Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Southwest Trail Memorandum of Understanding Signed

A milestone was recently reached in the effort to develop the Southwest Trail, which would serve cyclists and hikers with 67-mile route between Little Rock and Hot Springs, connecting communities all along the way.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on December 8 formalizing the agreement between the counties and municipalities along the SW Trail route to cooperate in the development and maintenance the trail.

I reported on the press conference announcing the project  last October, and most of the details remain as announced at that time. Much of the route was intended to follow an abandoned Rock Island/UP rail right-of-way. Title to much of that property reverted to the original landowners upon abandonment by the railroad, so identifying current ownership and re-acquiring an easement has been a challenge. It is my understanding that the AHTD has agreed to provide an easement along the Highway 70 right-of-way in Garland County to allow for trail construction. This cooperation would make the trail development much easier than having to find and negotiate with land owners along the rail line, some of whom were willing and some of whom had no interest in allowing an easement for the trail.

Judge Villines and other leaders at the press conference last October.

An excerpt from the document:

This MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) is hereby made and entered into by and between Garland County, The City of Hot Springs, The City of Lonsdale, Pulaski County, The City of Little Rock, Saline County, The City of Bauxite. The City of Benton, The City of Bryant, The City of Haskell, and The City of Shannon Hills (the Cities and Counties), Arkansas.
A.       PURPOSE:
The purpose of this MOU is to continue to develop and expand a framework of cooperation between the aforementioned Cities and Counties to develop mutually beneficial programs, projects and bicycling activities at the local and regional levels. These programs, projects and activities comprise part of the proposed Southwest Trail's multiple use missions and to serve the public.
These programs, projects and activity benefits include an active partnership within the three-county and eight city area to plan, construct and maintain the Southwest Trail as a multi-use trail, as well as to serve local publics through the patrol of such trails. The benefits for the cities and counties through this cooperative effort are provided through the strategic planning of trail development and public service to all trail users. The mutual benefit for all 11 jurisdictions is to provide a public service to maintain and patrol designated trails throughout the three-county region.

Tourism, Industrial Development, and Tax Dollars

There is a large and growing market for what I will call "participatory tourism". Whereas in the past many people traveled simply to see things that they had never seen before, we are so immersed in media that when we travel, many of us want to do something. We want destinations that allow us to pedal, paddle, climb, hike, ski, or run. Cycling is a huge part of that trend, as almost anybody can ride a bike. Bicycling tourism is among the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry, as evidenced in the fact that the River Trail brings people from all over the region just to ride. A trail to Hot Springs could expand the experience into an overnight or multi-day adventure that could include hotels, B&B stays, and camping along the way. Trail are also proven to increase property values in the areas that they serve. More tourism and increased property values mean more revenues.
Amenities like our trails systems also make it easier to recruit educated young people to the area. There is a reason that images of the Arkansas River Trail appear in almost every example of media representations of Central Arkansas.

Time and Money

The MOU is not a contract to construct the trail, but serves as a framework for cooperation. Judge Villines estimated last year that completion of the project would cost $20-25 million in public and private investment, and that it would likely take 5 to 10 years. Those figures were Villines' best guess at the time.
One thing that is certain is that a development of this magnitude has to start with a plan. Once a plan is in place, then the search begins for funding.
In the current political climate, many alternative transportation advocates are less than optimistic, but opportunities will arise and it pays to be ready. We need only to look at the Two Rivers Park Bridge to see what can happen when a plan is in place as funding becomes available.
Some of the community leaders involved in the Southwest Trail project are conservatives of the "limited government" persuasion, but they recognize a good thing for their communities. I hope that these folks have some of the same tenacity demonstrated over the years by former NLR Mayor Pat Hays and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines.
The Southwest Trail can be a very good thing for Arkansas. Let's build it.

Note: I will be participating in a short (5-Minute) interview on the topic of the SW Trail on KARN-FM 102.9 on Wednesday morning at 8:10.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Get Your Winter Ride On- Group Rides /MORE RIDE INFO ADDED!!

Rule Number 9 states:

"If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period."

Though winter in central Arkansas means increased opportunities to show your badass side, you don't really have to suffer too badly in order to get your ride on. Our weather is relatively mild in the big scheme of things, so we can ride year 'round by keeping an eye on the weather forecast and with a reasonable collection of gear.
Spontaneity is often the rule for getting in a quick hour on the bike, but there are several regular group rides that continue through the winter. Here are few rides that keep the wheels rolling:

Spokes Shop Saturday Morning Ride

From Spokes' Facebook page.
The ride leaves from Spokes downtown,119 Main Street,Little Rock. The mellow 8:45 start time gives you time to get a caffiene jolt from the selections at Spokes' excellent coffee bar before the roll out. The route varies and the group usually splits up to accomodate a variety of paces.
CARVE Saturday Morning Out East Ride
This long-standing winter standard is a seasonal diversion from CARVE's summertime leg-breaking race pace Lake Loop rides. The ride is on wheels promptly at 7:30 Saturday mornings from the submarine in North Little Rock, and follows a pancake flat 40-mile loop to the Scott area. Even in marginal weather, quite a few folks will show up for this ride.

Incoming CARVE president Scott Penrod making a couple of pre-ride announcements.

The roll out on a recent Saturday morning.
The winter CARVE ride is described as a base building ride and, as such, the pace is steady and controlled, usually clicking along at around 20MPH. The actual speed varies with the road and weather conditions, but the level of effort is pretty consistent. A little tailwind can easily push speeds to the 25 MPH range, but in that case, after the turn-around the headwind returns the average pace to "as advertised." The effort level allows for lively conversation.
This ride is a good place to sharpen your group riding skills. If you are coming out to lay down the law and hammer, try another ride with these guys in the summer. You may also get some unsolicited advice if it is warranted to help keep the group together and safe. Consider this to be a learning experience. You'll find that following protocol keeps this ride fun and relaxing.
Some or all of the group will stop for flats and mechanicals, so you won't be left out on the road. There is also a nature break at the halfway point that allows you time to discharge excess fluids or munch a Clif bar. This is a very supportive group and the pace isn't hard, but if it sounds like a big stretch for you, pick another ride. For knocking out 40 base-building miles along with some good company, this is one of my favorite winter rides.
George Rhode leads a ladies ride starting at 10:00 from the sub. Pretty much the same drill, but designed to help female riders become comfortable with riding in a group.
More CARVE rides.....

Thursday Night Slow Ride (Base Building)

Thursday nights, meet at base of BDB (Little Rock side) at 5:45. NON RACE pace, base building speed ride. Plan for 40ish miles of flats and some climbs. Road bikes (any welcome) and will be sticking to the trail and the adjoining low traffic roads in NLR (Funland, Fort Roots, rollers behind burns, etc.). Bring lights and leave the ego at home. This ride will clear out the trash from the Tuesday Urban Assault and compliment the longer Saturday morning winter rides out east.
This is an open ride. Although it's at night and lights are required. Please contact George Rhode for details.

Urban Assault Mtn. Bike Ride
OK, The Gunslinger out West ride is moving back in town! We meet at the Church on Woodlawn St. (Pulaski Heights United Methodist). Bring your Mtn., cross, or an old road bike and a light. Wheels will be rolling at 6:15 for an intense 27ish mile ride of pure adrenaline! Come on out! We eat afterwards.. Difficulty 4.8 out of 5.0...

I've never done this ride ('cause I'm scared!), but I've encountered them. I think it is wild and woolly, not for the slow or faint of heart. This ride has been taking place for many years in some form or the other.

The rides on the CARVE calendar are open to anyone who shows up, but you are assuming any risk involved. There are no SAG vehicles, sign-up sheets or waivers, and no "no drop" guarantee.

Don't let winter take you completely off the bike. Few of us are able to maintain our preferred mileage, weight, or fitness over the winter, but there are opportunities if you take them.
If you are aware of other open rides, feel free to post  in the comments section.

 Go ride your bike.

From the BACA Facebook page comments on this post:

Don't forget the ABC riders. We had 14 people out on Tuesday.
  • John Barton Cpreen, I obviously did forget the ABC rides. now, you're going to make me find and post the information. http://www.arkansasbicycleclub.org/cgi-bin/ride_schedule.cgi. There's a link, and ABC has an active calendar. There are several weekday rides for the retired or those of independent means.

    Arkansas Bicycle Club
    arkansasbicycleclub.org|By Arkansas Bicycle Club

  • Cliff Li And we have an ongoing mtb ride every Wed!

  • John Barton You guys are being a bit coy. When, where, and what about it? Help a working brother out, here!

  • Cliff Li My mtb ride is every wed night, 6pm at the Pfiefer pavilion. Ride Pfiefer loop and burns park.

  • Sunday, December 7, 2014

    Bye, Bye Buddy-

    Outgoing Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines was feted on Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel in Little Rock in an event appropriately called, "There Goes The Judge". A benefit for Bike Advocacy of Central Arkansas, over 500 tickets were sold.

    Until I started riding and subsequently got involved in the politics of cycling advocacy, I had not really been very familiar with Judge Villines. I had voted for him because he was the incumbent and things seemed to rock along pretty smoothly in county government and from what I read and heard , he seemed to be a reasonable guy. When what was to become the Big Dam Bridge became a topic of conversation, I started paying a little more attention. Like many others, I had my doubts that such a project could ever be funded and built, but the tenacity of Villines, along with North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays and others, kept the vision intact. In the fall of 2006, I was among the first members of the public to ride across this now-iconic structure, having watched the construction progress on my regular rides on the River Trail.
    I got a hint of the visionary side of Buddy at the grand opening of Spokes bike shop in January of 2009. The judge spoke of the importance of the River Trail to our community today and, more importantly, to the future generations of our community.

    I said it as well then as I could say it today, so, from that article:
    He noted that Iroquois Indians had a philosophy of basing decisions on how they affect the next seven generations. That kind of vision is rare in today's world in which politicians are concerned only with the next election cycle and corporations rarely look beyond the next quarterly report.

     In our world of politicians who want a quick return, who, among other things,  dispute accepted science with industry-sponsored dogma, and who would readily sacrifice the quality of our air and water in favor of short-term cheap energy, a dose of Buddy Villines was refreshing.

    Two Rivers Park Bridge was a plan going nowhere as the nation was slammed into a recession. Funding for such a project seemed unlikely, but when stimulus money became available for infrastructure, Pulaski County had a shovel-ready project waiting to be built. The idea was progressive and the timing turned out to be impeccable. The result makes the plan for the bridge look absolutely visionary. Two Rivers Park has gone from being a lightly used 1000 acre dead end to becoming a wildly popular destination, in addition to being a vital link within the Arkansas River Trail System.

    I jokingly told a neighbor that I was on my way to meet 500 of my closest friends. That was pretty close to what happened, though I'll admit that I only knew 3 or 4-hundred of them.
    You can read more of Villines' bio below, but as a lifelong North Little Rock resident, I can honestly say that central Arkansas has become a more attractive place to live than I ever imagined it could become. While a new shopping mall to be a pinnacle of achievement to some civic leaders, Buddy Villines has been a driver of the type of progress that has changed many lives for the better while making our community more attractive to business and industry.

    Craig O'Neal hosted a roasting as Villines modeled a trolly car hat, which could not rival the red, white, and blue double basket handle Broadway Bridge headgear of the next speaker.
    I'm not usually entertained by tributes and roasts, but Villines' personal story is an interested outline of his generation's experience from 60's rock'n'roll and Vietnam to the present.  Add a couple of decades of the history of growth and change in Pulaski County in the company of friends and like-minded folks to complete a very nice evening.
    Thanks go out to presenting sponser Big Dam Bridge Foundation and all the other folks who contributed and participated in this event.
    And to Joudge Buddy Villines, thank you. You have made a difference that will last for those seven generations and more.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    Time To Catch Up- Winter Projects

    Only a few more weeks until the winter solstice. Yep, the days will start getting longer before we know it. Until then, we'll have to get on the bike at every opportunity and fill the long, dark hours as best we can.
    For me, that usually means taking on some long-delayed projects. Some of those projects have a higher fun factor than others. Scraping out cracked grout from around our kitchen counters and replacing it with the proper caulk was a task that I had successfully delayed for more than a decade, but a recent rainy Sunday drove me to action. Other endeavors have included cleaning the chimney at our river house, having procrastinated since spring in calling a chimney sweep. The result was that I couldn't get a chimney service for weeks and, since we planned to spend Thanksgiving parked in front of the  fireplace,  I bought the tools and headed up a very tall borrowed extension ladder.

    Preparing the tools for the job. The mighty 8" wire brush.
    I know that "Chimney sweep" sounds like a glamour job, but I'm not so sure.
    A more interesting project: The  1983 Trek 560
    In 1983, my girlfriend decided that we needed road bikes, so I dutifully went to the bike shop of her choice and plunked down what seemed like a whole lot of money for the Trek 560 road bike. We were boaters and many of my paddling friends were actually athletes who excelled at such things as running and riding, while most of my non-whitewater pastimes were less ambitious and usually took place somewhere near beer.
    In 1983, 419.00 bought Trek's next-to-the-top-of-line road bike, though I'm sure it was available with a Campy group upgrade.
    This sleek beauty was built with double-butted Reynolds 501 tubing, and featured an Atom Helicomatic Freewheel. This was the first system that used a cassette cog system. Unfortunately, my research indicated that it was poorly engineered and executed, though the idea lived on.
    I never really made it as a rider in the '80s. Riding back and forth on Rebsamen Park Road or circling Burns Park seemed to be my routes, and the occasional foray up Overlook was usually met with a hasty retreat. I was built for boating and aerobic exercise was not in my repertoire. In my defense, I will ask that you check out the gearing that was standard on this race machine. The 52-42 chainrings were matched with a 6-speed 13-24 cog set and a 170 MM crankset. Compare that to today's 50-34 compact rings and 11-speed cassettes that offer cogs up to 34 teeth, with 12-28 being common.
    The frame was hand built in the USA, and the rest of the components were made in either France or in Japan. The group was SunTour Blueline, and Shimano was just starting to grow into favor. Campagnolo was the gear of choice among aficionados and my bike shorts had a real chamois leather chamois.
    I've kept this bike for over 30 years. Every few years, I would air the tires and make another run at riding or I'd plant it on the trainer and spin for a couple of miserable sessions before returning the bike to a closet. That changed 10-years ago when I read an article about Orbea USA locating in North Little Rock that made note of its proximity to the River Trail. I decided to take the Trek out for a ride. I rode 10-miles that hot August day, never venturing more than a couple of miles from my truck, lest I needed to beat a hasty retreat. I went back the next day, and the next, and the next....
    I ran into a neighbor, Darwin, who helped (and still helps) me learn a lot about the bike and about riding.
    After a month or so, I decided that I needed a modern bike, so I headed to Bikeseller (aka:Competitive Cyclist) and bought a shiny new Cannondale. The Trek was once again relegated to storage, though it did see a short life as a single-speed. After spending years hanging on the JBar Bunker as a stripped down frame, a winter project brought it back to life.

    The maiden ride of the "new" Trek 560.
    I had most of a Shimano Ultegra 9-speed groupset in a box, having stored it when I converted the Cannondale to 10-speed. I picked up a pair of brakes and a Brooks professional saddle at the Biketoberfest swap meet, ordered a clamp-on cable stop to allow the STI shifters to be used in place of downtube shifters, and went to work. Vintage bike lovers may consider this a travesty, but I wanted to ride the bike in comfort and safety, while retaining some of the old school steel frame groove.
    Ride report
    I still have some minor fit issues to work out, but I can best describe the ride as silky smooth. The steel frame and fork soak up vibration and minor bumps, and the 9-speed Ultegra 5500 group shifts as flawlessly as ever. I really like this group. It has a very sure, smooth feel that can be described as "substantial". One component that I did not replace was the front derailleur. After shopping around for something to fit the 1 1/8" seat tube, I decided to just try to original SunTour. I had concerns about whether it would match the throw of the modern shifter or handle the 14-tooth drop of the 53-39 crankset, but after adjusting the limits, it works perfectly.
    On the Brooks saddle
     I had heard horror stories about breaking in Brooks saddles.  I actually picked it up for my buddy Darwin, who swears by them, but I decided to give it a try myself so that I could make fun of them with more authority. I expected to suffer a bit and then hand it over to Darwin, but I found that it was pretty comfortable on the first ride. I had to be convinced of the requisite "nose up" positioning, but fear that I may become a convert.
    The legendary comfort comes at a huge weight penalty. On modern high end bikes and components, you can count on spending about $10.00 for every gram of weight loss. At that rate, the Brooks diminishes the "weight value" of the bike by about $2000.00. As it sits now, the Trek weighs in at about 23lbs.

    Other project bikes

    Last year, I converted my 1986 Marin Pine Mountain all-steel mountain bike for use as a town bike.

    The Mrin Pine Mountian dressed up for town.
    I traded some lumber to my brother for this bike back in the late 80's. I decided that mountain biking was really hard and mostly used it to commute to my barn at Heber or to cruise with my young nephew. It was well-used but in pretty good shape. I started by replacing the knobbies with slicks, and replacing brake pads along with all of the cables and housings. A trip to Angry Dave's to get the wheels serviced and trued made the bike road ready. I installed a Topeak rear rack and bag system to add function. This generation of mountain bikes has a near road bike geometry, with wider forks and stays to accomodate fat tires, so the handling is very predictable and crisp on the road. The 3x6 gearing will get you up hills easily enough and the upright position is right for cruising. Panniers fold out of the trunk and will hold my yoga mat along with most anything else you might need to haul.
    I made a similar conversion of my brother's old Klein, which is now doing duty in Fayetteville as our niece's commuter. 
    I know that not everybody who rides wants to work on bikes, but I also know that a lot of riders have old bikes hanging in their garage that could be given new life with a little "repurposing". The classic steel frames may not rival the sex appeal of a sleek Euro-carbon race machine, but they can still add a lot of funk to a fuctional ride.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Gear Up, Get Out.

    I have a history of writing seasonal articles here at JBarCycling, usually noting each change of the season, often accompanied by my clearly succinct observations or vital bits of information and unsolicited advice. After all,  I don't want to have my readers stumbling blindly through life on the bike without the benefit of my self-acclaimed wisdom. Well, folks, I have fallen down on the job and for that I am sorry. I hope you've all been able to get by on your own, as I have allowed us to slip through the soft, warm days of the Arkansas fall and straight into the teeth of harsh, dark winter without so much as a whimper.
    The cold weather is pushing me, so we'll just fast forward to full on winter mode.

    We can usually get by with arm and knee warmers, base layers, and maybe a vest at this time of year.
    With unusually cold November temperatures slamming our area, it has already been necessary to pull out.....everything!
    Year 'round cycling is the norm for many of us here in Central Arkansas, and we can usually enjoy some fairly mild conditions even in the heart of winter. If recent weather is any indication, we may have to up our game, or at least up our gear, to get through this winter.
    Here are some things every cyclist should have to ride through the winter:
    Arm warmers
    Knee warmers
    Various base layers
    Full-finger gloves in a couple of weights
    Ear band, hats
    Warm socks, wool
    Toe covers, shoe covers
    This stuff lasts for years, so don't scrimp.
    I did without a jacket for several years by simply layering up with a vest, and multiple base layers and arm warmers, but a Windstop jacket with good ventilation features is a nice piece to own. I've also come to love my bib knickers. They are a little more robust than bib shorts with knee warmers and are comfortable in a range of temperatures from the 40's to the 60's. When worn with knee socks, they offer an even wider range of comfort, not to mention the opportunities for fashion statements limited only by your sock collection.
    It's not really hard to keep your core warm, and an ear band or skull cap will usually suffice for the head. The hands and feet are the weak link for most of us.

    Good socks, shoe covers, and a little chemical heat will keep your feet warm.
    I've put chemical hand warmers in my shoe covers on top of my shoes to good effect, and the thinner toe warmers above stick to your socks under your toes. The label promises 6-hours, but I'll rate them at 2-2 1/2 of blessed toe comfort. On the coldest days, they're well worth the price of $1.99. I've got no special advice for your hands, other than to have good gloves.
    The rites of winter-Ceremonial Taping of the Shoes.
    Use electrical tape to seal the vent hole in the soles of your bike shoes.
    This ritual takes place each fall. In looking back, the date has been remarkably consistent, having taken place on November 14th, 16th and 18th in recent years. We got a reprieve in 2012, when the taping took place on the winter solstice..
     If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
     *If you are not familiar with the rules, then you need to stop now, read and learn.
    After waiting for temperatures to rise above freezing on Saturday morning. I ran into John and Ian finishing up the CARVE ride out east. They reported a large group on a very cold morning.
    My badass friend Robert reported a 9-degree ride in the early season snow near Steamboat Springs, CO.
    It's way too early to give in!
    We may be in for a long winter, so it's too early to hang up the bike!
    Gear up and get out.

    Judge Villines Appreciation Dinner

    Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines has been instrumental in bringing several key cycling infrastructure projects to Central Arkansas, most notably the Big Dam Bridge and the Two Rivers Park Bridge. You help honor Judge Villines and support Bike Advocacy of Central Arkansas by attending or sponsoring "There Goes The Judge,
    An Appreciation Dinner For Judge Buddy Villines".
    From BACA President Mason Ellis:
    This is a reminder that the deadline to purchase tickets or be a sponsor for the Judge Villines Appreciation Dinner is almost here. The last day for you to sign up to be a sponsor is tomorrow (November 18) and the last day to purchase a ticket for the dinner is November 28th.

    We hope you will join us to thank Judge Villines for all he has done in Central Arkansas. Our MC for the evening will be none other than Craig O’ Neal and the evening will be capped off with a performance by Little Joe and the BK’s.
    As Judge Villines has often stated, “Together we can make a difference.”  Help us honor Judge Villines and carry on his legacy.  Purchase dinner tickets here or consider a donation if you cannot attend. See sponsorship opportunities and the associated benefits on the Sponsorship page
    We hope to see you there!
    President, Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    Construction Ahead- Avoid If Possible: Cantrell Road Pump Station Pipeline Project

    I usually try to vary my topics a bit, but this is timely.
    I was invited to sit in on a meeting at the Little Rock Department of Public Works regarding the pipeline project that is getting underway near the Episcopal Collegiate School on Cantrell.

    Representatives of Little Rock Wastewater, the City of LR, Arkansas River Trail Task Force, RJN Group (engineers), and S&J Contracting gathered to discuss how to best accommodate cyclists and pedestrians while the large sewer main that runs along the trail route is being replaced.

    I've discussed this in some detail in previous articles, so I won't bore you with more specifics.
    Here are the basics:
    -S&J got "notice to proceed" on on Monday, November 10, on the project to replace a pipeline that roughly follows the "temporary" ART route from the pump station at the foot of the Cantrell viaduct east to the UP RR tracks and beyond.
    -The project will require major excavations and boring to go under the ECS driveways and the UP tracks.
    -Substantial completion is expected to take 170 days-until April 29, 2015, with the section around ECS being done, hopefully, by around the first of the year.

    Initially, riders and pedestrians will continue to use the present route along the sidewalk in front of ECS, but there will be large bore pits next to the sidewalk from which dump trucks in the adjacent turn lane will be loaded across the walk.

    The next phase will have riders and pedestrians crossing Cantrell and using the sidewalk on the north side. Some minor improvements will be made to that sidewalk to help in getting past utility poles and curbs between the traffic light at ECS and the connection to North Street heading east. (Clarification for those folks not familiar with the area, there are short sections of North Street on both sides of LaHarpe. )
    Riders will then need to cross Cantrell again at State or Chester Streets to rejoin the bike route on Markham.

    The area will be a big damn mess and will be best avoided for the foreseeable future, BUT it will remain open to cyclists. My suggestion is that you avoid it unless your transportation needs force you to use the route.
    The contractors and the City are all trying to work with the cycling community to assure that the trail stays open and to help move pedestrians and cyclists through the area as safely as possible. Be patient and remember that the workers on site are not the bad guys. They're just doing their job.

    Update: I just received a note from the contractor that they have placed some informational and warning signs at the request of the City.

    Everyone is doing their best here. The fact is that there just isn't much room along this stretch, so be patient and prudent.

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Developments: Updates on Cantrell/LaHarpe and Public Meetings

    On Cantrell Road Close-The-Loop Efforts

    I reported here back in August on sewer line work to be done in conjunction with the rebuilding of the force main station near the Episcopal Collegiate School on Cantrell. I've learned a little more about the project, and it will be more extensive than was my original impression. My current understanding is that the new sewer lines will run from the pump station, go under the ECS driveway to the east, then under the UP tracks and across LaHarpe to rejoin North Street near Chester. I don't have much more detail than that, so I'm unsure of the degree of above-grade disruption. It promises to be significant.
    Plans call for the ART to be detoured from the light at ECS across to the north side of Cantrell.
    Where do we go from here?
    The sidewalk there is to be widened to accommodate the detour. As noted in my earlier article, the temporary detour will be even more convoluted than the current seemingly permanent detour in front of ECS. That said, the options are few in this densely developed area and locals will manage. My sympathy goes to any visitors attempting to navigate the River Trail loop during this project.
    My understanding is that work is to begin on November 10.

    East and West Terminus Projects
    As you may recall, projects are planned to build new approaches east and west of the Dillard's property to eventually tie into the proposed River Bluffs trail section. The Gill St. project to the west should begin in 2015 and be completed in 2016.
    The project to cross the UP tracks to the east has run into a big snag as concerns about the geology of the bluff and the effect of required hillside cuts have come to light. As always, it is a matter of money.
    The completion of the River Trail in this area continues to be a huge challenge, as evidenced by the fact that my article on the River Bluffs proposal was dated November 2011 and, though there has been some incremental progress, there is nothing on the ground in the form of concrete and steel. Go to the linked River Bluffs article above and watch the 5-minute video if you need to recharge your enthusiasm for what could be a spectacular addition to our community.

    The challenges are aplenty...
    Money is always the key, and the "red wave" of the recent election does not bode well for the funding of alternative transportation projects. Republican lawmakers are typically more beholden to oil and gas interests than to anything that could help reduce dependence on those fuels, and many of the current generation of anti-government far-right legislators see little role for government in improving lives through things like parks and trails. That said, the election of Barry Hyde, a Democrat and a cyclist, as county judge, and folks like Staci Medlock , an avowed supporter of the trails system, to the Quorum Court gives us some hope locally. The simple fact that they have experienced the River Trail and have seen the benefits, both to the local economy and to our health and well-being, should be helpful in driving decisions to continue the progress that we have seen under Judge Buddy Villines.

    Public Meetings
    Decisions on public policy are sometimes made as we might suspect-- over cocktails at the country club where someone with special interests bends the ear of an official of some sort, while picking up the tab and handing over a campaign contribution. Yes, that happens, but policy is often decided by those who show up.

    Here are some chances for you to throw your political weight around:

    Bike-Friendly Community Committee Meeting Wednesday, November 12, 2014 11:30am-1pm Little Rock River Market, 400 President Clinton, Little Rock, AR (3rd Floor above Boulevard Bread).
    Drop on by and be part of the process.

    Louisiana Pavement Marking Public Meeting 12pm-1pm, Thursday, November 13th, 2014 Downtown Partnership, Lafayette Building, 523 Louisiana St. 
     note:This meeting is to address complaints about the recent restriping of Louisiana St. to include a separated bike lane. The lane lies between the parallel parking and the sidewalk. This system helps protect cyclists from traffic and reduces "dooring", but has caused confusion and wailing from some corners. There also has been comentary,notably from the Dem-Gaz's crusty traffic columnist, that the lane is infrequently used. I believe that we need to build for what we want our city to become if we want to make it a better place to live. This is a small example of forward-thinkng.

    Daisy Bates and Chester Resurfacing Project Public Meetings Thursday, November 13th, 2014 5:30pm Dunbar Community Center
    1001 W. 16th street


    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    Along The Trail-Cosmic Events, Good, Bad, And Ugly

    The last couple of weeks have been tough on my journalistic production time, between a little maintenance and small part replacement on me and extraordinary work demands, writing has been taking a backseat. Well, it's taken a backseat to riding, too. The days are getting shorter and warm weekends are precious, so when I have been able to ride, I've taken advantage with slightly more than the usual end-of-season urgency.
    Is That a Dragon Eating The Sun?
    Well, no, but it's pretty cool. I'm referring to the solar eclipse that occurred last Thursday. My ride partners mentioned the eclipse and I was aware of it, but skies were mostly cloudy and the sun was nowhere to be seen. I would see photos, I'm sure.  A short time later, as I rode across the BDB, I noticed a crowd on the telescope equipped observation decks. They were wearing funny glasses and the sun had come out. I asked them if the eclipse had come and gone, to which someone said, It's happening right now", and a young man with slightly purple hair said, "Here are your glasses", as he handed me some cardboard direct viewing eye gear.

    "Here are your glasses." Thanks, little brother!
    It is always nice when somebody shares a small kindness and an experience with a stranger, especially when you're the stranger. Fortunately, small kindnesses happen regularly along our River Trail system, as anyone who has ever had a flat tire on a busy day can attest. If you need help, somebody will stop. If you don't need help, you'll find yourself busy turning down offers of help.

    I wish that I had taken a peek through the telescope.

    I'm sure that eclipses were indeed frightening and mysterious before science came along with a rational explanation. Such cosmic events still serve as a reminder of our very small place in the grand scheme of things.

    Oh, Boy!! Dark and Cold Around The Corner
    Saturday marks the end of daylight savings time.

    Ready for the sunset. This couple was enjoying the warm weather the last week of daylight savings time with an evening picnic on the BDB.
    For most of us, that means a curtailment of after-work rides or getting out the headlights and cold weather gear. With highs Saturday forecast to be in the 50's, it appears that we'll be losing light and warmth in one fell swoop. Winter time riding has its merits, but I can't think of many right now.

    Dog and Bottle Friendly Fountain at NLR BDB Pavilion

    The fountain at the north end of the BDB has been replaced with this pet and bottle friendly model.

    Not So Friendly Along the Trail

     Bad: Selective enforcement?
    On a recent Saturday, one of my ride partners talked to a runner friend who had been ticketed for parking in the grass near the BDB on a crowded Saturday. I can't really defend scofflaws, but....
    On the same weekend, a mile or so up the road, dozens of cars and buses were illegally parked for a cross-country meet in the bike lane and on the grass along Rebsamen Park Road under the watchful eye of two LR police officers who were directing traffic at the golf course driveway.
    On any given Sunday afternoon, Rebsamen Park is usually crowded with folks cooking out at the pavilions and picnic tables with lines of cars parked on the grass, hip-hop music blaring lyrics that make my even grizzled F-bomb dropping ass uncomfortable. Most of us are familiar with the open party scene that occurs most weekends.
    It appears to me that the LRPD drops by to write a few tickets to the runners and riders who are drawn to the River Trail and the BDB, but they are wont to piss off the party crowd, where shots have been fired and alcohol seems to flow, or make track athletes feel unwelcome. 
    The parking situation at the BDB is limited and calls for some tolerance. The city's response is to suggest that people park 1/2 mile away where their cars are more isolated and more likely to be subject to break in or worse.
    There needs to be some sense made of parking enforcement. Either it's OK for all of us or everybody gets a ticket.
     Ugly:A-Hole Alert
    While riding out County Farm Road early last Sunday, a pickup pulled along side and the driver started screaming advice that he would likely not have wanted his momma to hear. No big deal. Then, as we go on Pinnacle Valley, said A-hole came out of Beck Road and made another pass. My ride companion thoughtfully called out "God bless you', to which he got "FUCK YOU!" in return. Inappropriate response, I'd say. The guy then drove up the road and screamed at some riders waiting on the roadside.
    I called the sheriff's department just to report the incident. The vehicle was an older dark-colored Chevy with white door panels and a "decorative iron" sign on the door panels. If you should encounter hits guy in similar circumstances, please call the sheriff. I think he probably lives in the area and appeared to be out for the sole purpose of being an ass. If he ever escalates his actions, it might be useful to have something on file.We failed to get his license plate number.