyone else at that company if you’re biking. You’re one less parking space, one less car on the road. As Loudoun continues to grow, that’s going to become an issue.”
She also said some gyms will offer a “shower only” pass for cyclists, to encourage people to ride to work. Learn more about commuting options at Loudoun.gov/commute.
Follow BikeLoudoun’s updates at bikeloudoun.org.