Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Arkansas River Trail-Good News On "Closing The Gap"

April 1, 2015

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola made a major announcement today regarding the Arkansas River Trail "Cantrell gap". After years of pressure from BACA, along with other cycling and pedestrian interests, Stodola said, "I'm tired of hearing about it. We have a fantastic plan from Jacobs Engineers, we have widespread support from the community, and now we have a commitment from the Walton Family Foundation for matching funds that will allow us to complete the River Bluffs Trail Section."
He pointed to the Walton Family Foundation's pledge of $15-million which supplemented federal TIGER grants and local funding to complete the 36 mile, $38-million Razorback Greenway in Northwest Arkansas.
 From the Greenway website:
Trails for bike riding and walking ranked second out of 18 different amenities that new homebuyers look for in a community, according to a 2002 survey of new homebuyers sponsored by the National Association of Home Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders.

 A Foundation spokesman said that central Arkansas had been important to the growth of Walmart in its nascent years and that the Walton family was glad to be able to give back to the community. It's also good for business: "Trail systems are proven to spur economic development and bring more people to communities That's good for Walmart."
Dillard's representatives did not wish to comment.


The official name for this spectacular addition to the Arkansas River Trail System has yet to be decided.

It is thought likely that the trail, cantilevered dramatically over the Arkansas River behind the Dillard's corporate headquarters, will be named for the Walton Family. 
Local cyclist and former state representative Sam Ledbetter, who helped allocate $1,000,000.00 in state funds for the trail completion several years ago, was heard to say, "It's about time. The City of Little Rock has been sitting on the funding almost long enough to term-limit Jason Rapert." 
It is hoped that construction will be completed in time to coincide with the dedication of the new Broadway Bridge and the re-opening of the River Trail sections affected by that project.
Stodola said that he was going to act on his oft-voiced strategy of using eminent domain to force the acquisition of the needed property and easements." We have projects underway for the east and west termini, and now we're going to close the gap. It's not just about bikes and walkers. It's about building a better city." 
When asked what prompted him to act now after years of foot-dragging, Stodola cited available funding, his many unfulfilled promises to the cycling community, enhanced tourism and economic development opportunities, strong support from city directors Erma Hendrix and Lance Hines, and the fact that "I won't have Judy Lansky riding my ass", as determining factors in the decision. Hendrix reportedly said that she had recently read the story of Major Taylor and had come away inspired to create more safe cycling opportunities for the people of district 1, "especially for the children".

Fairy tales can come true.

Task Force Announces Arkansas River Trail Closing



Contact: Robert Stephens

Arkansas River Trail System Task Force

PRESS RELEASE

Closure of the Arkansas River Trail

Little Rock, April 1, 2015: The Arkansas River Trail System Task Force announced today that the popular trail system in Central Arkansas is closed until further notice. The Task Force regrets this decision and understands it will cause considerable inconvenience to residents and visitors to Central Arkansas.

The circumstances that have lead to this decision are numerous

Because of the multiple construction projects that are occurring along the trail, local governments are overwhelmed with the amount of trail detours. Public works and parks departments must install signage for these detours and restripe trail sections that are affected by these construction projects. Their costs have been considerable and they’re crying ‘uncle’ to all the detours”, Task Force spokesman Rob Stephens noted. “The cost to install these signs must be borne by local governments and are not budgeted in the contractor’s bids. North Little Rock Parks department has even tried to reduce costs by mounting detour signs with Velcro. Contractors have installed Bicycle Abatement Devices in their construction zones to dissuade renegade cyclists. Trail users are now in a twilight zone situation.” Stephens encourages trail users to take advantage of the newly established Uber water taxi service on the Arkansas River to access the downtown areas.
Another factor in the decision to close the Arkansas River Trail is the exponential growth in the Canada Geese population. The geese have commenced their spring mating rituals and have started attacking trail users. One person was chased off the trail by a gang of angry geese and was rescued by the North Little Rock’s Parks’ ranger Ian Hope. The geese also create piles of excrement on the trail forcing cyclists to walk their bikes due to the slick trail conditions. When reached for comment, North Little Rock’s professional geese dog, ‘Shep’, could only put his head between his paws in frustration. Shep has been coordinating his geese chasing efforts with Little Rock Parks’ geese dog Jill, “We chase them back and forth across the river”, explained Shep, “they just won’t leave.”
The Arkansas River Trail System Task Force mission is to develop, maintain and promote the Arkansas River Trail and adjoining trails in Central Arkansas. The task force is made up of representatives from the municipalities, counties and agencies that are encompassed by the Arkansas River Trail.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Classics Are Upon Us!

Before I became absorbed with all things bicycle, like most Americans, my knowledge of the international bike racing scene was limited to an annual dose of the Tour de France. I will admit that even my interest  in the Tour only became quasi-serious when American Greg Lemond won it, and then, of course, Lance Armstrong made cycling fans of all of us with his years-long dominance. I thought that the best bike racing always took place in France during the month of July right up until my neighbor Darwin loaned me a VHS tape of a very muddy Paris-Roubaix.
George Hincapie in the 2002 Paris-Roubaix . In conditions like this, riders are forced to the crown of the road or to the gutters in order to avoid crashing out on the slick pavé.
Photo from Cyclingtips

I won't say that it convinced me that the Tour was for pussies, but I came away convinced that the real hard men of cycling show their colors in the spring in Belgium where rain, slick cobblestones, cold, and cow shit defined the race course. The winner was decided not by team time trails or weeks-long strategy, but man-to-man in one day contests in which the first rider across the finish line wins. Period. Game over. The only second chance is next year.
Check out schedules at CyclingNews , VeloNews, this get a good overview from entry on Wikipedia. Live video can usually be found at SteephillTV or Cyclingfans.com.

A note on cycling websites: I was introduced to Velonews as the "go to" site for live race blog-style coverage. Over the years, Velonews dropped live coverage in the face of competition from CyclingNews. One was usually no better than the other but it costs money to have folks pecking away on the keyboard with live descriptions of the action. I subscribe to Velo magazine and their VeloNews website still has excellent content; just lacking in immediate coverage.
Video streaming sites: They often require some finessing. You'll usually see several sites for English language, and many will ask you to download software. I advise against downloading from any of those links. When you find a broadcast that you want, there will often be a banner ad obscuring the view. Maximizing the image usually bypasses those ads and their pesky links.

Live and delayed broadcast coverage of some races can be found on NBCSports  or beIN Sports (Comcast channel 268). I have my DVR set to record events with CYCLING as a keyword so that I can catch events without having to search for an obscure listing. You can also usually find highlights or the closing kilometers of a race on YouTube by searching the race name.

Don't miss out on some of the best racing of the season! The drama is already increasing as perennial classics contenders Fabian Cancellera and Tom Boonen have already fallen to injury, and Peter Sagan has had several poor performances, having been dropped in the final kilometer of Wednesday's E3 Harelbeke. Sagan, Tour green jersey winner and all-around top rider, had been anointed as a likely classics star.
This is vital information for those of you already plotting to take prizes in the JBarCycling Fantasy MiniLeague.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pedal On Down To Pedal Palooza- Sunday, March 29, 2015 11:00 AM-4:00PM


I really appreciate events like this, as it gives a community a place to pick up bargains and get rid of unneeded goods, an environmentally and economically sound practice. As a bit of a gear-head, I always seem to have parts and pieces that never made it to some project or used gear that is perfectly functional but no longer in my "active use" inventory.  Of course, I'm also a procrastinator, so I still have all of that stuff! While Pedal Palooza won't clear my garage and barn of surplus kayaking, windsurfing, camping, fishing and cycling gear, I may be able to pick up some stuff that I think I really need!

At Biketoberfest last fall, I was in the middle of a project to renovate a vintage Trek road bike, and was in need of some brakes and a rear derailleur.I had a pair of Shimano Ultegra shifters, but really didn't want to spend a couple of hundred bucks to complete the group. I was able to pick up everything I needed for a few dollars and topped it off with a Brooks Team Professional saddle for a fraction of retail.

I was able to make a practical project of this sweet ride.

I'm not in the market for anything right now, but I still plan to check out Pedal Palooza, and may have to ride my town bike so I will have panniers just in case i run across something that I just don't know that I need yet!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Broadway Bridge Construction- Caution

North Little Rock Construction Area-Please Keep Out


I got a call this morning from Cooper Kyhl, engineer, with Massman Construction. Massman is the contractor for the Broadway Bridge project and Cooper was asking for a little help and consideration from the cycling community. As has been reported here in previous posts, a portion of the Arkansas River Trail has been closed to pedestrian and bike traffic as Massman does preliminary work on the bridge. As the job site has become more active, the Massman folks are increasingly concerned about trail users who have been bypassing barriers and entering the construction zone.

I will confess to having ridden around a few barriers in my role as a quasi-journalist in my quest to provide readers with relevant and current information, some barriers are what I'll call "suggestive", while others clearly mean "keep out".


 The east closure fence clearly means "KEEP OUT".

This closure also clearly says, "KEEP OUT", as well. Unfortunately, this fence has been repeatedly pulled up. It will be anchored more securely. 

The east end of the construction zone is very secure; however, at the west end there was an easily bypassed barrier where the detour meets the trail, and then there is a chain link fence, shown above, that is more secure. While I doubt very seriously that recreational cyclists were pulling up the fence, curious riders who have bypassed the first barrier are obviously taking advantage of the open gate, as Khyl has observed them riding out through the construction gate near his job trailer. Since my visit to the job yesterday, the west end barriers have been made more secure.

Bottom Line: Massman understands that the detour in an inconvenience, but they are serious about safety on their project. Please respect that. The trail is impassable near the bridge, so riders are still forced on to Riverfront Drive. The area will become increasingly hazardous as time goes on, so we just need to get used to the detour. 

On The Detour....
I contacted Chris Wilbourn, NLR Planning/Traffic Engineer (Director), regarding the lack of clearly visible signage along Riverfront Road advising drivers of the presence of cyclists. We had discussed the need for the signs in some previous conversations, and Chris responded quickly, working with the AHTD to get better signage. The Broadway Bridge replacement is a project of AHTD. 

Additional signs along Riverfront Road. Signs like this have been added to the east and westbound lanes.
 The crosswalk has been more clearly marked,

Thanks to Chris Wilbourn and the AHTD. Thanks, too, to NLR Alderman Debi Ross for her support. I had asked about the possibility of bike lanes on this stretch, and Chris indicated that temporary bike lanes are possible. There is no shoulder or even a white stripe between the traffic lanes and the curb. 

In Little Rock

Kyhl advised me that they were preparing to close a portion of the River Trail in Little Rock, as well. Things are going to be very sketchy for cyclists in the downtown area for the next couple of years.
This is a preliminary map of the River Trail detour in downtown Little Rock.

I have been involved in many discussions and meetings on the subject of handling trail traffic in downtown Little Rock during the bridge project over the last couple of years. There was never a real consensus, likely because there are no really good alternatives. The map above shows westbound traffic using Clinton Blvd/Markham Street, while eastbound traffic is one way on 4th Street. Local cyclists will find their way, and visitors will likely be very confused. 

We've all known this was coming, and the detours will be a hassle, but the present situation will just be a warm-up for the mayhem that will ensure when the Broadway Bridge is actually closed to traffic. Learn to be patient. Now, go ride your bike. The sun will shine....sometime. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Glory Days- Fine weather arrives!

Early spring here in Arkansas has thus far been a bit of a disappointment. For cyclists, that may be a bit of an understatement, as it had really sucked. We seem to have had very few nice days, and the few that have come along have mostly been during the week and prior to the time change. We've endured more than our fair share of cold, dreary weekends, late season sleet and snow, grey skies, and record low March temperatures. That is why the past Sunday was so welcome. A drizzly cool Saturday led to a warm, sunny Sunday that seemed to call every rider, dog walker, runner, stroller, and baby carriage roller to the Arkansas River Trail.

So, here we go again!
With the crowds come the usual challenges of minor trail user conflicts, so cyclists need to be acutely aware that we share the trail, and many of the folks that we share the trail with at this time of year do not have a clue as to the norms of trail etiquette.
 Two Rivers Park saw the usual congestion on Sunday.

There was something for everybody to enjoy along the trail.
A perfect day on the BDB
Parking everywhere along the trail was problematic. Near the LR side of the BDB, cars parked in the bike lane and along the road well past the Overlook turn. 
Blues Brothers? I guess you don't need a license plate for a surplus cop car; just blown out pipes and a big V-8 to roar out of a crowded park. 

-Please be polite. I often hear riders, mostly newbies, barking "ON YOUR LEFT" as if it was an imperial command. That pisses some folks off. It is supposed to be an act of consideration to advise people that you are passing by. A kinder, gentler, "On your left, please.", will usually make more friends. I long ago settled into using "Passing by, please.  Thank you." That usually gets me a wave, a "thanks", and often a  smile.

- Manage groups. Group rides are fun. Group rides are empowering. Group rides create bonds and can improve your riding. Group rides can scare the hell out of people, simply due to the mass that is passing by them in close proximity. Keep this in mind. If you're a leader, slow down the pack and pass the word for the group to tighten up as you enter busy trail sections. When you get back out on the road, maintain a slower pace so that everybody catches back on. Do not punish those riders who exercise good trail manners by  forcing them to chase.
This group included several folks on aero bars. I was glad to see them sit up so they could reach their brakes as the turned on to the trail at Two Rivers Park

-Do your time trial riding on the road. Aero bars and high speed don't have a place on crowded trails. None of the walkers are going to be impressed by either your new helmet or your awesome power and most experienced riders will pick you out as a recent convert to triathlon.
Being polite and sharing the trail is only burdensome if you choose to make it so. It is simple to "Be alert. Be polite. Stay right."  It is slightly more difficult to be patient with the ranks of the clueless with whom we often. share the trail, but we can do it.

It's a new season. Be careful.
Within the last few weeks, two members of my small ride group have been hit by cars, and a third took a crash resulting in serious injury when he touched wheels with another rider. The only lesson here is that the season is young and many of us are not quite in the mid-season groove. Take it upon yourself to be extra mindful of your own safety and the safety of those around you.

A couple of notes on trail and road conditions

There is a lot of gravel on the roads of central Arkansas, usually with complementary potholes as a result of the recent snow and ice. The bike lanes along County Farm Road have been covered with gravel for the last couple of weeks, making it sketchy for cyclists and prompting many of us to choose the traffic lanes for their relative safety.
 Gravel is dangerous for road riders.
These riders are trying to stay right to allow traffic to easily pass, but gravel in the bike lane was a more immediate hazard. I'll note that these guys were not really "parade makers" holding up traffic. I spotted the line of cars approaching and waited for the shot.

Pulaski County responds!
I dropped a note on Sunday to Judge Barry Hyde's office concerning the gravel. I got a response that it had been forward to Roads and Bridge guy John Burton, and that the bike lanes would be swept today (Monday). Thank you! Pulaski County has usually been responsive to reasonable, specific requests and that kind of working government is to be appreciated.

Flooding on the North Side

High flows on the Arkansas River make for dramatic viewing at the BDB and can cause some problems along the North Little Rock River Trail. 
 This little girl had a plan for the rising water. Feet up and flying!

The first photo was taken at about 1:30, and this one was taken several hours later at near peak flows according to the USGS.

Be aware that the high water may change you ride plans. The USGS gauge information indicates that the river peaked Sunday afternoon, so unless we get more precipitation upstream, things should be returning to normal pretty quickly.  

Pinnacle Valley Restaurant

I'm going to give these folks another pitch. They are eager to welcome cyclists and are working to make us feel wanted. They have a nice beer selection and I'm looking forward to checking out the food. 
Owner Gina Fullerton showing me the deck behind the restaurant at Pinnacle valley and Beck Road. She, along with husband Mike and manager Christian, are set to welcome cyclists. They will be equipping the tables with umbrellas for shade, though the sun felt pretty good on Sunday. 
In addition to the restaurant, bar area and deck, a large meeting/party room in back boasts one of the bigger projection TV's I've seen.

I can see the Pinnacle Valley Restaurant becoming popular with riders for a post-ride brew or a late breakfast after knocking out some weekend miles. They will have their grand opening on Thursday. Drop by to say hello and check it out. They will soon open a convenience store for riders and park users, and plan to install bike racks. 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Along The Trail- Slow Times, But Just Around The Corner.....

Though the calendar is telling us that it is spring, the lingering cold, drizzle, snow and ice seem to disagree. As I type this, our weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms, then 3-5 inches of snow followed by single-digit temperatures. The Razorback baseball team  and staff spent 4 hours Monday shoveling snow and ice from Baum Stadium in order to get in a double-header. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks...and hot chocolate and a parka.
 Events like the Crosswinds Classic and the Little Rock Marathon took place last weekend in dismal conditions, so hats off to those who raced or supported those in challenging conditions.


NLR Trail Detour

As previously announced, the ART through North Little Rock's Riverfront Park has been detoured on to Riverfront Road. The detour is fairly well marked, thought the promised signage alerting motorists to the fact that they are sharing the road is minimal.

Last week, a few scofflaws disregarded the signs and rode through the construction zone. I think that we can safely say "Trail Closed" now. 

Barge mounted cranes will be the norm along the downtown waterfront for the next year or two. 

We all knew that the replacement of the Broadway Bridge was going to disrupt road and River Trail traffic, and that disruption is upon us. The crappy weather has kept trail traffic to a minimum, but as daylight savings time kicks in and spring inevitably comes, the riding community will have to make adjustments. Many groups ride from the submarine and they will immediately be forced out on to Riverfront Drive. I think that will be manageable until the Broadway Bridge  is closed to automobile traffic. I think that we will have an opportunity to give the City some feedback in the interim. If you ride this stretch and see room for improvement, make suggestions through your alderman if you are a North Little Rock resident. 

Some big event rides are already adjusting, with the BDB100 shifting the start to Riverfront Drive and Olive St. in North Little Rock (near The Enclave)  and the CARTI Tour de Rock moving its start from Burns Park to the US Bank at Broadway and Main.

Where are those pesky weekend crowds?
Weekend crowds have not been a problem on the BDB

Below the BDB, things are a little more active as gulls and pelicans compete for stunned shad coming through the dam.

I've managed to get in a few rides over the last couple of weeks, but there was little of the usual pleasure in the experience. We can usually count on some warm sunny days and reunions with our ride groups in the month of February, but I can recall only a single primo day over the last couple of months.

 The trail was not totally devoid of tourists. 

I ran into Shawn and Jill as they attempted a tandem selfie on the BDB last week, but they found their arms were too short to get the 2-seater in the frame. I offered to take the photo for them, and then dragged them up to Two Rivers Bridge before they turned back to try to get downtown before dark. He was from Texas and she from Wisconsin. They were headed north to her home, but were very impressed with what they found when they decided to take a ride here. I didn't hear what prompted them to get on the bike, as they had no information the bridges and trail system  but were delighted with what they found. they were already plotting a return trip.
Snow and ice can linger for days on the bridges and shaded parts of the trail. Forecast rains should clear the remain snow just in time for the next round of winter weather. Hopefully, our last for the year.

The first week of March is usually full-on spring in Arkansas, but as we brace for yet another round of snow and ice, we can take some comfort in the fact that sunset will be after 7:00 PM starting Sunday and us working folks will have more evening ride opportunities. That is a good thing, but I'm not putting away my tights and shoe covers quite yet.

Pinnacle Valley Restaurant

I've had a couple of e-mail exchanges with Gina Fullerton, one of the owners of the Pinnacle Valley Restaurant, which has opened at the corner of Beck Road and Pinnacle Valley. I had reported that their "soft opening" menu consisted of mostly burgers, catfish and barbecue. Good stuff, but not exactly ride fare. When I rode out last Sunday, I was pleased to see an extensive Sunday brunch menu, breakfast all day, and very reasonable prices. White tablecloths and a fresh interior gave the place a very nice feel. They will be opening a convenience store space, and plan to gear some of their offerings to the needs of the riding community. They will have some form of bike parking and will welcome cyclists. 

They offer beer and wine, and though the place is adorned with Bud Light banners at this time, they are carrying craft brews from the Lost 40 and Lazy Magnolia breweries.Lazy Magnolia is located in Kiln, Mississippi.and they advertise as "Mississippi's oldest brewery" as they approach their 10th anniversary. Of course, Lost 40 is Little Rock's hottest new brew house and they are quickly earning a reputation for their fine beer.
I'm looking forward to dropping by for a weekend after-ride "second breakfast" and our occasional Wednesday evening brews cruise may have found a new destination. Gina assures me that we will be welcome, road grime and all.  
 




Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FREE BEER!!!!! Well, Kind of free--Little Rock Gran Fondo

Last year, I was pretty excited about the first Little Rock Gran Fondo. Michael Chaffin of the Capital Hotel, Tony Karklins, then of Orbea, and Jason Warren of Arvest Bank were the ring leaders, and I knew that they all had some first class ideas as to what they wanted to include within the event experience. That meant good swag, good food, and a far better-than-average post ride street party. Heck, Lance Armstrong even made the ride.

For the most part, they pulled it off. Though their weather control was a little sketchy, we did manage to avoid major deluges out on the road and the post party actually saw some rays of sunshine before the bottom dropped out. Things were a little slow to get underway as riders stood in the drizzle so that a local TV station could get a live shot of the roll out on their morning show.

Waiting in the rain for a train (not a country song, but should be)

After a delayed start, last year's Gran Fondo riders soon had their rhythm, only to see it interrupted by a train at the first rail crossing we encountered. That actually added a little ironic humor, since at the start we had been told that we would have to stop " in the very unlikely event of a train" at the crossing.

In the end, blue skies and sunshine capped off a first-rate rider experience.

From Michael Chaffin, here is the early word on this year's Fondo:

LRGF registration is now officially open. $99 ($75 for the Medio Fondo) early bird special runs through the end of February. Then price increases to normal ($125 for Gran Fondo, $99 for Medio). Same format as last year except we've added 50 spots for those wanting a shorter distance. Registration is limited to 250. That number seemed to work well. We'll stay South again but add some new territory. There will again be two great rest stops (one for Medio) and the food festival at the end. Each rider receives a comp entry into the food festival...which now includes 2 free beers! Additional tickets can be had for $35 each. More details about the course, Chef line-up, etc., to follow in the coming weeks. Also, training rides are planned to begin the first week of March.


Many folks seemed to struggle with the registration link last year. I have tested the link above and it takes you right where you need to go. Also, there are links on the registration site for a Facebook page and a blog where updated information will be posted.




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

NLR Trail Closure-Broadway Bridge Precurser

In this case, "precurser" likely means the minor cursing the will be followed by months of major cursing when the Broadway Bridge is ultimately closed for demolition and construction.

The contractor for the Broadway Bridge has established a small village of construction trailers  along Riverfront Drive, and has a work barge staged at the nearby Riverfront Park. The first impact on the River Trail will take place sometime in the next couple of weeks as the trail will be closed from the Willow Street gate (Willow Street runs along the east side of Dickey-Stephens Park) to near the Union-Pacific RR bridge to the west. My understanding is that they will be removing some pedestrian stairs and other non-structural bridge components as they prepare for the bigger job at hand.
Cyclists will be re-rerouted to Riverfront Drive, while runners and walkers will use the adjacent sidewalks.

The map above shows the location of the upcoming River Trail detour.


The trail will closed from this point near the Willow Street Gate
 Willow Street and Riverfront Drive behind Dickey-Stephens Park. Traffic is currently not heavy, but the 4-lane divided road tends to encourage high speeds.

I have some concerns about how cyclists, runners, and other trail users will fare on Riverfront Road. Concerning striping and signage, Chris Wilbourn,  NLR Planning/Traffic Engineer (Director), shared this information in response to my inquiry:
Yes, there will be additional signage (See Attachment-map above). No lane striping at this time.  Signage for cyclists is “Share the Road”.

In addition to what is shown on the attached plan, NLR Traffic has added a temporary pedestrian crosswalk and associated signage at Karrot*, redone the pedestrian crosswalks at Willow Street and will be adding a couple of warning signs prior to the Detour on both ends.

Detour signage shown and described above is schedule to be installed this Friday; however, it may stretch to the first part of next week due to the weather.


 Riverfront at Smarthouse Way. Westbound riders will turn left here. Karrot St,* mentioned above, is directly across Riverfront from Smarthouse Way. The temporary crosswalk is shown here.
 This new asphalt trail takes detoured riders back to the ART near the Union Pacific rail bridge.

It will get worse before it gets better....
This detour will be a minor inconvenience in comparison to the mayhem that will accompany the closure of the Broadway Bridge, and will provide us with an opportunity to see how having bike traffic on Riverfront will work out. The difference being that Riverfront is relatively lightly used now, but when the 20,000 cars that normally use the Broadway Bridge daily are diverted, many, if not most, will use Riverfront to access the Main Street and I-30 bridges. It appears to me that the road is wide enough to support traffic lanes and a bike lane and I hope that, if possible, re-striping the road to that end will be considered. 

Impact on tourism
This particular stretch of the Arkansas River Trail serves not only local commuters and recreational riders, but it links the rest of the trail system to the Clinton Library, Clinton Park Bridge, the Junction Bridge, downtown hotels, Argenta, the River Market District, and a bike rental location . As a result, it is used by the many visitors to the area who wish to use the Arkansas River Trail. Due to the dysfunctional state of the trail on the Little Rock side along Cantrell Road, most folks  coming from Little Rock choose to cross the Clinton Park Bridge to access the River Trail. The trail is a proven attraction and I  think the local tourism economy will suffer if steps are not taken to assure that visitors can safely access it from downtown. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

JBar Sermonette, Number Unknown-More Pinnacle Valley

Since my buddy was struck by an unrepentant driver on Pinnacle Valley Road a few weeks ago, I have engaged in quite a few conversations and have made some observations of riding in the area.

First, let me say that things are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Folks in leadership positions within Pulaski County Government, Arkansas State Parks and at Pinnacle Mountain State Park have expressed a desire to improve the situation on the roads west of Two Rivers Park, but there is not an easy fix and none have the financial resources for adding shoulders to the existing roads or building dedicated bike paths.

It is somewhat ironic that we really have a lot in common with the drivers in the area. Like them, the cycling community would like to have infrastructure that would allow us to safely get the hell out of the way. Until that time, we need to learn to work together as best we can. I don't hold out much hope for reforming many Roland commuters, but we should be able to ease things a bit if will just pay attention. 

Please pay attention and be polite

I'm always resentful when rider behavior is blamed for all conflict on the road, and I'm quick to defend cyclists on the whole, but I shake my head at some of the things that I see. Last weekend as I rode back in toward Two Rivers Park on County Farm Road, I observed two female cyclists heading west on road bikes and in full kit (I mention that for context-they should know better.) taking the entire lane as two cars were held up behind them waiting for an opportunity to pass. They were riding two abreast, one near the center line and the other near the white line, chatting as they rolled along at 12-14 MPH, seemingly oblivious to the patient drivers behind them. The sight distance is long at that point and I kept waiting for the riders to do something right. Not only did these riders not move to the bike lane, but they made no effort to acknowledge or work with the drivers at all. That's not sharing the road. That is hogging the road. Ladies, not only are you potentially inflaming already strained relations between cyclists and drivers, but you are simply being rude. If you had been driving a car that will only go 15 MPH, you would likely have eased to the side of the road to let other drivers pass. And then you would get a better car.
Being on a bike does not mean that you can't use good manners. In fact, our vulnerability should drive us to have very good manners.

Pinnacle Valley Road At Highway 300- Don't Gather There

A few months ago, my small bunch of riders had stopped on the shoulder on highway 300 at the end of Pinnacle Valley. A state park ranger pulled up and asked us to move down the  shoulder and back from the road so that we did not block the line-of-sight for drivers at the stop sign there. That makes sense.
A few weeks ago, a pair of my friends were sharply admonished by another ranger for stopping there and told to get off the shoulder and on to the grass. That made less sense, and no reason was given for the command, but they complied.
Subsequently, I have spoken to Ron Salley, superintendent of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. They have become sensitive to groups of riders stopping to regroup or gather at that location, with large groups often simply stopping in the road. Admittedly, I have been in groups which have done just that. The park gets complaints from drivers and the situation can be dangerous for riders. When stopping at that intersection,  please don't stop on Pinnacle Valley Road, and move far enough away from the corner on the shoulder of 300 so that your group does not block the view of drivers at the stop sign.
We are creatures of habit and  groups tend to use the same points to gather. In this case, we are drawing the ire of drivers and park officials alike, so let's try to work with them. We need folks like Ron Salley on our side. He has been very supportive of the cycling community and we do not want to be perceived as making his job harder.
Pass it on.

Pinnacle Valley Restaurant opening

This restaurant at Pinnacle Valley and Beck Rds. is in the "soft opening" stage. Based on the posted menu, the fare will consist of catfish, barbecue, burgers and similar fare. The Budweiser signs are up in full force and there was a notice of application for a mixed drink permit several weeks ago.
What does this mean for riders? In the event of a bonk, you will be able to refuel with a hot dog and fries for $4.99. It will also mean an increase in traffic and some of those drivers will have had a beer or a cocktail, which is all the more reason to exercise good road riding practices in the area.
I have no idea of who owns or manages the business, but most merchants welcome a cycling community that patronizes their business. The few businesses that I have encountered that did not appreciate cyclists were those who felt put upon by groups coming in only to use their restrooms, fill bottles, or take a break in their parking lot.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dear Counsellor, Thank you for your concern and the cool refrigerator magnet.....

Yes, the attorneys of our fair city and the surrounding area were quick to follow up on the filing of the accident report from my car encounter last week. Why, the Taylor King Law Firm of Arkadelphia was so concerned that they sent me four letters in a single day!!! Much to my disappointment, King was one of only a few firms that did not include a refrigerator magnet. He did, however, include the largest "post-it note with longhand script to look like a personal message". I'm glad know that he is "on my side and by my side", though if he is really by my side, that could be a little creepy. I don't know the guy, so why is he there?

Traffic accidents are good for the printing business and the post office, and accident reports from the NLRPD cost 15.00 each, so personal injury lawyers have a cost associated with lead generation, along with stiff competition.

Rainwater, Holt & Sexton handily won the battle of the lawyer refrigerator magnets with their Razorback football themed entry. The Minton Law Firm walked away with the "Mr. Practicality" award for including a calendar.

Thank goodness that Michael Crockett is there to "save me from a nightmare". I wish he'd been there the other night when I dreamed that I got a chance to play some music with Johnny Cash and my E string broke. And then Johnny told me that my best original tune sounded just like "Wagon Wheel". I was bummed. Double bummed. Perhaps Crockett could have either woken me up or quickly slapped on another string. Given the fact that the man in black has passed on, I feel like I missed my only crack at getting him to give my song a listen. Maybe that wasn't a full blown nightmare, falling into what I refer to as "frustration dreams", so I may have been out of luck even with Crockett on my side.

Some folks give ambulance chasers a bad name...

I'm glad that I don't need the services of these guys. They serve a purpose, but can also tempt honest people to go for some easy money and serve as a vehicle for dishonest folks to scam the insurance companies. I had a minor accident in my truck a few years ago while returning after dark from a ride along the river. In negotiating gridlock concert traffic near then-Alltel Arena, I had a 4 MPH fender brush with another vehicle. I was at fault, but the officer said, "I can't give you a ticket for this.", due to the conditions and the fact that the police were directing traffic. Unfortunately for the other driver, he was driving his girlfriend's car on a suspended license and with no proof of insurance. I thought the cops were going to have to cuff the young man as he threw a fit, stomping around the scene and raising hell after being told they would have to call a wrecker or have someone else drive the car home for him. I felt bad about his misfortune. That is, until I found that he had engaged a "personal injury consultant" who sent him to a chiropractor, where he was found to have "soft tissue injuries" and claimed several thousand dollars for treatment and "pain and suffering" from my insurance carrier.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Along The Trail-Sweeping The Desktop

"Along The Trail" is a catch-all title for this semi-regular feature that attempts to touch on just about anything of interest that I run across during the course of rides along the Arkansas River Trail. Sometimes, a couple of items are enough to provide adequate content. At other times, photos and minor news items pile up until I decide that it is time to sweep the desktop. Here we go with one ofthose scateershots!

Work and commerce
I'm always intrigued by the equipment and people that keep the river traffic flowing and the systems working along the river. Little boys are always excited by big machines and that excitement dims only slightly with age. Having grown up in North Little Rock, that Arkansas River has always been a part of daily life, even if only in crossing one of the bridges daily for work and play. The site of my office for several years on East Markham is now the approach to the Clinton Library. My window there offered a close up view of the wildlife, rail lines, and barges that occupy the river and its banks. When my company moved to an industrial district away from the river, I missed it greatly. Then came the Arkansas River Trail, along with my addiction to riding bikes, and I once again found myself close on the banks of the Arkansas on a regular basis. There have been a few nice ride days in the last couple of weeks and I've tried to take advantage of them!


 
It is always interesting to see maintenance being perfomed on the dam gates. You rarely get to watch a large crane in operation from 90 feet up and only a few feet away.

Technicians from Koontz Electric have been replacing the LED lights on the BDB. They finished the first phase and will be back soon to complete the job.



Even commercial barge traffic can create an inspiring scene on a day like this one.

 
 

Aonther work barge has been moored at the North Little Rock Riverfront Park.
 
Posers.
 
I was trying to get a shot of three boys checking out the crane, but their mothers quickly snatched two of them up into a pose. The third and smallest of the boys managed to make a quick exit after giving his brother a swift kick to the crotch.
It was a windy day and it looks like the small dog is about to blow off of his leash as the little girl hangs on for dear life. OK, it wasn't quite that windy.
 

Trails and hanging out 


North Little Rock reached an agreement with Fort Roots to allow them to move the fence back far enough to widen a remaining unfinished stretch of the Highlands Trail along the bluff. Part of the project was a new walk inside the fence for patients and employees of the facility. It looks like things are progressing. I expect that at some point the trail will be closed for a few days.
The Highlands Trail offers great views up and down the river. Access from River Road and Paul Duke Drive.
 

 
This couple found a great place to string up their hammock, soaking up some sunshine above Big Rock Quarry.

Big Rock Quarry, looking toward the hammock site from the Emerald Park gazebo. I didn't want to get the happy hammockers busted for hanging close to the edge and ruin their spot for them, but was assured it was a one time thing.
 
 

From the BDB, even a cell phone snapshot of the sunset is worthwhile.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hit By A Car-Reporting Gets Personal

I awoke early Saturday and decided that I'd ride down to join the CARVE Saturday morning ride out east. The group was pretty small, about a dozen riders, and was quite civilized, with a steady pace and good conversation. After returning to the submarine parking lot, I rode up the River Trail a short distance in order to bump my mileage over the 50-mile mark, and then headed toward home through Argenta and up Main Street. As I often do, I turned on my front and rear blinkies for the ride through town. I was feeling good about my morning on the bike and was looking forward to my "second breakfast." That's the big breakfast that is best enjoyed after the ride. I was content and in a little groove as I rode the last mile home.

And then I got hit by a car.

I was riding up the hill on Main Street and had just crossed over I-40 when I was struck from the rear. It's funny how quickly you can evaluate things. The sound as my DuraAce rear wheel was struck was much like the ping of a big-headed driver hitting a golf ball or a solid hit in college baseball. I went from about 10-MPH to 23-MPH and regained control of the bike as I shot across the adjacent traffic lane. I knew immediately that I had been hit by a car and wondered what blow would fall next.
I was wearing a bright blue jacket and I had a bright-as-hell Thunderbolt flasher on my seatpost. It was a little after 10:00AM. I never heard the car.
After once again failing my JBar E.R.P. (Expletive Reduction Program) pledge, I got off the road. The driver stopped and I called 911. My first question was, "How could you not have seen me? Were you on the phone?" He had two young children in the car and was looking for the westbound ramp to I-40. I went back this afternoon and drove the stretch, which I have driven tens of thousands of times over my lifetime, just to see it from the his perspective. The road curves slightly to the right, but there is no reason for him not to have seen me. I don't think he was going very fast and there is clear sight distance for hundreds of feet.


Red bits of bumper embedded in the GP4000

As we waited for the police to arrive and then again as the officer completed his report, we had a civil visit. The driver was a very nice young man who was truly sorry, and thankful that he had seen me in time to brake right before he hit me. He pointed to the tail light as what finally got his attention. My rear tire was a bit shredded and has a little embedded bits of red bumper in it. I haven't given my bike a thorough going over yet, but it appears to be OK. The driver was cited for unsafe driving and the very nice NLR police officer offered me a ride home, which I gladly accepted.


Some Conclusions-Call Me Mr. Lucky
I was doing everything right. I was riding in my proper lane. I had on brightly colored clothing. Though it was broad daylight, I had a very bright flashing red tail light and a small white front flasher on my bars to increase my visibility.
The driver seemed to be a very nice, responsible young father who lost focus for a moment while behind the wheel. We're both fortunate that the consequences were not life-changing. As it is, he'll have some points on his license and I'll bill him for what damage was done. I got very emotional while telling Diane why there was a note with a police report number on the kitchen counter. I could have been out of the blog business and the driver could have been facing much more serious charges and consequences. I'll gratefully accept the luck.

Riding bikes on the road is dangerous. Some infrastructure improvements like bike lanes and paths could certainly make things safer for all of us, but we take our chances out on the road. And the driver that hits you may not be some resentful a-hole trying to make a point out on Pinnacle Valley Road, but is just as likely to be a nice person who takes his eyes off the road for a moment. The result is the same.

Retrospective on my masterful bike handling
As I went about fixing that big breakfast and draining the adrenaline fueled emotion of a near-tragedy, I noticed that my left knee hurt. Checking it out, I found I had a coin-size oozing injury at the center of my knee cap. I couldn't image what I could have hit until I threw a leg over the bike to do a little modeling. My conclusion is that my bar end struck my knee as I was thrown forward and to the left. The impact likely checked the turning of the front wheel and saved my ass. Yes, it was amazing that I thought to use my knee in that manner. (insert wink here).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prepare to shift! Cantrell Road Pipeline Work Update

As mentioned in previous articles, the work to replace a pipeline near Episcopal Middle School on Cantrell Road has, and will continue to disrupt traffic along the River Trail at that location. This notice arrived from Sandra Ballew, Asst. Project Manager:


With regret, we are going to have to close the bike trail on North Street starting Monday, Feb 2 through Friday, Feb 13th.    One suggestion is the cyclist could stay on the south side of Cantrell on the sidewalk or if City has north side of Cantrell ready they could move over to that side.  We will have a trench dug laying pipe on North Street so it will not be passable.  We do have message boards in place with the notice of closure as of this afternoon.
 

Anything you could do to get the word out to the cyclist would be appreciated. 

Sandra Ballew, Asst. PM

S & J Construction Co., Inc.

Though it is possible to use the sidewalk on the south side of Cantrell, there is at least one utility pole that will require a dismount to pass. The city has widened the sidewalk in some areas on the north side of Cantrell to make it possible to ride around the utility poles there. This is the preferred detour, though it does require riders to cross Cantrell and deal with the 6 driveways on that side of the road near Dillard's HQ.
Westbound riders can cross at the light at the ECS driveway, while westbound riders will need to plan ahead and cross at the signals at either State or Chester Streets. Eastbound riders can use those signals to re-cross Cantrell to regain the bike route along Markham St.
There should be some temporary signage in place to help direct trail users. The best plan is to avoid the area for the time being.

I will say that the contractor has stayed true to their promise to keep the trail passable during construction. It is a big project in a tight spot and they have made a real effort, in cooperation with the City of Little Rock, to meet the needs trail users.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rider Struck On Pinnacle Valley Road

While on a ski trip to Park City, UT, last week, I saw that I had missed  a phone call from my friend and ride partner Dumas Garrett. Conversation with Dumas is always interesting, so I gave him a call back.
"Hey, Dumas, what's up?"
"I got hit."
That's never a good thing to hear, but for cyclists, it almost always means some degree of injury. Dumas quickly let me know that he was OK, other than some road rash and a few bruises, and then he related his story.
He was taking advantage of the fine weather Sunday before last, riding west on Pinnacle Valley Road near the intersection with Beck Road, when he sensed a vehicle approaching him from behind. As most of your are aware, this area is very popular with road cyclists; however, road cyclists are not so popular with many area residents and other drivers who frequently use the road.
The approaching vehicle turned out to be a pickup, and Dumas's first reaction was, "Shit, this guy is way too close". I may be paraphrasing there, but that would have been the vocabulary that best expressed my own thoughts, so bear with me. It was about then that Dumas realized that the truck was pulling a boat an trailer and that he was going to get hit. The traffic lanes are narrow and there is no shoulder on Pinnacle Valley, so there was no escape route even if Dumas had had the time to react. I would guess from the subsequent attitude of the driver that he used the road frequently and that he was consciously passing close by so as to scare or intimidate. Most of us have experienced that type of behavior and worse from resentful drivers on Pinnacle Valley Road.

Pinnacle Valley Road near Beck Road. Two narrow lanes and no shoulder. The strip in the foreground is what some locals like to call a "bike path".
 
Dumas said he clearly remembered the view of gravel as his face approached the ditch. The driver stopped and his first reaction was to berate Dumas for riding his bike on the road when there is a parallel "bike path". Huh?
First and foremost, cyclists have an unmitigated right to ride on the public roadways of Arkansas. Second, what the driver referred to is not a bike path by any recognized standard.
 

When then-Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines announced a plan for bike paths along Pinnacle Valley, riders were thrilled. When we saw the product, not so much. 

This narrow, poorly constructed and unmaintained strip of asphalt is marginally serviceable as a sidewalk.

Dumas was assessing his injuries and the damage to his bike as this scene unfolded. A family who had been travelling behind the truck stopped to make sure that he was OK and to offer assistance as needed. Dumas was hurt and shaken. His front wheel was trashed, along with his fork, helmet, and glasses.

After determining that Dumas was OK, my next question was to ask whether he had called the police. He had not. While I understand that he was in the midst of a scene and mostly just wanted to get home and lick his wounds, I was disappointed to hear that for several reasons:

- The driver was definitively in violation of Arkansas' "Safe Passing" law.

27-51-311. Overtaking a bicycle. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a roadway shall exercise due care and pass to the left at a safe distance of not less than three (3) feet and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle. (b)(1) A person who violates this section shall be subject to a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100). More penalties for causing an accident (2) A person who violates this section with the violation resulting in a collision causing death or serious physical injury to the person operating the overtaken bicycle shall be subject to a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1000) in addition to any other penalties prescribed by law.

While a $100.00 fine isn't much of a penalty, it is a violation and I would assume that it would be reported to the driver's insurance company. Hey, kill a rider and it goes to a whopping $1000.00.

- The cyclist deserves compensation for damages. I don't have the build list of the damaged bike, but I would guess that replacing a wheel, fork, helmet, and glasses will cost $1500.00, give or take. Those are the big items that were named, but it is likely that bar tape will have to be replaced and most mechanics recommend replacing bars after as hard crash. I haven't ever been able to put a firm price on road rash and peace of mind, but it would be expensive.

- The cycling community needs to stand firm in sending the message that it is not OK to buzz, threaten, hit, or otherwise abuse riders. If the driver had run another motor vehicle off the road and caused significant damage, there is no doubt that the police would have been called, the offending driver would have been cited, and damages would have been paid. We are not second-class citizens. We are taxpayers and voters. Among my cycling friends, there are doctors, educators, mechanics, business owners, bankers, housewives, lawyers, nurses, accountants, home builders, firemen and police officers. WE are sons, daughters, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, and your neighbors. In other words, we are regular folks. While the mere act of riding a bike may strip away our value in the eyes of the small minded, we won't be pushed off the road. We belong there.

Stories of incidents like this will always bring out the haters who want to relate tales of rude cyclists hogging the road and running stop signs, etc etc, etc. True, there are some bad riders, but I would invite those folks to start making the same kind of mental note whenever they see a driver talking on the phone, texting, rolling a stop sign, speeding, passing improperly, tailgating, making a lane change or turning without signaling. And then I would ask them which group poses the greatest danger to others, a cyclist on an 18 pound bike or a bad driver in a 3000 pound SUV.

Ride safely and be careful out there. There are a lot of bad drivers, but don't let them scare you off of the road. We belong.
Let's go ride.