On Wednesday, I attended the regular meeting of the Little Rock Bike Friendly Community Committee at the River Market, which is chaired by Ed Levy. I have participated in the NLRBFCC and was curious as to how the two groups compared and I wanted to hear what was being done to "close the loop" on the Little Rock portion of the trail near the Dillard's HQ. I think that by their very nature, the machinations of this kind of volunteer committee is that they can be excruciating for folks accustomed to making decisions and carrying them out. Items are proposed, discussed, tabled, modified, revisited, mulled over, and then eventually dropped or agreed upon, then someone agrees to form a committee or look into T-shirt design or.......whatever. The item is then brought up as old business in the next months business. Almost surprisingly, the process does eventually accomplish things and Ed did a good job of moving through the agenda items. I have no standing with the LRBFCC, so I was there to observe and learn what I could about developments of import to those of us in the cycling community as a whole.
Closing The Loop: Dillard's Trail Section.
Bryan Day, Assistant City Manager, reported on the continuing efforts to complete this section of trail. Though Little Rock's application for a federal Tiger III grant to complete the River Bluff section was rejected, the City still hopes to eventually construct the ambitious project, which would run behind the Dillard's property and be cantilevered over the Arkansas River. Applications for a Tiger IV grant may be presented in March, but federal funds are scant and success in gaining money for this project is a long shot. Funding from other sources will likely be required. That said, the City is moving forward with completion of the plans and will advance with the project as funding allows. The first stage will be to repair washed out section of the Medical Mile trail section and bridge the Union Pacific RR tracks to reach Cantrell Road. This arrangement will, for now, still put cyclists on the sidewalk in front of Dillard's, and the transition back to the trail near the Cantrell viaduct was a little vague.
Automobile traffic connecting to eastbound Cantrell from under the viaduct will be curtailed and the road/trail and bridge over the creek at that location will be improved.
Rebsamen Park Road, 12th Street
Rebsamen Park Road from Overlook to the new roundabout at Riverfront Road is scheduled for repaving this year, with attention to the design and markings of the bike lanes being given close consideration. The road has not been paved in over 20 years and the shoulder "bike lanes" were not constructed for the purpose. The result is a dangerous, difficult to maintain arrangement that often forces riders intent on using bike lanes to instead take to the road to avoid the many hazards. Hopefully, repaving will allow for more viable bike lanes that are better isolated from traffic. Properly done, a revamped Rebsamen Park Road will provide a safer situation for bike commuters and recreational cyclists, reduce bike traffic on the adjacent trail, and reduce conflict with motorists.
There was also a discussion on re-marking a stretch of 12th Street to accommodate bike lanes. I did not get a lot of detail on the endeavor, but it apparently has been on the table for some time and is slated to happen. This may help create an important east-west corridor for bike commuters.
Terry Hastings, speaking for the Little Rock Police Department, reported that a couple of sorry, thieving assholes (my description) had been observed breaking into cars at the Two Rivers Bridge and arrested.
New Route To The River Trail?
Among the agenda items was a proposed path from the Foxcroft area to the River Trail on a route that roughly follows Jimmerson Creek. There has already been a good deal of effort on this project and I'll get some details from the folks directly involved at some point. There are right-of-way concerns and I'm not very familiar with the area, so I'm unsure how this will progress.
How It Happens
It appears to me that Little Rock is gaining some momentum toward becoming more "bike friendly", but that is not just happening by some great inertial force. It is happening because there are folks working on our behalf. That is a very good thing and to be appreciated; however, there are many varied interests within the cycling community and it is important that the conversation is not dominated by one faction or another. The LRBF committee seemed to have a fairly disparate group of riders and a good representation from city government to allow for some balanced discussions and practical problem solving. As slow as progress is with committees, these folks seem to be making some progress.