Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Little Rock City Board Kicks Complete Streets Down The Road

Led by the unlikely pair of city directors Lance Hines and Erma Hendrix, the Little Rock Board of Directors last Thursday voted to put off consideration of the proposed Complete Streets ordinance for at least 90-days.
Understand that the "Complete Streets" ordinance  is not just about bikes. The intent is to compel consideration of all users of the public streets when new streets are built or when significant reconstruction takes place.

WHEREAS, pursuant to Little Rock, Ark. Res. No. 13,675 (April 16, 2013), the Board of Directors 6 stated its desire to adopt a Complete Streets Policy, meaning a policy for all transportation improvement 7 projects within the City of Little Rock, including the construction and reconstruction of public roadways, 8 to accommodate all anticipated users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation users, 9 persons with disabilities, freight haulers, and motorists, and ......

Hines wants to give developers more time to chime in on what is already little more than a watered down resolution,while Hendrix is dead set against anything that has to do with bicycles. Hines does at least does likely have a constituency in the conversation, as most developers seem to react in knee-jerk opposition to anything that would impose additional standards, regardless of the benefit to the community or to their property values. That is understandable, though short-sighted in my view. Hendrix, on the other hand, has oddly decided that accommodations of any type that may benefit cycling are an affront to the African-American community. On the subject of bike lanes for Daisy Bates Drive:

"With it being named for a historic black woman, we don't want bike trails on that street. If I don't respect my color, who will?" Hendrix is quoted as saying.

She then steadfastly refuses to explain her position by saying, "I don't talk about bicycles."
I'm simply confused by her stance.

If you choose to follow the link above and read the proposal, one can see that the ordinance is without teeth and key facets are preceded with qualifiers like,
"As feasible, the City shall incorporate ......"The ordinance then includes a list of exceptions such as perceived excessive cost and possible low usage. In other words, there is not much in the proposal that the anyone can actually be held to, and Little Rock famously allows exceptions for just about any kind of development that comes along. A drive along the Highway 10/Cantrell Road corridor is a prime example of how Little Rock handles a good plan.From Imagine Central Arkansas The Highway 10 Scenic Corridor design overlay district is the result of visionary citizens in the 1980s making a great plan for the orderly development of Highway 10 in Little Rock (a/k/a west Cantrell Road). The goal is to keep this area pleasant for all those who travel it, whether they be residents or traveling to Pinnacle Mtn, Lake Maumelle, etc. It's the law in Little Rock (Code Section 36-343 through 36-348). Many of LR's current city planners, administrators and Board members ignore it, siding with developers by granting exceptions to the law.... 
Little Rock has been trying for several years to shape a Complete Streets policy that will be palatable to developers and, subsequently, to the City Board. One driver for adoption of the policy is that the City is striving to earn "Bicycle Friendly Community" status as awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. Little Rock has applied in each of the last several years and has garnered, at best, an honorable mention. Among the requisites are the adoption of a Bicycle Master Plan, which the City has done, and a Complete Streets policy.

For those who fear that adoption of such policies would be a hindrance to growth, I would point to the Arkansas cities that have earned recognition from the League. They are North Little Rock, Conway, Bentonville, and Fayetteville. I don't think that you could name another four cities in our fair State that have seen more positive development in recent years.
Little Rock continues to be stymied by a city government that thinks small and suffers from a lack of leadership. That's unfortunate, as we have had visionary leadership in both North Little Rock and Pulaski County governments in recent decades, while Little Rock seems satisfied to be pulled along for the ride.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Weathering The Spell* plus updated Sportsman Pass option

*or, The art of avoiding depression when the weather sucks.

The recent spell of winter weather has kept most folks off of the bike. For the most part, I have been among them. I'll ride in the cold, but I avoid riding in the rain and I sure as hell avoid riding in the cold rain. Add a demanding workload, even with the slightly longer days, I have not been able to manage anything in the way of after work rides. Even headlights, warm gear, and the promise of post-ride satisfaction won't get me out after dark in a cold drizzle.

Last Saturday's forecast gave me hope of getting in some quality time in the saddle, but I needed to ride early and the predicted early morning temperature was in the teens, rising into the low 30's over the course of the day. That is manageable on the road bike, but it is quite comfortable on the mountain bike, so it was off to Camp Robinson! I haven't spent nearly enough time on the dirt this winter, so  I was overdue, anyway.
Our Willie dog doesn't even raise his head when I get on the road bike. He's learned there's nothing in that for him, but as soon as I pick up my hydration pack, he goes on high alert. That usually means a mountain bike ride and he loves to run the trails at Camp. With the exception of squirrel forays, he runs ahead of me, usually at a pretty steady pace, though I think I have caught him checking me up on the downhills before bolting to drop me on the following climbs. In other words, he behaves much like everybody else that I ride with.

Willie is an impatient ride partner. In spite of the fact that he's been lax in his training, he ran 9 miles and was ready for more.

The trail surfaces were hard packed and clean. Most of the creek surfaces were firm, as well.
 Even with temperatures in the mid-20s, the combination of low speeds, shelter from the wind, and the interval-like efforts of mountain biking, it was a very comfortable ride. The hard part is convincing yourself that it will be OK once you get out the door.
 It's hard to find trail conditions better than this, anywhere.
The trail conditions at Camp were superb, thanks to the many hours of work done by volunteers like Basil Hicks and the fine folks of the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance. Water crossings have been hardened (and I don't mean frozen, in this case) , bridges have been built and trail have been rerouted to more sustainable paths. I will confess that I have not been paying my work-in-kind dues this year. I have done a bit of leaf blowing and brush whacking in the past, but my small efforts pale in comparison to the job that has been done over the last couple of seasons. I stuck the higher ground, so the trails were dry for the most part, and frozen elsewhere. The sun was starting to thaw the surfaces as we finished up, resulting in a little mud.

When I moved Willie from the driver's seat to the backseat of the truck, I discovered that his belly was caked in frozen mud, earning him the new rap name of Icy Mudflap.
Riding at Camp Robinson
I don't know the current trail mileage at Camp, but I'm guessing 35-40 miles. Difficulty ranges from easy to "someday I'll get up that without getting off of the bike." Camp Robinson is an active military facility and you must obtain a Sportsman Pass to ride (or hunt, fish, etc). Things have become a little easier on that front, in that passes are available at the main gate visitor center from 10-6 Monday through Saturday. They cost 25.00 and exact cash is required. Save yourself some frustration and make sure that you have correct change, along with your drivers license, auto registration, and proof of insurance. After you have a pass, it is a simple matter of signing into the log book upon arrival and signing out when you leave. You will need to show your ID and pass at the gate.

My friend Joe Jacobs at arkansasoutside.com reports that Camp now offers a $5.00 3-day pass, thanks to the efforts of the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance. This is great news!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Central Arkansas Update-

The BACA meeting that took place Tuesday, January 6, produced some good information and discussion with representatives of three key entities within central Arkansas; those being Pulaski County, the City of Little Rock, and the City of North Little Rock. Here are a few key observations:

Pulaski County

Though Judge Barry Hyde reminded us that he had only been on the job for two days, he seemed to have a good command of the current state of things. He spoke briefly about what led him to run for County Judge, his experience in the state legislature and in business as a successful general contractor, and his broad goals for his tenure as judge.
First, let me say that Hyde is a rider. I've never been out on the bike with him, but I heard through some of our common business associates a couple of years ago that Barry had started riding. That fact is important to us, as he knows first-hand the value of out trail infrastructure, and has also experienced some of our shared frustrations with trail maintenance and things like the "tack attacks", having fallen victim to "about 40 tacks" in his tires on one otherwise fine day.

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde preparing to hand out maps of the new Crystal Hill Road trail link to Maumelle.
This 14' wide trail along Crystal Hill Road will join the Maumelle trail project and intersect Maumelle Blvd just west of I-430.
Hyde pointed out that a new trail section joining the River Trail to the newly expanded Maumelle Trail system was already planned and funded under Judge Buddy Villines. The trail junctures at I-430 are still sketchy due to the on/off ramps and heavy traffic, but the new route will help cyclists safely avoid the heavily travelled Maumelle Blvd.
The new judge touched on a number of topics. His top priority is public safety and resolution of the long-running issue of overcrowding at the Pulaski County jail. He pointed out the value of the River Trail system in bringing industry and talent to the area, saying, "Smart, young people want to live in a cool place...." and things like the trail system and bike infrastructure  are highly valued when it comes to making a decision about where people want to live.
While Hyde pointed out that his primary responsibilities lie outside of the Incorporated areas of the county, county government is responsible to all of the citizens of the county. He said that he was disappointed that a means of completing the Arkansas River Trail near Dillard's and the Episcopal Collegiate School had not come about, and that he would "encourage" completion. He was careful not to assign any blame, and was positive in his comments. He is, after all, an elected official, and much of his success will come through cooperation with the City of Little Rock and its civic and business leaders.
Barry Hyde had my support in the recent election, and I look forward to seeing him in action as judge. I know through some business dealing that he can be passionate and willful, but he is also thoughtful and willing to listen. The shoes of Judge Buddy Villines will be hard to fill, but I am hopeful that Judge Barry Hyde will provide good results with his own brand of leadership.
The City Of Little Rock
LR Bike-Ped Coordinator Jeremy Levno brought us up to date on activity on the south side of the river.
Jeremy asked Little Rock residents to contact their city directors ahead of the scheduled January 20th vote on a Complete Streets policy.
Little Rock has failed thus far in its efforts to gain Bike Friendly Community status as awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. Despite real progress and strong Bike Friendly Community Committee composed of citizens and city staffers, applications are pretty much a waste of time until the City adopts a Complete Streets policy. In general, a Complete Streets policy requires the city and developers to evaluate the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and any other non-motorized transportation and and include accommodations for those users. This could mean sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic calming measures, or multi use trails. While such accommodations are proven to increase property values in adjacent areas and enhance the quality of life for the tax paying citizens who use them, there is a knee-jerk reaction among most developers and some politicians that this is somehow a bad thing.
Little Rock recently reduced the number of traffic lanes and added a bike lane on a portion of Louisiana Street downtown as part of the Bicycle Master Plan to create safe routes throughout the city. The implementation was based on extensive traffic studies and many months of discussion and planning. Unfortunately, it was not communicated well to some local business owners and there was appreciable backlash and confusion. Traffic managers went back to work to improve on signage and lane delineation, and things have calmed on that front.
There is also a plan to create bike lanes and traffic calming measures on Daisy Bates Drive. Little Rock City Director Erma Hendrix has somehow decided that bike lanes are a racial issue, as if Little Rock did not have enough real racially divisive issues.
You can read some of the discussion here on ArkansasMatters.com.
"With it being named for a historic black woman, we don't want bike trails on that street. If I don't respect my color, who will?" Hendrix is quoted as saying.
All I can say to that is, "HUH?" Bike lanes get people out of their cars and in touch with their communities. I simply cannot fathom how she has decided to make this a racial dividing line, as the central Arkansas cycling community is one in which people simply get along, regardless of race, and there are large numbers of African American riders among both recreational riders and cyclists who use bikes for basic transportation.
Ms. Hendrix is guilty of stereotyping her constituency and cyclists, groups that are not mutually exclusive. I'm not sure if her words were spoken thoughtlessly or if her political worth depends on divisiveness, making her position more calculated and all the more disappointing. In any event, the City has backed off of plans to implement it own Master Plan, apparently out of fear of Hendrix, as the plan was apparently supported by most residents of the area and by entities like Philander Smith College, the Quapaw Quarter Association, and the principal of Central High School. I guess if Ms. Hendrix's goal is to stop progress and maintain the status quo in her district, then she has been successful for the moment. This goes down as another disappointing chapter, albeit a small one, in Little Rock's efforts to show itself to be a progressive city.
North Little Rock
 Burns Park Ranger Ian Hope reported that the NLR Bike Friendly Community Committee is reforming with Alderman Charlie Hight as the chair. Willa Williams had been leading the committee, but her position was dependent on a grant and funding ran out last fall. Thanks go to Willa for a job well done.
Ian Wanted to remind riders of the traffic pattern at Championship and Tournament Drives in Burns Park. Riders passing on the River Trail through from either direction have yield signs, while cars heading toward the river and turning left or right have the right-of-way. Riders usually blow through and cars almost always stop, but REMEMBER, at this location the through traffic is to yield. I know it is frustrating to yield, only to have cars stop and wave you through when they have the right-of-way.
This is a poorly designed intersection and the present signage came about as folks attempting to reach the launch ramp had to sit through long streams of soccer moms exiting the park during tournaments. Feel free to complain about the signs, but obey them for your own safety.
Arkansas River Trail Task Force
Rob Stephens spoke about the 911 location markers along the trail, and the implementation of the system. A few of the trail markers have been found to have come loose, while others seem to have been pried up and taken as souvenirs. The medallions are affixed with epoxy and plans are to find a more secure means of attachment.
Rob hinted at a fresh Arkansas River Trail System project that would take advantage of some existing designated routes. He likes to quietly go about doing his homework before he goes public, but I know that he has got some things simmering that will  be welcomed by the cycling community. Stephens and the ARTTF operate under the auspices of Metroplan and do a whole lot more for our benefit than most people realize.

Monday, January 5, 2015

BACA Meeting Tuesday Night-Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde.

From BACA:
Don't forget to join us tomorrow evening for the BACA Quarterly General Meeting at US Pizza in Hillcrest at 6:30.
Our new Pulaski County Judge, Barry Hyde, will be there to introduce himself. He has some big shoes to fill so come and introduce yourself and show him how important cycling is in Central Arkansas. We will also be discussing Little Rock’s Complete Streets Ordinance, which after much delay, is finally coming up for a vote in January. And 2015 is the year... of Close the Loop! Come enjoy good food and good friends and help us continue to build a safer Central Arkansas for cyclists!

Pack the house for Barry Hyde. Barry is a cyclist but he needs to see that we are an important constituency.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Miles- Another Year On The Bike

Well, another year has come and gone, and many of us compulsive types are evaluating our year on the bike. For a lot of folks, that may include finishing times in events like the BDB or Tour de Rock as we  measure our progress or lack thereof. For others, race results might define the year, but for every rider who is counting anything, a tally of total miles is a factor in defining the annual body of work.
Any time you get a bunch of riders together this time of year, you'll hear discussions on the subject. When somebody asks you, 'How many miles did you ride?", it is usually a prelude to them telling you how many miles they rode, especially if they are pretty sure they rode more than you .
So, before we go any further, "How many miles did you ride?"

Riding a bunch of miles is usually a good thing, but is possible to let mileage goals become the master of your ride plans. I've always claimed that my mileage is just history and I mostly let the chips fall where they may. That said, I'll admit that I did not want to end the year with 5947 miles, so I wandered around the River Trail for 54 miles on New Years Eve with temperatures in the mid-30s. I had taken a day of vacation so I started mid-morning, stopped in to the Heifer Village Cafe for a flatbread turkey melt, and got home in plenty of time for a football overdose that left me snoozing on the couch. It was far from being an epic ride but, being a numbers guy, I felt that I had accomplished something, however unimportant.
Big Miles: Chasing a phantom
When I started riding, a neighbor took me under his wing and taught me a lot about riding on the road. He also happened to be a guy who road an incredible number of miles and who rode almost every day, being an early retiree. I couldn't match his schedule, but by his example I started racking up some miles. It took me a while to figure out that my mentor was a bit of a freak. Another buddy, who we will call Mr. T, was a long time rider, and was taken aback one January at my answer when somebody online asked what my mileage goal was for the year. I hadn't even thought about it, but responded that I didn't have a goal but figured I'd ride around 5000 miles. My phone soon rang. It was Mr. T with the question of, "Do you know what kind of a commitment 5000 miles is?"  No commitment at all, I said, just an extrapolation of a 100 mile per week average, which was about what I was maintaining over the winter. 

After that Mr. T asked me frequently about my mileage. We had always been somewhat competitive, but I was a newbie on the bike and I happily shared my numbers. I finally caught on in June when he blurted, "I don't care how many miles you ride. I'm going to ride more." I won't say that I was shocked, but I will say that my response was, "OK, I'm not going to tell you my mileage, anymore."  Did I mention that Mr. T and I were a bit competitive?
From that point, we were playing a game of blind man's bluff. I just kept on riding, and got occasional reports from mutual friends that Mr. T was racking up some big miles, soon surpassing my efforts, though he didn't know that. I had conceded shortly after we started, but I found that a mutual friend had been feeding Mr. T bogus information concerning my accumulated mileage. "I saw Mr. T the other day and he asked me how many miles you had. I told him around 6000...", or 7000 or whatever he knew would serve as a poke at that time. Mr. T chased that ghost right up to New Year's Eve and rode over 9000 miles for the year, tripling his biggest previous year. He also didn't get back on his bike for a couple of months. He had chased the fun out of riding. That was my first full calendar year on the bike and I finished with around 8300 miles, still my biggest year to date, but I was also still in love with the bike.
Riding your bike is supposed to include fun!
If there are points in that story, they are that you shouldn't let an arbitrary goal drive the enjoyment out of your ride, and that you only really win a competition if somebody else is in the race. That's not to say that goals are bad or that all rides are going to be fun. Suffering on the bike is part of the drill if you want to get better, but if you find that you dread more rides than you are enjoying, it's time to re-evaluate.
More Miles Don't Equal "Better"
Sure, you've got to ride to improve your performance. I've been pretty consistent in riding about 6000 miles per year since I started riding 10 years ago. I've ridden over 7000 a couple of times and under 6000 once. My typical rides involve cruising the River Trail and getting out on the road with a few friends for longer rides. Some are harder than others, but few qualify as training for anything more than going out and logging a bunch of miles. If you want to race or drop everybody on the big climbs, you need to add some structure and intensity. That's called training, and it's usually not as much fun as riding. My mileage prepares me perfectly for riding around in circles on the River Trail. Racking up a lot of miles just means that you ride consistently, not that you're a badass.

Sorry, your trainer miles don't count.

I had this conversation recently with a rider who had logged a very respectable year on the bike, but he included a few thousand "trainer miles" in his total. It may be on your Garmin, but if you can't map it, it's not a ride. It's training.

Here's a fake Bob Dylan with a few words about trainer miles.The Spanish Bob Dylan tribute band is as real as miles logged on the trainer, but more entertaining. Here's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"

PS: It's also bad form to refer to a 62-mile ride as a "century" unless the word is preceded with "metric".

Go ride your bike, log your miles, and check back with me next year. If you come up to me around New Year's Day and ask, "How many miles did you get?", I'll assume that you rode more than 6000, but I'll bite, anyway.  "About 6000. You?"

Monday, December 29, 2014

Along The Trail: Pot Luck

A lot of folks are taking some time off over the Christmas and New Year holidays and, for many of us, time off of work means some time for the bike. Daylight is a precious commodity this time of year, and not to be wasted, even if sunshine has been hard to come by.
Staying in town for a day off during the week has a different feel than a weekend or an out-of-town vacation. Your spouse may have to get up and go to work or customers may call, but you've got the freedom to have another cup of coffee and finish the newspaper. It always reminds me a little bit of a day skipping school.

On those days off, I seldom ride with an agenda, but I always get great pleasure from dropping in for lunch somewhere. I don't leave my bike on the street out of my sight, so security is a consideration for me. Many places don't mind a bit if you simply bring your bike in and lean it in some out-of-the way place, while others have a place in sight where you can lock up.

Cafe@Heifer Village   is a great choice. I'm a bit of a regular at Heifer. They have daily specials, good salads and soup, and a burger that is among the best in town. There is a bike rack near the back door and it is visible from both inside and from the outside dining area. It is also isolated from the street and pedestrian traffic, making a lock largely unnecessary.
Wheel around to the back door of the Heifer Cafe.

It's easy to keep an eye on your bike while enjoying some really good food.
Diamond Bear on North Broadway, NLR, is easily accessible from the River Trail, has some good pub fare, local brew, and bikes racks near the door. I really like the atmosphere at Diamond Bear- friendly staff, good service, big screen TVs for sports, and just a good vibe.

If you're a hop-head, try the Willie's IPA.
It would be a travesty for me to say that beer and bikes don't mix, so I'll say impairment and bikes don't mix. I don't want to encourage irresponsible behavior.
Of course, there are many other places to choose from, such as the Capital Hotel, which offers the only bike valet service that I know of, Muggs and Cregeen's on Main in NLR,  Boulevard Bread in the River Market and on South Main just to name a few I've tried.

A small cafe lock easily fits into a jersey or vest pocket and offers sufficient security for low-risk parking spots. It won't stop a determined thief, but will prevent your bike from becoming a target of opportunity.
Cold, grey days and rain have been discouraging many of us from racking up the year-end miles, but on the cold days, the hardest part is just making yourself get out the door.

If you enjoy open spaces and uncrowded conditions, pick a cloudy day in the 30's.

The Mello Velos were out in force. I suggest that friends don't let friends ride in shorts when it is 34 degrees.
On days like last Sunday, I recognize almost every rider I see out on the River Trail. Most of us are just out there alone knocking out some miles, and you will see a few twos and threes sharing tales of lost fitness and over eating. I was only a little surprised to see the Mello Velos gathering at the submarine as I neared the end of my ride.
The MVs have a good thing going on in terms of supporting riders of all levels, being involved in local events, and having fun off the bike with some nice social activities. The group is a little different from many in that they have a fairly formal structure and the rides are 'members only' for purposes of insurance. They allow for a 'test ride' and then request that you pay dues and join if you want stay Mello.
Retro: It's OK, you can call me a Girl.
Back in the days of the legendary Fast Girls/Slow Guys rides, there was a conscious decision made that there would be no members, no charter, no rules, and no officers. It was "Fast, Fun and Friendly" and, damn, did we have some fun! The group was originally a few friends who started riding every spring in preparation for the Hotter'n'Hell 100. When I ran across them, there were usually 10-12 cyclists on a ride, but things soon blew up. The BDB was under construction and a lot of folks were discovering riding on the River Trail.
In 2006, the Fast Girls were a force.
 We weren't about racing, though many of the group went on to compete. We were mostly hard riding intermediates who simply loved riding our bikes together. Nobody wanted to be a Slow Guy, so we were all Fast Girls.
The Tuesday and Thursday night rides grew to 50 or more riders and it was a hard bunch to control, but I don't think I ever saw a serious crash in or caused by the group. We respected one another and other trail users, though some folks chose to flee in fear of the sheer weight of numbers. Trail use has grown and evolved since those days, but much of what we learned became protocol for later group rides on the trail.
Mixed Message: Loose Gravel- Haul Ass

The sign says you need to go faster.
There was some much needed resurfacing of parts of the Two Rivers Park trails recently, but I couldn't help but be amused by these signs.
Folks, the days are getting longer, and if the sun ever comes out again, you will be able to tell. I'll be seeing you along the trail.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Out On The Road- Situational Awareness

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Situation awareness is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and/or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or riding a bicycle.

OK, the definition above is accurate, though it took a while. Here's a shorter version:
"knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do" (Adam, 1983)

or, even shorter:
"paying attention" (JBar 2014)

Situational awareness is vital when riding a bike, especially on the road. A rider needs to be aware of the position of other riders, automobile traffic, intersections of side roads, dogs coming off a porch, pot holes, the condition of his bike, and often even wind strength and direction or the position of the sun, among many other things.

Of course, I'm leading up to something; in this event, a moment of danger and fear brought on by an aggressive driver and a lack of situational awareness by another rider.
I was riding west on Pinnacle Valley Road on a slight uphill stretch before the hill near the Pinnacle Visitor Center. Up ahead, I noticed a couple of riders, one 50 yards or so in front of the other, descending the hill as an SUV decided to pass them. The lead rider was in the center of the lane, sitting up, coasting and drifting a bit, seemingly oblivious to the passing car, a Toyota FJ Cruiser. As a result the driver kept moving further in to my lane until he blew by me a what I'd guess to be 60-65 MPH and about 3 feet away. I was at the white line, ready to rake to the ditch. At that moment, I suspended the JBar E.R.P. (Expletive Reduction Program). 3-feet may be legally considered safe passing distance, but stand on the edge of the freeway and see how safe you feel as cars pass at highway speed. Ok, don't do that. It's very dangerous.

There is obviously not enough room for cars to pass among cyclists traveling in both directions on this road, but it happens every day on Pinnacle Valley Road. We can't make them drive better, but riders can help out by paying attention.

To the driver:
Was it really worth it to put us all at risk to pass those two riders in the face of oncoming traffic (that would be me!) in order to save a very few seconds? The speed limit is 35-MPH and the rider was likely going 25. And, in spite of the fact that you likely consider yourself to be a highly skilled driver of a finely tuned road machine, I consider you to be a dumbass in a truck. Please give me a little more room. I don't trust you.

To the cyclist:
You apparently don't ride on the road much. Especially this road, which is often crowded with bikes and cranky local drivers who don't like or respect cyclists. When some a-hole roars up behind you on a narrow road with no shoulder, it is considered expedient to move as far to the right as is practicable. It is also expedient to have looked far enough ahead to realize that an oncoming cyclist is approaching as the dumbass in the truck is passing you, and that you should do us all a favor by not taking the whole freakin' lane and holding your line.

Failing to exercise situational awareness on the bike can result in consequences ranging from an ill-advised pace line snot rocket to a catastrophic head-on with a speeding truck, none of which are good. Either of the above examples are likely to see you left out of the next group ride.

Exercise some situational awareness. Please.


Getting Over The Hump- Winter Solstice

Today marks the shortest day of the year. Though it is technically the first day of winter, I have a hard time seeing it that way. For the next six months, the days will get progressively longer and, though much of our coldest weather lies ahead of us, the ride opportunities will get better day by day.

Hang in there!

Even a hint of warmth can bring out the crowds this time of year.
...and sunshine brings out everybody!

We have plenty of winter ahead of us, but my attitude simply gets better after the solstice.

Druids and Pagans. Do you think they all ride single-speeds?

The druids and pagans may chant and dance at Stonehenge to mark the solstice, but here in Arkansas, I took a celebratory ride to the Pinnacle State Park Visitor Center. The sun was shining and there were Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches in the Center's freezer. Even on a chilly day, that can make a bike rider dream of the coming spring.

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.