Leesburg Look Dec 2016Seeing is believing, and exploring multi-use trails around town on a bicycle is liberating. The Town of Leesburg, Loudoun County, VDOT, and Bike Loudoun are to be commended for the increased miles and connections of paved multi-use trails in Leesburg and Loudoun. Not only do the trails connect neighborhoods to schools, they also connect cyclists and pedestrians to shopping areas, parks, and the greatest treasure of all – the
Washington & Old Dominion Trail (W&OD Trail). Yet we don’t often see cyclists using the routes off the W&OD. Is it a matter of being stuck in their cars, or a matter of becoming familiar with the routes?

As a bicycle ride organizer and leader for Bicycle Outfitters, I have led rides mostly on the W&OD for those who are interested in gaining fitness and/or fresh air. A special ride was developed to give riders experience and confidence in using their bicycles for transportation. One of the most popular new rides this season has been the Leesburg Loop, or as one rider dubbed it, Tour de Leesburg. The route circumnavigates the town using its network of multi-use trails and the W&OD – a distance of 12 miles. The ride was designed to give cyclists the opportunity to practice and become familiar with the routes off the W&OD. It’s a ride that packs a lot into those 12 miles.

The newly completed and opened section of the Russell Branch Parkway between Battlefield Parkway and
Riverside Parkway was the key to taking less experienced riders on the route. This replaced the hilly and truck-laden route on Cochran Mill Road as the departure point off the W&OD southeast of town to Battlefield turning on Russell Branch. Riders love the detour through the Village at Leesburg! Pedaling up the street, they pass the movie theater, bowling alley, shops, restaurants, and beehive that is Wegmans. (Note: the Village at Leesburg could use some visible bike racks.)

Northeast of town, they cycle past other shopping areas, Market Place at Potomac Station and then Fort Evans Plaza. Northwest of town, they ride through Ida Lee Park where the path traverses between the library and recreation center.

Eventually the route returns to the W&OD through residential areas near
Loudoun County High School. Near the finish, the route turns off near Market Station and its many popular restaurants onto the new multi-use trail through Raflo Park on Harrison Street. The only snag on the route is where Battlefield crosses the Route 15 bypass north of town. The multi-use trails veer off into the neighborhoods before the traffic light on both sides of the intersection. Cyclists must use the four-lane streets for a block on either side.

Often the riders have never cycled off the W&OD or out of their own neighborhood, not knowing where the side paths take them. Coming in January 2017, Leesburg will erect wayfinding signs for bicyclists along the routes around and through town, making navigation much easier.

Riding the multi-use trails, cyclists brush up on using hand signals for stops and turns. They learn where the routes go, where the traffic light buttons are located, and safe ways to navigate busy intersections, which at times require a dose of patience. They also see the importance of riding predictably as
another vehicle on the road.

After riding the Leesburg Loop, riders have later reported taking friends and family on the same ride to share their new-found knowledge of how to bicycle around town. Mission accomplished.

—Lisa Campbell, Bicycle Outfitters Ride Organizer