What is a Shared Use Path?
"Shared-use path" means a paved bikeway - usually 8' to 10' wide asphalt path - that is physically separated from vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier. Shared Use Paths may also be used by pedestrians, dog walkers, strollers, skaters, wheel chairs, joggers, and other users. In Loudoun County, Shared Use Paths are the preferred option for cyclists, as they are the safest alternative. Unfortunately many of these paths are not connected to form a continuous network as they are often built by a developer for a specific community. Bike Loudoun is continuously working with the County Transportation Department to eliminate the gaps and complete the missing sections of Loudoun County's network of Shared Use Paths.
Share the Path!
Faster-moving users need to yield to those who are slower. Path and trail users need to watch for dogs on leashes, children learning to bike, skaters, or, in some cases, horses. When approaching animals, cyclists need to avoid scaring them by slowing down. Gently saying “hello there” or “is it safe to pass?” can calm horse and rider as well as children and dogs.
The 100-foot wide Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD) is one of the longest bike-pedestrian trails in the commonwealth of Virginia— 45 miles in length. The trail takes its name from the railroad whose trains ran along the right-of-way from 1859 until 1968. After the rail line foreclosed, the right-of-way was purchased by Virginia Power. Segments were sold to NOVA Parks, which started paving the trail. The first segment of the W&OD Trail was opened in 1974 in the City of Falls Church. The trail was built in sections until its completion to Purcellville in 1988.
Loudoun County is fortunate to have approximately 23 miles—about half-- of the 45-mile trail within its borders. See map below. Also see this link for parking spots along the W&OD in Loudoun County. The W&OD Trail has become very popular, hosting over 3 million visits a year. In recent years, it has become a bike-commuter route because it transects three counties and several other jurisdictions that are the home of many corporations, small and large businesses and population centers.
Often it is crowded on the W&OD Trail and Shared Use Paths in Loudoun County, especially on weekend mornings. And during these times, there are lots of different users out on the trail moving at very different speeds. This is the time all of us need to be alert, extremely careful and ride defensively. In no way, should any cyclist be riding with their phone plugged into their ears. In Virginia, it’s against the law for bicyclists to wear earphones in both ears while riding.