There was a round of e-mails, a meeting and a whole lot of discussion after an article about construction of the west ramp of the BDB on the Arkansas Times blog brought out the usual comments blasting riders. There were actually some very reasonable and balanced comments, especially mine, of course, but there was some of the standard "ban bikes", "rude cyclists", "wasted tax dollar" rhetoric. I'll discuss this more as time goes on, but let me say that the powers-that-be in North Little Rock are hearing the complaints. Crowds haven't been a problem on the NLR trails of late, as hot weather had already left most of our trail miles virtually unused and the opening of Two Rivers Bridge has caused an exodus to the west. I think most of the people who complain about trail traffic head out on those precious beautiful sunny Saturday afternoons, when it's warm, but not too hot, and expect to have things to themselves. Happiness often requires reasonable expectations.
This photo was taken around 5:30 on Tuesday evening, peak ride time. I saw fewer than a dozen people between Burns Park and the BDB. If you want solitude, go out any time it's over about 95 degrees. Even when conditions are primo, you can pretty much have things to yourself on Friday and Sunday evenings.
Some folks will bitch if they have to share any resource with others, but let's make it a point to not give more reasonable people cause to complain. In my mind, that doesn't have to mean that we have to ride the trail at 12 MPH ringing our bells, but we all need to be very aware of how the actions of a few rude riders can shape the opinions of many people. It's funny that I never see letters from riders complaining about the rude 4-wide walkers, long-leash dog owners, and out-of-control children. We're just a tolerant lot, I guess. Be polite and friendly and perhaps some of that tolerance will rub off. I think the vast majority of trail users are among the "silently satisfied", but nobody can hear us smile, though I do appreciate comments like these:
I've said it here before, and I'll repeat it here -- Burns Park's MTB trails, and the River Trail and its bridges, played a huge role in my family moving here. My tax-paying, public-school attending, local-business-supporting family, that is.
I'm an IT professional and moved out here about 2 years back from San Francisco. If it weren't for the Rivertrail and likeminded projects I would have taken my talents elsewhere. I love Arkansas and Arkansans, but if I can't ride my bike and enjoy recreation then I'm not living.
Near sunset, from the Big Dam Bridge. We have a "destination quality" ride right here at home. There is a reason that most River Trail patrons are a satisfied bunch.
Natural Wonders: Two Fawns and One Jackass
Thursday evening, as I rode up the LR side of the Big Dam Bridge, I noticed a few folks looking off the bridge toward the woods. I assumed they were looking at a deer, which are an everyday sight at some points on the trail, but I slowed to take a peek, anyway. I was right about the deer, but these turned out to be a couple of still-dappled fawns, nibbling on a bit of grass for several minutes before settling into the tall grass and becoming near-invisible.
The fawns seemed indifferent to the presence of a small crowd of onlookers. I assumed their mother was nearby, but more wary.
This little guy seemed delighted.
Scenes like this, in the heart of the city, help define our unique trail system.
And, now to the jackass. All of us who regularly ride the Big Dam Bridge have seen some examples of folks who just don't have a clue. They might be walkers, riders or rickshaw drivers, but you know what I'm talking about. Well, Wednesday evening as a buddy and I rode toward home down the NLR side of the bridge, at the spot on the bridge where sight distances are least and the gradient is at its maximum, some damn fool was down in the middle of the lane doing push ups. Head downhill, huffing away in his cutoff fatigues. It's the closest thing to a blind spot on the BDB, and there was some traffic on the bridge. Bless his soul if he is military and doing PT for deployment somewhere, but I didn't get that impression from his disregard for self-preservation. I can't think of a good reason to do push ups there, but then again, we occasionally hear about folks falling asleep on railroad tracks. One makes about as much sense as the other.
Pinnacle Valley Bike Paths: Premature Celebration
I guess I jumped the gun on celebrating completion of the new bike paths on Pinnacle Valley Road to Maumelle Park. Some areas still suddenly run onto gravel, the path is very narrow and it snakes abruptly around obstacles at a couple of points. The trail is not completed for its full length, so hopefully most of the glitches will be ironed out as the job progresses.
I'm sure this utility cut will be repaired, but for now it's a hazard. This is on the west side of the road.
On the east side of the road, there are several places where the trail came up short at crossings, like this one at Beck Road.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this project will look when it is complete, as it is will greatly enhance safety along this narrow stretch of road, but for now I don't advise riding it. If you choose to use the path on your road bike, take it slow and be prepared to stop and dismount.
It looks like the jungle heat is leaving us for a few days, so get out there and ride!
And smile while you're doing it, please.