Bicycling in Loudoun County is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, see the roads around Leesburg and get some exercise. While many people ride just for leisure, if you spend time out on the roads around here, then you’ll note that we also have our fair share of competitive bikers. Whether you are cycling just for leisure and want to ride alongside your companion, or you are training for competition and need a pace lane, you should know your rights and obligations as cyclist. Specifically, can you ride 2 abreast—or more—on the roads in Loudoun county?
While there isn’t a perfectly clear answer to this question, information related to bicycling that is provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation, provides some guidance. That information indicates that in general, bicyclists are obligated to “ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway”. This indicates that there is a preference for all cyclists to ride in a single-file line. However, exceptions to this preference are allowed when the bicyclist is passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
In addition, that same information states that, “bicyclists cannot ride more than two or more abreast on highways”, and that when riding two abreast, they cannot impede the flow of traffic. This information seems to indicate that it is generally okay to ride two abreast, even when not passing. However, cyclists should move into single file when another vehicle is approaching from behind. Loudoun County cyclist, triathlete and bicycle crash injury lawyer Doug Landau has seen some unfortunate bike accidents when riders did not keep to the right and when large vehicles were travelling too fast, were distracted or were failing to pay "full time and attention" to their driving.
This rule does not apply when the bicyclists are riding on a bike path or a lane specifically set aside for bikers. These general guidelines are based on Virginia state laws on bicycling.
Other sources, such as Sharing the Road in Virginia, back up these general guidelines, also telling cyclists to: stay as far right as possible, to not ride more than 2-abreast, and to ride single file when moving slower than motor vehicle traffic.
All of this taken together seems to indicate that there is a preference for single-file riding and an out-right ban on riding more than two people side-by-side. Riding two-abreast is definitely permitted when passing, and may be allowed in other circumstances.