Monday, June 7, 2010

In Context: Riverfest Follow-up and Getting More Stuff

First, I'd like to once again thank David Fike of River Trail Station for providing the opportunity for bike parking at Riverfest and to apologize for getting his name wrong in the article below (since corrected).

Prior to Riverfest, there was fairly harsh criticism of the event organizers in some circles for not being "bike friendly" in that bikes were prohibited from entering the festival. That prohibition made sense to me, as we attended Friday night and it was often difficult to find a place to put a foot to the ground, much less maneuver a bike. Bike parking was provided by David on the north side of the river and I heard that BACA was providing parking on the Little Rock side. I'm not sure if the BACA facility was used, but David reports that no riders took advantage of parking at his place.
As crowded as it was generally, the Earth, Wind and Fire show on Friday was absolutely packed. We had enjoyed Cross Canadian Ragweed and stopped in to catch a little of EWF. We were near the back, but still had a hell of a time just getting out of the crowd to leave, so I was surprised to meet a couple of riders, astraddle their road bikes and in full kit, enjoying the show from the edge of the packed venue. I asked them if they'd had any hassle getting in with their bikes and the response was "no problem".
I was even more surprised as I attempted to ride through the NLR Riverfront Park on my way out west at 7:30 Saturday morning and was told ,"no bikes allowed", at a time when the only people in the park were sleepy-eyed volunteers getting geared up for the day.
As we work toward the acceptance of bikes as mainstream transportation, I feel that we should pick our battles carefully and, in my opinion, fighting for bike access to events like Riverfest should likely be low on the list. The Central Arkansas bike community is growing in size and breadth. The Big Dam Bridge and much of the NLR trail system work has come as the result of visionary leadership that saw the possibilities of the long term projects and had the political capital to make them happen; however, most improvement projects come about as the result of the inadequacy of existing structure. As more of us ride, the work of providing more bike infrastructure for everyday use can be demanded and politically justified. Projects cost money, so, support businesses who are bike friendly, thank the folks if they let you bring your bike in and chat with them if you visit while off the bike.  Whenever I go to Cregeen's or the Argenta Market, I always take my bike inside and have never been told I couldn't take my bike in anywhere except the River Market. I'm recognized as a customer whether I'm in business clothes or sweaty kit and they gladly accept my money either way. Nonriders are less likely to voice opposition to bike projects if they know their friends and neighbors ride. Having watched some things move through the NLR ciy council, I have been surprised at how influential a few vocal "aginners" can be. Let folks know that you ride a bike, and it helps if your alderman or council member knows that there are cyclists in their ward or district. We're making progress and there are more good things coming, and nothing moves politicians to spend money like the voices of voters. I'm looking forward to having facilities to support cyclists, whether they are riding to Riverfest or riding to work or to the local grocery. As the hash hounds say, "On, On"

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