Friday, May 22, 2015

Packing Your Bag To Hit The Road

I try not to be condescending in this space. Well, OK, sometimes I can be a little condescending, but only toward folks whom I deem to be narrow-minded, willfully inconsiderate or voluntarily ignorant. I say that to preface this little article which directed at the less experienced riders among us.

I've encountered several riders over the last few weeks who had flatted and either 1) did not have a flat kit, 2) had a flat kit but had used their tube and/or CO2 previously, or, 3) had everything they needed but didn't know quite how to execute the repair.
I'll address the situations in order with yet more unsolicited advice:

1) With cycling events and the long rides of summer upon us, no road rider should be without a flat repair kit. That's true even if you're just cruising the trail, but vital if you're going to head out on the road. Somebody will inevitably stop to help you, and it's really appreciated if have your own stuff and you can use the opportunity to learn from your good Samaritan.


A small flat kit can easily hold all that you need. This kit has 2 tubes (powdered with talc and wrapped in plastic),  2-CO2 cartridges, tire levers, inflator, 3 Allen wrenches (4,5,6MM), spare contact lens, key, and that universal fixer, cash in small bills.
 It is an optical illusion that the bag looks as big as Willie. It is quite compact.


2) It doesn't help to have a flatted tube or blown CO2 in your bag. Keep back-up tubes and CO2 cartridges in you personal stock. They are not expensive, they don't go bad, and it is far more convenient to restock your flat kit if you have it on hand.
I stopped to repair a flat  for a couple of women a week or two ago. They had apparently been equipped with a tube and a CO2 between them, which they had used the day before.If you have never had a flat, it's easy to be confident with minimal gear. I gave them a tube and used one of my CO2s to get them going. I also suggested that when they visited their local bike shop to restock their kit that they buy at least two of everything.
For about 25 or 30 bucks you can stock some ride insurance. It's not bad policy to have a tire on hand, as well. I'd rather but this stuff at my convenience that be rushing to the bike shop at closing time. 

3) Local bike shops and groups sometimes do clinics on changing flats and making minor repairs, but it is pretty easily learned. If you are not really confident in your abilities, practice at home. Pull up a video on YouTube, let the air out of a tire, and practice. Use your floor pump to re-inflate, but be certain that you know how your inflator works. Most instructions consist of: screw in CO2 cartridge, seat inflator on stem, back out CO2 slightly to inflate. 
Read the directions. 

I post something similar to this article at least once a year, but some things are worth repeating. I'm sure that Diane will tell you that this article is better than some of my stories that she has heard too many times over the years.

Trail Flooding---Eating My Words...

...and washing them down with muddy water.

The trail west of Burns Park was already under water Friday night with more to come. Plan your weekend rides accordingly.

I need to re-calibrate my trail water-level estimator, or simply defer to the folks at NLR Parks who have elevation maps. 
The deep end of the pool is for big dogs only.

The March weather looks like it will continue until June. Pack a sweater and a rain coat for the holiday weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Post Flood River Trail Conditions- Revised

This update from NLR Parks Wednesday evening. Though I think most of the trail will be rideable at 17.1 foot stage, this is "the word":
WEEKEND PARK and TRAIL FORECAST - Progress has been made with cleanup efforts around the Burns Park dog park and soccer complex, and along the Arkansas River Trail. However, the river level is back on the rise and is expected (as of 2:00 pm today) to crest at 17.1 feet Friday night and into Saturday morning and remain near that level throughout the weekend. Therefore, some of the same areas may and will flood again and we will have some closings continuing and lasting through the holiday weekend:
- Burns Park Soccer Complex and fields, Dog Park, and Victory Lake areas will be closed to all users;
- Tournament Drive will remain closed to all users between Championship Drive and Arlene Laman Drive allowing no access to Victory Lake, dog park, and the soccer complex.
- Arkansas River Trail will be closed to all users between Burns Park and the Big Dam Bridge;
- Arkansas River Trail - east of Riverview Skate Park will remain closed;
- Isabella Jo Trail - southern end will remain closed;
- North Shore Trail - southern end will be closed;
- Pfeifer Loop will remain closed.
Some areas and their impact from flooding through the weekend:
- Burns Park Victory Lake boat launch will remain underwater;
- Burns Park Soccer Complex - moats around soccer fields
- Burns Park Dog Park - underwater;
- Arkansas River Trail - by Burns Park Victory Lake will remain underwater;
- Arkansas River Trail - immediately west of the western end of Burns Park underwater;
- Arkansas River Trail - east of Riverview Skate;
- The pavilion at Cooks Landing and the base of the Big Dam Bridge will be underwater.


Things were getting back to near-normal on the North Little Rock side of the Arkansas River Trail before more rain fell overnight and into Wednesday morning. With the exception of the S-turn bridge just east of the Pfeifer Loop, the trail was dry and rideable on Tuesday night. A few areas in Burns Park and along Cunningham Lake that were submerged are still dirty but city crews have been busy cleaning off the worst of the silt and muck.
The situation is dynamic and subject to change by the hour, as the river is forecast to rise again, though not to last weeks levels.
The Arkansas River peaked last week at around 21'. Current information as of lunch time Wednesday 5/20 predicts a rise to 17.1 feet by Saturday.

A group of riders approach as a city worker sweeps the dog park lot in Burns Park Tuesday night.

In spite of the closed gates and signs to the contrary, the trails were open to riders. That's not an official statement but the large numbers of riders who were crossing paths with busy park employees was a clue that it's Ok. I think they mostly want to keep auto traffic out for the safety and efficiency of the crews doing cleanup.Please be respectful of the fact that these guys are on the job.
Ian and Shep doing their part.


I ran across ranger Ian Hope and goose dog Shep as they employed a blower-equipped ATV to clean silt from the Victory Lake parking lot. Shep was alert and keeping a wary eye out for geese or aggressive squirrels.

I'll provide updates as my schedule allows, but I think that cyclists will be able to ride the length of the NLR trail over the weekend, assuming no more heavy rains upstream. Some detours to higher portions of the trail may be required, and some park roads and parking areas may still be closed.
The Little Rock trail sections and Two Rivers Park trails are open other than the ongoing construction detours downtown.
Go ride your bike.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Remembering Zuli- About A Dog

This has nothing to do with bikes, but it is something I very much need to do. It is very personal but needs sharing.
People who know me know that I love dogs and that I have always had a special place in my heart for my dog Zuli. Most of our cycling friends may not know our dogs, but they have been full-fledged members of our boating family for many years, so this is also a way of letting them know of Zuli's passing.

Sunday night, we had to put down our Zuli dog. Zuli was simply a very good dog who brought a lot of joy to most of the folks she encountered, but especially to me. We were often asked what kind of dog she was. My pat answer was that she was a blue-eye, leopard-spotted, flop-eared, bob-tailed dog. And a damn fine one; best of breed, I'd venture.

Zuli was picked up from a ditch near Lonoke by a soft-hearted neighbor as part of a batch of miscellaneous mutts that had been dumped by the road. The neighbor called and said we needed to see this puppy. We had just had a conversation about getting a second dog and had decided against it. We took a look and Diane simply said, "We need to take her with us". She was 10 pounds of blue eyes and spots, about ten weeks old and instinctively housebroken and loving. We had picked her up on our way to a Canoe Club Rendezvous, bought a tiny harness, leash and food on the way and introduced her to our boating community. She won hearts, ate the harness, and licked beer off of the tops of every can she encountered. She was my dog.
I had to add this photo of Diane with Zuli as a pup.

Zuli 


Zuli on shore patrol with Josie at the Cossatot.

 Diane's dog Josie was already an accomplished river dog when Diane and I got together, and Zuli followed suit. They rode on the decks of our kayaks, ran the bank, swam the river, or hitched rides on the canoes or rafts of friends as they made their way down the creeks of the Ozarks.

Taking a break at the Cossatot.
This is one of my favorite photos of my little family. Buffalo River  
It's good to have friends! Zuli and Josie on the Big Piney with Jeff and Darla

Josie was 8-years old when we got Zuli, and we considered her to be getting old. She spent most of her days sleeping in an open closet at Diane's house and seemed to be slowing down. Little did we know that the introduction of of a wild, pesky puppy would give her new life. After Diane and I married, our house was often the scene of furniture-moving, floor-shaking "dog wrestling", punctuated by wild growls, sharp barks, and mad, chasing sprints around the house. Josie was remarkably patient, often allowing herself to be dragged by her tail across the hardwood floors. Whenever she decided that enough was enough, she would pin Zuli to the floor and order was quickly restored.


 Josie was always the boss when she decided she'd had enough.

Zuli and Josie were quite a pair, and Josie lived to the ripe old age of 16.

Then came Willie.
Some months after the passing of Josie, we were open to getting another dog and Willie joined the clan.DNA testing showed him to be a finely bred Golden Retriever, Maltese, Poodle, Dachshund, Beagle, Chihuahua mix, and he fit in nicely. Zuli laid down the law to establish the pecking order as Josie had with her, and we were a two-dog family again.

Willie is very laid back and Zuli had settled down by the time he arrived, so things were not quite as rambunctious around the house as in previous years, but they were good partners.

This is my way of saying goodbye to a little friend who brought so much joy to us for so long, and a way of sharing her passing with our friends who had the pleasure of knowing her lip-curling grin and her flying-dog routine. Zuli had a great, long life for a small dog. She was active and could still easily clear a 4' fence at age 12, so she got the most out of what she was dealt. Not too bad for a mixed up pup dumped on a Lonoke roadside.


It has been a tough couple of weeks here at the JBar Bunker. Diane's Dad, Ted Hannah, died last Saturday a week after his 80th birthday celebration. Ted led a full life as a Naval aviator, making over 300 carrier landings, and as a successful engineer, executive and family man. He was a great guy and will be missed by all who knew him. Diane said that Ted had really wanted to get another dog recently but his declining health would not allow it. He always loved Zuli, so I've got a mental image of Ted approaching the Pearly Gates with a blue-eye, leopard-spotted, flop-eared, bob-tailed puppy on his heels. "She followed me home. Can I keep her?"

Monday, May 11, 2015

Before The Flood...

I only had time for a brief ride Monday evening, so I was disappointed but not surprised  to see the "Road Closed" barriers as I entered Burns Park. Then, after parking at the golf course, I noticed this e-mail:
In case you haven't heard -portions of the Arkansas River Trail on the North Little Rock side (Big Rock Quarry to the Big Dam Bridge) are closed due to the significant rainfall and the flooding of the Arkansas River. 
A map and more details are available here: http://www.nlrpr.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=96195&pageId=238814
  
If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact me.

Jeff Caplinger, CPRP
Project Coordinator
North Little Rock Parks and Recreation
phone: 501-791-8540
fax: 501-791-8528



 I soon encountered Ranger Ian Hope, along with Jeff, and found that the Arkansas River had just started encroaching on the trail, but was expected to rise another 6-feet before cresting Wednesday night. I was able to ride to downtown and to get to the BDB via the NorthShore /Cunningham Lake Trail, but that window of opportunity was quickly closing.

 Water was just crossing the trail near the Burns Park soccer fields at 5:57
It had already risen appreciably when I crossed again at 6:18

The river had just come over the trail near the pavilion at the north end of the BDB and water was rushing into the woods near Pfiefer Loop

I expect much of the NLR River Trail to be impassable for several days, so plan rides accordingly. The key is to be flexible.If the river does indeed rise another 6', it may not be possible to cross the BDB. I'll keep you posted as I have opportunities to ride, and feel free to share information or your experiences in the comments section.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Group Ride Experience and Constructive Criticism-TdR Training Ride

The CARTI Tour de Rock has become the second-biggest ride on the Central Arkansas event calendar,trailing only the BDB100 in popularity. Most years, Diane and I find ourselves on our way to Colorado on the date of the ride due to the fact that our vacation dates are tied to FibArk, which usually conflicts with the TdR. The fall of the calendar leaves us in town for this year's Tour de Rock, so I decided to register and join a recent training ride. There were a lot of cycling events on the May 2nd date, and it was a relatively cold morning at 49 degrees, so I was unsure how many riders would make the 7:00AM start time.
Big group, nice folks, but this ride lacked leadership and clear direction.

As it turned out, there was a very big group. What was unusual for me was that I knew very few of the riders.Most of the folks that I had ridden with before were Rock City Riders of the sponsoring Major Taylor Cycling Club. I would guess that there were close to 40 riders lined up as we left the U.S. Bank in Argenta and headed east. I met some really nice folks and thoroughly enjoyed our 55 mile ride, but I'm going to use my Saturday experience as the basis for a little constructive criticism.
Riding safely in a pace line requires that riders both comply with some fairly rigid rules and possess some specific skills. While the skill set must acquired over time and experience, there is no excuse for ignoring some basic protocol. Unfortunately, this group did not have a "capo" or leader with the knowledge and status to lay down the law. It is a common problem, and when there is not a recognized leader, most folks are hesitant to be that person, who is known is many circles as "asshole".
 Here are three flagrant violations of protocol that I observed:

-Riding aerobars. Aerobars have no place in a pace line. If you have clip-on bars, stay off of them. Bike handling is compromised and your hands are off the brake hoods. You are a danger to yourself and others. The exception to that is when all riders are in agreement and have common goals such as time trial or triathlon training.  And in that case, drafting kind of defeats the purpose.

-Ear buds. Nobody should have to tell you that this is a bad idea. If you want to groove in your own world, ride by yourself....and pay attention. 

-Littering. This is not specific to group rides or even to cycling, but is a universal. Unfortunately the roads of Arkansas are graphic proof that there are plenty of inconsiderate folks who don't get this. I saw two riders toss Gu wrappers on the road. Are you kidding me? Please show just a bit of class. Images of that practice on TV were giving Tour de France riders a bad name, so you will notice that they don't do it anymore. And you're not a Tour rider. There is no excuse and you give the rest of us a bad name. Avoid the sticky pocket by stuffing the wrapper up the leg of your shorts. You can properly dispose of it later, and your shorts are going to get a wash after the ride anyway, one would hope.

A strong leader and clearly stated expectations can clear up those problems quickly. I was taught early on that experienced cyclists are quick to identify sketchy riders and will do their best to avoid them. Few people want to be "that guy" once they understand the basics. 

The skills are a little harder to come by, and extensive suggestions can be found elsewhere. Some things to practice on each ride may include simply riding steadily and standing out of the saddle without sending your bike back toward the wheel behind you. It sounds much simpler than it is in practice. 
 I spoke to one rider who was constantly closing on the wheel in front of him, overlapping the wheel (another dangerous practice ), and then freewheeling back into position. Every time he drifted back, a ripple went through the 20 riders behind him. He was a little frustrated but simply asked, "How do I do that?" Practice.  I found it to be among the hardest things to learn. Until you can ride steadily relative to the bike in front of you, just leave a little more gap so that your slight over-accelerations can be absorbed without braking or freewheeling. A gap of a few feet will keep you in the draft and allow a little margin for error.
Standing up abruptly sends your bike back about half a length relative to the bike behind you and is the cause a lot of crashes.  Before standing, check with a glance that there is some distance behind you, and I often simply say "standing" to alert the rider behind me. It is also easy to learn to shift to a higher gear and ease your bike forward as you stand. On long, flat rides many of us need to stand and stretch, so learn how to do it safely.

It is not my intent to criticize this particular group, as you see examples of these things (except the litter) in almost any group ride that has a good sprinkling of inexperienced riders. Take advantage of these rides as opportunities to teach, learn or both.
Be safe.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Along The Trail: Photo Ops, BDB Flags Return, and More On Detours

Postcard Cut-Outs At The Bridges
The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau added some touches of class to the Big Dam Bridge, Junction Bridge, and the Clinton Presidential Center with the addition of postcard frames so that tourists could pose at the big city attractions for their friends back in the sticks.
The folks back home in Camden will be impressed! Sam Ledbetter was among the first posers, as the paint was still sticky on the sign.
Not to be outdone, I, too, wanted my own picture postcard.
It is my understanding that if the postcard signs prove popular, that more photo options will be added  at key locations around the city. This one will be a hit at Murray Park with its current population of pelicans.

OK, I'm on a bit of a sarcasm roll. I'm sure that the signs will help fill the diners and tourist courts.

Flags Return to The BDB
After being removed during the course of lighting work on the BDB some time ago, the flags made a return to the BDB a few weeks ago. Most needed to be replaced and the fresh banners are back to doing duty as wind indicators for alert cyclists.

Broadway Bridge Detour-Little Rock

There have apparently been problems with pedestrians and riders entering the construction zone at the Broadway Bridge site on the Little Rock side---to the point that officials have threatened to post officers there to issue citations. From the east, the site seems pretty secure, so I doubt that many recreational riders are going to the trouble to pass the barriers. By nature, we want to get the best result for the least effort and that generally excludes climbing fences, lifting barriers, or getting our nice shoes dirty.
Respect the message, please.

The detour on the Little Rock side is certainly problematic. It was and remains a challenge to come up with a viable route. The current detour is marked only for those approaching the trail from the Clinton Park Bridge, and the route sucks for cyclists due to trolley tracks, sparse signage, and traffic signals that seemed to be red at every intersection on my Sunday afternoon scouting trip. 
Riders departing from the River Market and attempting to follow the River Trail map are given no indication that they are headed to a dead end. A ride along the "Medical Mile" ends abruptly at a chain link fence and a lot of warning signs, but nothing to direct riders to the detour, or anywhere else for that matter.
 Riders coming off of the Clinton Park Bridge get a detour sign.
They are then directed along a sidewalk to 3rd Street.
Facing back to the east along the detour. Riders face an often uncomfortable choice of riding in the left traffic lane or along the trolley tracks.
After several blocks and almost as many red lights, the detour turns back north toward LaHarpe on Arch Street. The intrepid souls who have made it this far will then get to navigate the more permanent maze of a detour near Dillard's HQ. We like our bike tourists to be tough and determined.

In all fairness, there are few viable options on the south side of the river, and things will only get much worse when the Broadway Bridge closes next summer. In the meantime, the City could do a much better job with signage.
Oh, yeah, and keep your skinny little tires out of those construction zones. Seriously.





Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pinnacle Valley Road Hot Tar Advisory- Wednesday and Thursday

My not-really-related cousin Jim Barton has informed me that his company will be resurfacing approximately 2 miles of Pinnacle Valley Road in Wednesday and Thursday, May 6, 7. The area is from the corner of Pinnacle Valley and County Farm Road to, if my Google Earth estimation is correct, the base of the climb west of the Maumelle Park entrance.
No, we could not talk him into painting in some bike lanes. I think he muttered something about continuing his employment and contractual obligations, but all I really heard was, "no". The activity may limit our rides for a couple of days, but the smooth new surface will be great for road bikes and speeding vehicles.
As with any contracting operation, the schedule is subject to change due to weather or other factors, and I don't know what conditions will be outside of working hours. I assume the road will stay open but lane closures, hot sticky tar, and loose gravel do not generally enhance the road bike experience.
Pass it on.

Monday, May 4, 2015

City Of LR Bike-Ped Initiatives: Get Up! Get Down. Get Back Up Again! Well, Maybe Not.

Complete Streets and Riverfront Drive Initiative

Get up!
The City of Little Rock Board of Directors passed a Complete Streets ordinance on April 21 and that is a long overdue positive step. Thanks to those directors like Lance Hines, who moved to table the bill a few months ago, then went about the business of getting some feedback and studying the measure before casting his "for" vote. Director Erma Hendrix made a few apparently irrelevant  objections before casting the lone vote against the measure. Ms. Hendrix has an unusual and inexplicable condition that seems to make her blurt out the word, "NO", each time she hears the word "bicycle" in any context. 
Complete Streets, as passed, will not impede development and will be unlikely to spark any visible immediate changes. It will compel the City to give consideration to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and people seeking access to public transportation as development proceeds. Over time, transportation options can help get us out of our cars and into a safer, friendlier and healthier lifestyle while making Little Rock a more attractive place to live. 


Riverfront Drive: Get down, then get back up again!! Then, right back to where we started.
This is why we should attend meetings and support groups like BACA rather than just complain about results. A public meeting was held Monday on proposed traffic calming measures along Riverfront Drive, which is also part of the Arkansas River Trail System. Riverfront is currently a 4-lane, divided road with very narrow bikes lanes in each direction for most of its approximately 1.2 mile length. The traffic count is very low. The road was built at a time when it was thought that a Cantrell-like artery would be built along what is now Murray Park, Rebsamen Park, River Mountain Park, Two Rivers Plaza, and a vital stretch of the Arkansas River Trail. Voters of the city were more wise than the planners as they took action years ago to overwhelmingly approve an ordinance prohibiting that disaster. I think it specifically prevented a traffic bridge from crossing Jimerson Creek. 


The fast lane. Roads like Riverfront encourage high speeds. The current bike lanes are 4', but that includes a more than a foot of gutter, leaving little buffer from traffic for cyclists
There goes the neighborhood. Proposed redesign for Riverfront Drive
Angry Neighbors put down the idea.
The folks from Canal Pointe came out from behind the walls long enough to round the corner to the meeting at the Winrock Center, and proceeded to vow bloody combat before they allowed such a thing. I'm sure that most of them drove the 100 yards from their gate to the meeting. They attacked hard and fast, leaving the crowd reeling. I was not at the meeting, but I did not see or hear anything like a rational argument against the plan. Why, they would have to drive the 6/10 mile on a single lane. They might even be behind somebody at the lone traffic signal.  There's plenty of reason for despair in there I'm sure.
Yes, I'm being snarky. 
I really do understand when sidewalks and bike lanes displace parking or otherwise diminish another resource, but this design will only make the area more attractive and more valuable. The residents point to future development, but even if traffic doubles,the road will still be considered lightly used.

Reasonable voices get right back up again.
After the meeting, folks went back to work. E-mails in support of the project poured into the offices of directors, the mayor and the city manager. By Tuesday, it was suggested that the city move forward with a grant application and City Manager Bruce Moore agreed.
My friend and fellow quasi-journalist  Joe Jacobs ( Joe does sell ads, so he may be much closer to 'real' status)did a great job of defining the situation and rallying the troops through ArkansasOutside. His article was picked up and given some support by Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times.

More Powerful Voices Call City Hall
By Friday, the City had backtracked yet again, announcing that a grant application would be made, but for a plan that is supposed to improve the way for walkers, runners, and cyclists without reduce the traffic lanes.
I don't really have a strong objection to such a plan, but it will be much more expensive, serve no additional valid purpose that the original plan did not, and do nothing to slow traffic. Little Rock has long been driven by the powerful few, and  the word is that a few of those voices objected to slowing traffic in favor of pedestrian and cyclist safety.


The traffic-calming plan was championed for years by Ed Levy, former chairman of the Little Rock Bike Friendly Committee, and had gotten new life through the efforts Bike-Ped Coordinator Jeremy Lewno and others within city staff. I will admit that when first I heard Ed propose it, my support was lukewarm. It had little support from city staff and I thought the cost in political capital outweighed the value. I may or may not have been right at that point, but the time is ripe right now. Unfortunately, it seems that the wishes of a few people who want to drive fast for a very short distance to their gated enclave outweigh the value of good public policy.

 It will be interesting to see the ultimate outcome. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rock City Criterium Races Are Back!!




May 2nd and 3rd. River Market and Soma.

Last year's Rock City Races  coincided with the Southwest tandem rally to make pack downtown Little Rock and the surrounding roads with all sorts of two-wheeled excitement! The two-seaters are not back this year, but Rock City Racing is on for this weekend!

Racing takes place in the River Market District Saturday afternoon, beginning at 1:00 PM. On Sunday, the action moves to SoMa, kicking off at 9:00 AM with the last race rolling at 1:00 PM

Dugan's Pub and other stops along the course were packed with race fans (well, maybe some beer fans) on Saturday. Sunday morning was more of a coffee crowd, but the neighborhood turned out in force to cheer the racers on.
Crit races bring a great vibe to downtown, with fascinated tourists joining locals fans in encouraging the fast packs and the break-aways. Bring your cow bells!!!




 Brought to our community by the fine folks of:






Thursday, April 23, 2015

Along The Trail-More NLR Detour Improvements, The Usual Crowds, And Some Observations

The City of North Little Rock responded quickly and very well to feedback on the Broadway Bridge area trail detour.

Before
Before the recent changes, riders exiting Riverfront Park and turning left (west) were tempted to ride behind the orange barrels in the eastbound lanes. The barrels were meant to keep eastbound cyclists and drivers out of the construction area.
 As seen looking west from the Riverfront Park gate, the traffic barriers seemed to provide a protected path, but were intended to keep traffic out of the prohibited construction area.
Cyclists who chose that option, like this large family group on rental bikes, found themselves dumped head-on into two lanes of 40-MPH traffic. The speed limit has been reduced to 30, but it is seldom heeded.
Eastbound riders were either funneled into the construction zone or forced into the single traffic lane.

After: Much Better!

Riders following the detour on to Riverfront Drive now are given clear direction.

Signs clearly indicate that both pedestrians and cyclists should cross to the westbound lane or to the sidewalk.

Eastbound riders now have a marked bike lane, and the correct placement of the barriers should help keep cyclists from entering the construction zone.
The "after" photos are compliments of Chris Wilbourn, NLR Planning/Traffic Engineer (Director). 

I had sent Chris some photos and feedback last week and when I called to follow up, he was already on the site making changes. Thanks also go out to Danny Dillon, NLR Chief of Staff Danny Bradley, and Alderman Charlie Hight. All of them, along with Massman Construction and the AHTD, have worked to help keep the River Trail open and safe for cyclists and pedestrians during the bridge construction. 
I have also been working with Jeremy Lewno of Bobby's Bike Hike, as many of the "confused" riders were on rentals. Jeremy and his crew have scouted the area and are making it a point to inform their customers about the detour. Jeremy is also the Little Rock Bike-Ped coordinator, so he is busy with the many issues on the south side of the river. 
The improvements are the result of a city being responsive to feedback from the community and responsible in maintaining the viability of the River Trail. The trail is a big draw for the entire area and an important part of the character of our city. 

 The Usual Crowds and Complaints

Spring has been kind of punk in central Arkansas this year, continually being thumped back by a stubborn winter, but the few really nice days have seen big crowds on the Big Dam Bridge and the Two Rivers Bridge and Park. Most of us know the drill by now. On the nice days, folks who seldom venture out join the trail regulars and make up a discombobulated, multi-directional moving (or not)  cluster that can try the patience of all of the players.

With some close observation, you can usually start to identify sub-sets within the crowd:

Regular Trail Users: These may be riders, runners, or walkers. Some are people you know by sight if you spend much time on the Arkansas River Trail. The frequent riders will usually ride solo or in a small group, riding single file in crowded areas, calling out politely to let others know they are passing. When you see them involved in a group ride, there's usually good order and "the rules" number 2, 3, and 43  are in effect. They save their speed work for the open road or empty trail sections, which are easily found.
Runners and walkers stay to the right side of the trail or bridge and know to glance over their shoulder before making a sudden stop or change in direction. If ear buds are in use, music is low enough to hear a greeting or warning. They keep an eye on their children and a short leash on their dogs. These practices are a matter of both good manners and self-preservation, along with a dose of respect for other trail users.


RTUs-Doing it like they've been there before.

Weekend warriors: The riders in this set may actually ride frequently and have enough miles on their legs to believe that they are pretty fast. Unfortunately, many also believe that their average speed, Strava KOMs, and very sexy aerobars are more important than the safety and good manners mentioned above. "On your left" is shouted as an imperative and what should be a polite alert comes to simply piss people off. Ear buds, the bane of multi-use trails, are often present. Attire may range from gym shorts to full kit. The full kit guys in this subset don't usually really ride the team represented or they would have enough experience to have graduated from this group.
Runners in this set are often in pairs or small groups. All will likely have ear buds in and can somehow manage to take the entire width of the trail so that they can run abreast while not talking to one another (See "ear buds"). Passing riders often have to shout loudly in order to get their attention. In extreme cases, a shoulder tap may be used. Walkers in this group may follow the same patterns, or they may easily drift into the next classification.

The Blissfully Oblivious: Unfortunately, many very nice people fall into this category. They love getting out on the trail from time to time, often with family or friends. They have absolutely no clue that anybody else is doing anything with any purpose or direction. They'll stop in mid-trail and mid-stride to chat or look at deer/dog/bird/flower/sky/river without a thought. They'll walk 4 or 5 wide with kids, dogs, or strollers blocking the width of the trail. They don't think anything of leaving their kids' bikes laying on the trail and they may find the foot of a bridge a great place to congregate. In many cases, both their children and their dogs should be on shorter leashes. These are the people who actually create the most potential for conflict and danger on the trail, but they would never guess it. They can try the patience of most folks and may enrage type-A personalities. Some of these people come across as inconsiderate a-holes but, for the most part, they are just oblivious.

The RTUs are often grouped in with the WWs by the BOs, as the differences are subtle to the untrained eye. There are inconsiderate a-holes within each group, but the vast majority of people on the trail are polite, considerate, and follow the simple protocols of the trail.They are happy to be outside doing something that they enjoy, and they don't mind sharing.


 For me, "typing" people along the trail is a form of entertainment, and if you ride the trail much, you'll encounter everything from swimsuit models to Chick-Fil-A cows.  People come and go, but over time you start recognizing "the regulars", then you exchange a nod or a greeting and start forming a bit of a bond. The trail is the only place I see some of the folks that I consider to be friends. I've known them for years and may not have their phone number or even know their last name, but we share something important.
Go out and ride with your friends. And look out for the BOs. They don't know any better, so just say, "bless their hearts" and know that most of them will be back home on the couch once it gets really hot, and you'll be back among the RTUs.



Monday, April 13, 2015

River Trail East Spur- Southeast Trail

Note- After I posted this article, Rob Stephens advised that the designated  name of this section will be the "Southeast Trail". 04-14-15

There has been much discussion  within central Arkansas bike advocacy circles about the detours to the River Trail caused by the Broadway Bridge project and the lack of progress toward "closing the loop" along Cantrell Road, along with some problems caused by inconsiderate patrons of the Big Dam Bridge.
While this has been going on and over the previous few months, Rob Stephens of the Arkansas River Trail Task Force has been quietly going about the business of getting a substantial new section of the Arkansas River Trail System formalized.


This map defines the route and shows sign locations for the new River Trail East spur. 
The route for the most part will use streets and roads that are included within the Little Rock bike plan, and formalizes a long-used ride route east of the City that many of us refer to as "the Airport Loop".The route passes by or near the Clinton Presidential Library Park, Heifer Project International, the Clinton National Airport, the Little Rock Port Authority, Dassault Falcon, and Welspun on the way to the David D. Terry Park. The scenery along the flat ride varies from parkland to industrial to lowlands marsh. Traffic is generally light, especially on weekends, and the road quality ranges from excellent broad avenues near the airport to rail-crossed and pot-holed in the industrial park. One-way mileage to Terry Park is about 13 miles. Look for the signs to go up soon.
The Clinton National Airport has recently installed bike racks for travellers, employees, and visitors, and boasts the fastest free Wi-Fi Internet of any airport in the country. There is an easily accessible Starbucks near the terminal entrance to satisfy the need for a jolt of caffeine or a bite to eat.
The various institutions and businesses along the route were generally supportive of the project, with some seeing it as an opportunity for associates to commute by bike or to enjoy the fitness opportunities offered by having a nearby designated bike route.
The Arkansas River Trail Task Force operates under the auspices of Metroplan, the regional transportation authority.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Updates: BDB Policy, Detours North and South of The River

On the BDB...
In statements to media, Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde seems to have softened his positions on nighttime closure and the banning of dogs from the BDB to say that such actions are "under consideration". I think we can all appreciate his frustration with irresponsible pet owners and those who would use the BDB as an after-dark party spot, leaving behind litter and damage. I have confidence that Judge Hyde will act fairly and appropriately.

North
North Little  Rock elected officials and staff continue to evaluate and tweak the River Trail detour required by construction of the new Broadway Bridge. I met alderman Charlie Hight, chief of staff Danny Bradley, traffic director Chris Wilbourn, and Danny Dillon recently at the site to observe traffic and take an on-the-ground look at the current situation along Riverfront Road. The City had already responded to input from the cycling community by adding signage cautioning drivers of the presence of pedestrians and cyclists, and by reducing the speed limit to 30 MPH.


Dillon, Wilbourn, Hight, and Bradley.

Vehicles travelling east approaching the construction zone.


Striping was added to provide a bit of a buffer between the traffic lane and cyclists traveling east on Riverfront.

A radar speed indication sign has been placed west of Smarthouse Way to alert motorists, and there was discussion of making the intersection of Riverfront and Karrot/ Smarhouse Way a 4-way stop in an effort to slow traffic. My understanding is that the AHTD (this is a state highway) has approved that measure should it be deemed necessary. 
The situation here will be dynamic as construction progresses, so be alert for changes to this route. There is no doubt that both trail users and drivers will be inconvenienced, so we'll all need to be patient. 

South

Most of the pipeline construction along Cantrell Road near Episcopal Collegiate School is complete, though I did notice equipment still on site last week.The sidewalks on both sides of Cantrell have been improved slightly. 

River Trail signage on Markham from downtown now directs westbound cyclists to cross to the north side of LaHarpe at State Street. After crossing LaHarpe, the trail continues west on North Street. 
Approaching LaHarpe/ Cantrell Road on North Street. My cycling model is the lovely Mrs. JBar, Diane.

It appears that Mayor Mark Stodola has given up on the idea of a grand River Bluffs trail section running along the Arkansas River behind Dillard's Corporate headquarters. Dillard's has apparently consistently refused  to allow the project, and there is little or no interest in or support for it among members of the Little Rock Board of Directors. Stodola is said to be trying to gather support for the idea of designating the sidewalk along the north side on Cantrell as the route of the River Trail. 

 The sidewalk near the Packet House has been widened to allow riders to bypass utility poles that had been centered on the walk,.
Multiple driveways, approach lanes, traffic islands, and rough, off-camber curb crossings make for sketchy riding. 

Though improved, passage along the north side of Cantrell makes for poor riding. The planned connections at either end of the section will certainly approve the approaches, and will eventually allow riders to make their way west from downtown without using Markham Street or crossing LaHarpe and Cantrell. 

The long-term "detour" on the sidewalk in front of ECS is much improved, and I believe that, given the choice, most riders will choose it over the north side of the road.

Without unlikely cooperation from either Dillard's or the ECS interests, the choices are few for routing the River Trail through this densely developed area. Changes of heart or changes in leadership may ultimately allow for a more visionary plan, but it appears we'll be riding sidewalks for the foreseeable future.

The construction of the new Broadway Bridge is going to challenge all types of transportation along both sides of the Arkansas River for the next couple of years. The closing of the present bridge, currently planned for June 2016, will likely create more mayhem than we can imagine. It will be interesting to see if the end result is an improvement or a detriment to our trails system. I'm optimistic that progress will continue with Broadway becoming another viable river crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Questions remain as to what their options will be when they land on the south side of the Arkansas.