The Arkansas River Trail Task Force recently enlisted UALR to conduct a survey of trail user. I received partial results of the survey and, while interesting, the responses that I was given access to contained little in the way of surprises. The fact that I only saw the results of the survey participants who logged in through JBar Cycling probably has much to do with the predictability of the views expressed. At 206 respondents, JBar Cycling readers represented the largest group of survey takers, followed by the Little Rock Marathon training group. It is safe to say that the vast majority of the folks who read this blog and who would respond to the survey are cyclists who regularly share the River Trail, and that position was verified within the results. After gathering some basic demographic information such as gender, age, etc, trail users were asked to respond to questions regarding frequency of use, access points, most commonly used trail sections, purpose of trail use, etc. After those questions, the structure of the questions became multiple choice, with answers quantified on a scale of 1-5, excellent to poor, or very important to not important, etc., depending on the question being asked.
While I was asked not to publish the survey results, I can give you some insights into the responses. Keep in mind that these are only the surveys that came through JBar Cycling.
78% of the survey takers were male. It's obvious that I need to try to broaden the appeal of my blog! Perhaps I'll start a fashion feature.
94% lived in Central Arkansas
45% ride the RT 2-3 times per week
25% ride 4-6 times per week and 3% ride daily Yep, these are my kind of folks!
For 64%, the average ride was 1-2 hours in duration.
97% reported that the River trail is VERY Important for the activity of cycling. 44% gave the same importance to running/jogging and 34% rated the trail as Very Important for walking/hiking.
Other activities included in this question included rollerblading, pet walking, horseback riding.
Ratings of the trail's importance to activities ranged from "Very important" to "Not Important" to "I Do Not Do This Activity". Cyclists obviously place a very high value on the River Trail.
86.4% used the trail for exercise and fitness training activities. Only 4% use the trail primarily for commuting. Again, keep in mind that most of my readers are recreational cyclists and that will be reflected in the responses.
When asked to identify most frequently ridden trail sections, 56% indicated that they ride the entire trail loop.
Cook's Landing was listed as the most popular access point at 30%. I was kind of surprised by that, but several other points got double-digit responses.
Here are some of the questions and somewhat filtered feedback:
How would you rate the Infrastructure/maintenance/operations of the trail in regard to the section of the trail you use most often?
Response to this question was mostly very good. The range of responses included:
Excellent Good Neutral Fair Poor
In combining the "Excellent" and "Good" responses,
"Riding surface" got 88% positive, and "Trail Grooming" rated 81% positive.
The biggest numbers in the "Fair" and "Poor" categories were "Availability of drinking water" at 36%,
and lighting at 26%. Most folks are either happy or neutral with the status quo.
How would you rate the safety and security along the trail in regard to the section of the trail you use most often?
Most folks felt the likelihood of vandalism, gang activity, reckless behavior by others, etc, to be no more likely on the RT than anywhere else. The perceived risks were vandalism and reckless behavior, both of which topped 30% in the "somewhat likely" column.
When asked about the safety of "Sharing the Trails With Others" 3.9% responded "unsafe", while 38% thought it to be "no different than anyplace else", and 58% considered it "safe" to "very safe".
I considered the feedback to be very positive for the most part. After the demographic and multiple choice questions; however, came the opportunity to offer suggestion of improving the River Trail System. The responses to this question brought out all of the usual, well, suggestions for improvement, which could also be called "The complaints". While the number and tone of some of these comments were disturbing to some of the folks reviewing the survey, they are the same complaints that we all vocalize and hear on a regular basis.
Here are some of the common complaints that were hit upon:
-Close the loop! A very popular suggestion to finish the Little Rock side of the trail system
-Pay attention, be courteous, watch your kids, shorten dog leashes.
-Walkers need to be more aware of their surroundings and not walk/stand/stop 4 wide blocking the trail.
-Some cyclists need to slow down in crowded areas. Be courteous.
-Too much dog poop.
(repeat all of the above several times)
-There were several call for more lighting in some areas, and concerns about late night groups gathering on the BDB.
- Cold water (the survey was taken in the midst of a record heat wave!)
-There were calls for better signage, more security, and better education of trail users.
I hope to be able to share all the the survey results at a future date, but I feel like this is a fair assessment of the information I was given. It will be interesting to see how the responses shift they are combined with those of runner groups and other trail users. While there will always be complaints about others in regard to any shared resource, most Arkansas River Trail users are a happy bunch and we get along pretty darn well in the big scheme of things.