Officials urge awareness as cycling event nears

Valley motorists are being reminded to “Share the Road” with cyclists this summer, especially with the Bike Virginia Tour coming to the area in late June.

Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing for Shenandoah County, said that as state and national cycling has increased, so has cycling in the Shenandoah Valley.

“We’ve seen a rise in the amount of cycling and cycling as a reason for travel, from our perspective,” she said. “We’re seeing, as more and more people are becoming conscious of their health, cycling has really taken off locally and nationally.”

The scenic aspect of the area also has played a role in the increase, she said.

“On any given weekend in Woodstock, you’ll see people traveling on Route 11 and going through town,” said French, who works in Woodstock. “Whether we’re a destination or a stop on their way to their destination…the Shenandoah Valley in, general, is quite frequently a destination for its scenic beauty not only by car but also on bike and by motorcycle.”

Debbie Spiliotopoulos, senior environmental planner for the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, emphasized the need for education on the topic.

“The sharing the road program is basically an opportunity to educate all users of the road – cyclists, pedestrians and motorists,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to look at the law in Virginia as opposed to other parts of the country.”

Part of the need for Share the Road is the disproportionate accident statistics for cyclists, said Spiliotopoulos.

“When you look at the crash stats, the number of crashes for motorists is going down overall, mostly for fatalities and injuries,” she said. “But the pedestrians and cyclists accidents are staying the same and in some cases going up. The share of the fatality and the injuries is getting higher.”

Lt. Aaron Pattie, of the Woodstock Police Department, said he hasn’t seen any cyclist-motorists accidents and hopes to keep things that way during the Bike Virginia event by educating the public.

“Our primary concern is just to educate the general public,” he said. “We have a large event, Bike Virginia, coming to Woodstock at the end of June, so we’re expecting to see about 1,500 cyclists in town for those three days. What we’ve done is we’ve started to put out some information on our Facebook site, as well as the town’s website – just some educational material on rules of the road for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Pattie said that he is hoping for an accident-free event in June and the Share the Road campaign is a precautionary measure.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com

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