I started with the Clinton Park Bridge, which is always mellow, occupied mostly by strolling walkers whose eyes are often drawn from the scenery to the list of donors etched into the concrete at their feet. A few cyclists pass through, but one seldom encounters long-leashed dog walkers, unsupervised kids, or mad dog bikers on the CPB.
I recommend the Clinton Park Bridge for those folks who might complain about the behavior of fellow users on the BDB or Two Rivers Bridge. It's very civilized.
Upon leaving Clinton Park, finding the best way through the River Market is often a little puzzling for me due to the intersecting sidewalks and driveways, but as long as you don't ride down any stairs, you'll likely end up on the Medical Mile. Unfortunately, we soon encounter some of Little Rock's challenges.
The washed out section of trail beyond this gate is soon to be repaired, but then what?
A couple of years ago, a section of the dead-end Medical Mile trail section washed into the Arkansas River. Since it didn't really go anywhere anyway, there was no rush to repair the damage. Now, the city has plans to rebuild the trail and to build a bridge over the Union Pacific tracks, somehow connecting to Cantrell Road. From there, the picture of a route along Cantrell becomes less clear.
The Medical Mile ends just to the right of this view, and Dillard's data center is to the left. It would be handy if this structure, which I assume to have been a rail crossing, could be recycled as a bike bridge.
Once over the tracks, planners face more obstacles.
After finding a way around mid-sidewalk utility poles, a route along Cantrell will have to co-exist with Dillard's traffic.
The closer I look, the more appreciation I have for the difficulties involved in getting a bike path or lane through this stretch, and even on this quiet Sunday afternoon, I feared riding in the Cantrell Road traffic lanes. In an effort to grasp the big picture, I resorted to the ultimate big picture resource, Google Earth.
Dillard's HQ appears at the top of this view, and Cathedral School occupies the center triangle.
It seems clear that a route paralleling the tracks around the Cathedral School property would be most practical, but I'm told that this solution is a political impossibility. School interests apparently fear the social element that a bicycle-pedestrian path could bring to the culture rich location. This is an impasse that needs to be resolved for the good of the community as a whole.
Do it for the children!
I came across this crack team of small experts as they made their way along the sidewalk at Cantrell and LaHarpe. They had attentive leadership and maintained very good ride order.Many less confident riders find this stretch to be daunting. These guys deserve some trail through here.
Among the items discussed at the Little Rock Bike Friendly Committee meeting, were a proposal to reduce traffic lanes on Riverfront Drive in order to create wider, more safe lanes for cyclists and pedestrians, and the promise of repaving Rebsamen Park Road from Riverfront to the Big Dam Bridge.
The idea has been put forth to put the traffic lanes on Riverfront on a "road diet", resulting in wider, presumedly safer, bike lanes.
Rebsamen Park Road from the Big Dam Bridge to the new traffic circle at the interesection with Riverfront is due to get a much-needed repaving.
I hope to not be redundent as I revisit some bike advocacy issues, but part of my self-appointed role here is to help keep you informed about the progress and politics of things that will affect us over time as riders. I'll express my opinions, but hope that you form your own and express them to city leaders and to representitives of BACA and entities like the Little Rock and NLR Bike Friendly Community Committees. I think that recreational and sport riders are underrepresented in bike advocacy circles, so speak up!
I'll now get back to the Sunday tour aspect of this article! I'm finding it interesting how the three bridges and their surroundings seem to be taking on individual personalities. I have already mentioned the Clinton Park Bridge, where you're more likely to see thoughtful types attired in casual slacks and looking pensive than a pack of club cyclists. Two Rivers Bridge has definitely become the place for casual exercise walkers, big family gaggles, long-leashed dogs, multi-child strollers, sky gazing bird-watching wanderers, training wheels, skates, scooters, and just plain stopped and standers. For cyclists, patience, disregard for average speed, and a "just passing through" attitude make up the best plan at Two Rivers.
Two Rivers Bridge and Park make a great passage to get to the open roads west of town, but it's no place for speedsters.
The Big Dam Bridge and the trail sections reaching from it seem to remain the center of activity for more serious riders, runners and other active recreational users. There will still be a large mixed crowd on the approaching spring days, but the shorter Two Rivers Bridge will help draw the gridlock crowds from the BDB.
When I saw this rider's jersey, I was unsure whether I was witnessing a jail break or a piece of performance art as he became a part of the geometry of rail and shadows. Perhaps he just liked the jersey, but I found that to be unlikely and much less fun.
That just about brings the story of the Sunday tour to a close. It was mostly a recreational field trip, but I wanted to throw in a little information gathering on current bike advocacy issues along the way. It was a lot of fun and I learned some things. That's the nature of a field trip.