HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Biking around Henrico today can be difficult, with few bike lanes in the rapidly growing county – but a new plan being drafted now hopes to change that.
The Draft Bike Network Plan is part of “Henrico 2045,” a comprehensive plan to guide the county through the next 20 years.
Louise Lockett Gordon, director of BikeWalk RVA, said the bike plan was a welcome move, “A little late to the party, but we’re happy to see Henrico taking that step.”
This is the first time Henrico has outlined a county-wide vision for bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Gordon noted that neighboring Richmond and Chesterfield had already adopted their own bike infrastructure plans in 2015.
There are currently just 49 miles of bike lanes in the county, according to an existing conditions report by the county. That’s fewer than Richmond has, but more than Chesterfield, which has encountered delays in its own improvement projects.
“When you look at the vehicular system, it’s very well connected,” she said. But when it comes to paths for bikes and pedestrians, “There are bits and pieces, but it’s not fully connected as a fully functional network.”
Part of the planning process is a slate of public meetings and surveys to gauge community needs. Residents can also comment directly on the draft map.
While bike lanes may conjure images of lycra-clad speedsters on professional racing bikes, Gordon says, ideally, they should be designed to accommodate a wide range of users.
“When we think about design for bikeways, walkways, active transportation, our sort of end users that we’re thinking about are folks from ages 8 to 80,” she said. “If you’re designing such that a child or a senior adult can navigate the space and feel comfortable and feel safe moving at their own pace, then we’re hitting the mark.”
There are several different kinds of infrastructure proposed under the draft plan, ranging from simple, paved shoulders to dedicated, shared-use paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The placement of each kind of path depends mostly on what kind of traffic they’ll be built alongside, Gordon said. While low-speed, neighborhood roads don’t require much protection, bike paths built alongside high-speed, main roads require separation and protection from car traffic, which can be a major threat to safety.
While the draft plan isn’t a funding commitment, it signals that the county is taking the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists seriously – and giving them the consideration long reserved for automobiles.
“Once you have a network plan fleshed out it makes it much easier then to get to 50%, get to 75%, get to 100%,” Gordon said. “I think Henrico could get to 100% within a couple of years.”