In their own words: Chesterfield County residents want bikeways and trails
Over the last few months, we’ve been engaging with residents from all over Chesterfield County, hearing their stories and why they want to see Chesterfield County become a more walkable, bikeable place to live.
The stories we’ve heard reflect the diversity of the county – we’ve spoken with recreational cyclists in Brandermill, bike commuters on Midlothian Turnpike, pedestrians in Bon Air, families walking to the grocery store along Jefferson Davis Highway, and so many more. While the people telling the stories come from vastly different walks of life, their message is the same: the residents of Chesterfield County need more safe, connected places to bike and walk, and they need them now.
These stories capture the challenges faced by the people of Chesterfield County who, for one reason or another (wanting to exercise, not being able to afford a car, or being unable to drive) choose to travel often on foot or by bike. Whether they’re walking and biking for transportation or recreation, these people have expressed a need to feel comfortable and safe while using the roads, and want to see the Chesterfield County Bikeways and Trails Plan adopted right away.
“My husband Mike and I parent two special needs boys who are not yet, nor may ever be, independently mobile. A comfortable network of bikeways and trails would enable our family to enjoy the beauty of Bon Air while safely navigating our neighborhood to access the local shops and community spaces. We would love to have sidewalks and trails to cart our boys behind our bikes or push them in their strollers and chairs. While it’s easy for a family like ours to become isolated and stuck indoors, the Bikeways and Trails Plan would discourage us from letting our world get too small and instead invite inclusion into our beloved Bon Air.” – Catherine Rey (pictured to the right with her two sons, JP and Louie)
“Bon Air is a wonderful place to live and a great place to raise a family. Every morning, my husband and I walk our dogs beneath the tall hardwood trees in our neighborhood, but we walk in the middle of the street because we have no sidewalks,” says Ann Hardy. “When my kids ask to ride their bikes to a friend’s house, I hesitate because there is no infrastructure to support their travel. The future of healthy and successful communities pivots on access to walkable and bikeable roads. The Bikeways and Trails Plan will not only work to improve the property values of our communities, but will also improve the overall health of Chesterfield residents.”
“We need sidewalks and bike lanes as soon as possible,” says Mary Dean, a walker and resident of Shady Hill Mobile Home Park on Jefferson Davis Highway. “I see so many people out there walking, from small children to the elderly. It’s too dangerous, and the longer it takes for something to change, the longer people will have to risk their lives on a daily basis.”
Maria Camino (pictured to the left), single mother of three and also a resident of Shady Hill, echoed Mary’s concerns. “The road is nearly impossible to cross during high-traffic hours. I rarely let my children walk with me – you can’t just ‘cross’ the street, you have to run.”
“The paths and accommodations for biking are important for the quality of life in Chesterfield, the long term health of its residents, and the encouragement of an active lifestyle. Because the network will extend through the county, it addresses health and even transportation needs, especially for people of lower income levels. Our region is so far behind many others in this country that already have bike networks allowing residents and visitors to safely traverse their extended neighborhoods by bike or on foot – let’s move in the right direction for all of our residents!” – Annie Tobey
“I live in the Highlands. In this area, the roads are narrow, windy, and often have sharp drop offs. The Bikeways and Trails Plan would allow us to bike safely, keeping our bodies healthy and enjoying the fun and beauty of gliding over the roads. Using bicycles for transportation to work or other destinations is much too dangerous in the current conditions. Citizens who bike to work out of necessity, to save gas, or simply to stay fit should not have to take high risks to do so. Bicycle commuting has a real chance to decrease automobile congestion, but significant use of bicycles will not happen without adequate accommodation.” – Terry Troxell
We met Larry (pictured to the left) as he was walking along Midlothian Turnpike to catch a bus to his job downtown. “It’s a horrible place to walk,” he says. “I can’t afford a car, and I don’t feel safe riding my bike on the road. I’ve almost been hit a couple times, and I can’t wait to have a safer way to get where I need to go.”
Leondre, an employee of YouFit Health Clubs, shared a similar sentiment. “Not many people walk or bike around here, but I think more people would if there wasn’t traffic zooming by at 60 miles per hour,” he says. “If people could feel more protected, I think that would change. We need sidewalks, and we need them soon.”
A mother and father push their two children along a “goat path” on Boulders Parkway. A “goat path” or “desire line” is the term given to an area where no accommodation for pedestrians has been provided, but foot traffic has worn away at the side of a road and created a dirt path like the one pictured below. The mother expressed her concern as they were walking back to their apartment from the convenience store – “It’s definitely not a good place to walk, and it scares me when I’m with my kids. But we don’t have any other options,” she says. “Sidewalks would definitely make me feel safer.”
“I live in Woodlake and am an avid cyclist,” says Drew Biehler. “I logged 3,500 miles in Chesterfield, Powhatan, and Amelia counties last year – that’s not bad for a 52-year old ,” he continues with a smile. “All of these miles were on county roads, but they’re not bike-friendly. We need safer options if we want to get people outside living a healthy lifestyle.”
“Providing safer places to bike and walk isn’t just about providing recreation,” says Todd Wilson, president of Cornerstone Revitalization Center. “To me, it’s also about giving families a safe way to get to the grocery store, it’s about providing safety for people who are just trying to live their lives.”
The need for more bikeways and trails in Chesterfield County is about a lot more than recreation or living an active lifestyle. For much of the county, it’s just about living.
Stay tuned for more.