In the Richmond area, Chesterfield County may seem like the antithesis of cool.
It’s known for several huge, multi-lane thoroughfares, hundreds of strip malls of all sizes and ubiquitous cul-de-sac subdivisions all built around one essential piece of machinery -- the automobile.
That’s why it’s remarkable that the county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve a $360 million, 362-mile bicycle plan that will be built over the next 50 years.
Richmond just won international kudos for its UCI Road World Championships and has some plans for bike thoroughfares in the Fan District. A 54-mile long trail connecting the city with Williamsburg also has been finished. Stuck with the car like Chesterfield, Henrico County offers very little for bicyclists, county officials acknowledge.
That’s what makes Chesterfield’s ambitious plan so special.
It will take advantage of several north-south roads that will link the more densely inhabited neighborhoods to its north. The plan will allow some residents to bike to their jobs in Richmond and Henrico County.
Another artery will link the county with Pocahontas State Park, which has 7,950 acres of woods, lakes and hiking and biking trails. Plans call for trails to follow the northern shore of Lake Chesdin while avoiding the high-income Chesdin Landing subdivision.
Yet one of the most interesting transformations could be how large subdivision tracts, including Woodlake and Brandermill, with thousands of homes suddenly will be made accessible by bicycle. According to Stuart W. Connock Jr., who oversees park construction for the county, Woodlake and Brandermill residents should be able to bike, weather-permitting, to shopping, bowling and movie theaters.
It still isn’t known if fiscally conservative Chesterfield will fund all of the plan. But as Connock notes, it’s a 50-year plan. He says that bike master plans in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina were drawn up in the 1970s and only now are becoming completed.