Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

As Daylight Savings Time comes to an end, the door on after work daylight rides will slam shut on many of us. Sunset this Sunday night will take place at 5:13PM, which really sucks. That statement may be indicative of a bad attitude toward inevitable changing of the seasons, but cycling has made me into a bit of a Grinch when it comes to winter. Now that I've got that off of my chest, I'll take a deep breath of mellow and move on.

I poached the title of this article from Bob Dyan, of course. Bob wasn't writing about cyclists approaching winter, but I figured that I could glean at least a couple of appropriate lines:

For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled

Truer words were never spoken. Unlike many of you multi-sports types, I am, for the most part, a single-faceted athlete. I ride bikes. Sure, I walk and do a little weight work, but I don't do enough to offset the loss of ride time that winter brings on. Some folks can deal with the roller coaster of major weight gain and loss, but I find it to be a depressing battle, so I'd rather fight small skirmishes against the incursion of fat. Whether you drone on the dreaded trainer or deal with the elements, winter riding is less fun but still much better than stalling out completely.

The slow one now
Will later be fast

That's right, Bob. Long, slow winter rides provide a good base for coming back strong in the spring and help to burn off the candy, cookies, pies, dressing and gravy, cheese dip and all of the other stuff that we gorge on as the nights grow long and the holidays roll around.

I need to add some dimension to my winter program in order to maintain my momentum. My mountain bike is back in rotation for my annual re-learning experience and I plan to diversify! I am not making any resolute promises, but I intend to run a few miles a couple of days per week, start a yoga practice, and perhaps learn to swim proficiently. By way of early progress, I've made a couple of morning jogs (still don't like it), have been to a couple of yoga classes ( like it!), and have only threatened the swimming pool.
Sunset yoga on Sugarloaf at Heber Springs last Saturday. Adding some strength and flexibility has got to be a good thing!

The hard core crowd has already started the cyclocross season, and winter still holds quality riding opportunities; many are just shorter and require more planning and gear in order to stay comfortable. Don't hang your bike up. Instead, head to the woods on the mountain bike, do some running, a little boating, or some hiking; all of which are better done in winter, in my opinion.

 Not done quite yet!
Riders were taking advantage of the last days of extended daylight on Tuesday night.
The warm weather was an added bonus!
Don't pet the animals!
I know they're lovable, but remember that they are still wild.
Riders were not the only critters out soaking up the late season warmth.
Share the trail! Uh, sure, I'll be glad to move on along! This skunk was out in broad daylight and not too concerned about being crowded. We speculated that he was sick.
Enjoy the next few late sunsets, then stiffen your resolve to ride through the winter as you can and to broaden your horizons when you can't.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

PopUp 7th Street: Right Now

If you are reading this on Saturday, you can roll on down to PopUp 7th Street. My little ride group went by on our way back into town this morning and found a nice crowd with a very positive vibe....and the beer had not even started to freely flow!
Music was thunpin', the food trucks were serving a variety of fare, and riders were pouring in.

Women With Wrenches: Heels on Wheels cyclists Victoria Crumpton, Judy Lansky, and Willa Williams were manning (womaning?) a PopUp bike repair station.
In addition to helping anybody who came along, the riders from Heels on Wheels are conducting flat change clinics throughout the day. Many women are intimidated by the thought of working on their bikes, but basic bike maintenance is not a gender-specific activity, and at a minimum everyone should be able to change a flat.
There was more activity along several blocks of 7th Street than on a typical Saturday morning. David Williams was among the many riders who dropped by to check out the scene.
The creation of a bike and pedestrian friendly environment can revitalize urban areas. When people actually get out of their cars and walk, ride, and talk to each other, the word "community" takes on real meaning.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Big Rock and Week Old Event Reports: Joe Weber Arky100, Biketoberfest

Just before the storm.
 I was so taken by the light on a recent Saturday morning that I stopped to take this photo. Minutes later, a thunderstorm rolled through sending my ride partner and me, and likely these runners, scampering for cover.
Big Rock Quarry To Become Park Land In Swap
A view of the Big Rock Quarry from the BDB last Friday evening.
 It appears that the NLR City Council will move to bring Big Rock into the Burns Park system in exchange for park land to be used to develop a motel at the Burns Park I-40 exit. I'm less than excited about a motel in the park, but I encouraged the land swap over a year ago as plans to sell the quarry property were on the table.
The motel concept had already been approved at the time, and the city was looking for adjacent property to buy and add to Burns Park. That step was required due to the fact that the federal government had given the city land from Camp Pike for use as a park only. In order to use it for other purposes, the city had to obtain and add a like parcel.
Arkansas Bicycle Club Joe Weber Arky 100
I thought I was done with "event rides" for the season, but I was easily sucked in to ride the Arky when, A) Our weekend plans changed leaving me with an open day, and B) My weekend ride group declared they were riding the shorter 62 mile distance.
It was a good call, as the ride was a lot of fun and very well supported.
The ride begins and ends at the Sheridan Community Center. ABC provides some prime incentives other than just a quality ride, as instead of the usual cotton T-shirt, they provide a nice long-sleeve technical top, and after the ride, volunteers grill up cheeseburgers and hot dogs for participants.
The burgers proved to be very popular and the cooks struggled to keep up with the demand, but in the end everyone was satisfied.
Over 200 riders participated in the ride, as evidenced by sell-out and need to re-order shirts and by the intense pressure put on the burger cooks!
The Arkansas Bicycle Club remains a constant in our community, as demonstrated by the fact that this was the 42nd Arky100. Thanks, folks, good job!
Sponsored by Chainwheel and the Little Rock River Market, Biketoberfest appears to have been a huge success. I got home from riding the Arky at Sheridan, grabbed a shower, put on fresh kit, and rode on down to check out the scene. I expected to get there just in time to see everyone leave as I arrived at about 2:45, but I found things in full roar.
These bikes were judged to be the best "Rat Rides".
The crowd was still fully engaged when I arrived at Biketoberfest. It is sometimes difficult to keep out unsavory types in search of light beer.
Having two very successful events on the same day, the Arky and Biketoberfest, is indicative of the fact the Central Arkansas metro area is indeed becoming "Bike Town".
Cycling continues to gather momentum and become a part of the fabric of our community. As is true of many things, as more people ride, the more people choose to ride!
Ride leaders:
Pat Hays, former NLR mayor, current BACA board member, and champion of the River Trail, will announce his run for the 2nd Congressional district seat currently held by Tim Griffin.
Barry Hyde, a general contractor, former state representitive, and a cyclist, will be running for county judge as Buddy Villines retires.
Election day is a long way off and choose your candidates as you will, but keep in mind that are our cycling infrastructure is largely the result of politics. Don't wait until election day to learn where candidates stand on the issues that are important to you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Puttin' On The Bitz: Accessorizing For The Season

As I write this on a cool, bleak Saturday morning, I'm trying not to give in and declare myself to be tired of winter already. OK, I give up. I'm tired of winter already.

There's always some semblance of relief in the arrival of fall, in that many of us are feeling the fatigue that comes with riding almost every day, the big event rides are behind us, and the first cool mornings refresh the soul. For me, that lasts at least a couple of days until I realize that it is getting dark at 6:30, it gets cold when it gets dark, and I'm already missing the sweat soaked bibs, salt encrusted helmet straps, and nightly rides with my friends.
I'll tell readers the same thing that I have to tell myself: HTFU*

* From The Rules. See rule #5.

When following this edict, it is helpful to have a good collection of what I call bits. Those small cycling accessories that allow you to stay warm in the wide range of conditions that are typical of Arkansas winter riding. They add little soft and fuzzy barriers between you and weather related harshness where you need them the most.

Clockwise from bottom left: arm warmers, knee warmers, longer knee warmers, shoe covers, ear band, and toe covers.
Dress for flexibility
It is not unusual to start a winter ride in cold conditions, only to be riding in sunshine and glorious warmth within a couple of hours. Arm warmers, knee warmers, and an ear band can keep you comfortable early in the ride and can be easily stashed in a jersey pocket as the temperatures rise. Add a vest to the mix and you can easily leave home equipped for everything from the 40's to the 70's; not an unusual fall or early spring temperature range in our home state.
Full on frigid conditions call for tights and more robust layers, but a base layer and bits can get you through most of an Arkansas winter.

Veteran riders will have a drawer full of the stretchy, fleecy accessories. If you don't have a collection of bits, go visit your local bike shop and spend a few bucks to get started. Retail therapy is good for you and specialty retailers love folks who shop local. It's also not too early to start that Christmas wish list. If you're like most of us, you're damn hard to buy for, so do your family a favor and conveniently leave a list of your needs lying around so that they can surprise you with exactly what you want.

Two Rivers Park Bridge: Lights Out

I spend a lot of time along the River Trail and usually have early knowledge of any issue regarding infrastructure, but the long summer days apparently led me to miss a problem that is obvious to trail user and drivers on I-430 after dark. The lights on Two Rivers Bridge don't work.

Back in mid-September, I encountered John Burton, Pulaski County Surveyor and the project manager for the Two Rivers Bridge construction project, directing traffic at the bridge on a Friday evening. Folks from Koontz Electric, the lighting contractor for the LED lights at Two Rivers, the BDB, and the new projects downtown, were hard at work to fix problems with the lights. John praised Koontz at the time for continuing to tackle the issues. I've had some business experience with Koontz in the past and they enjoy a reputation as a very capable bunch, so I didn't give it a lot more thought and assumed the lights were soon back on line. I was wrong.

The bridge was dedicated with much fanfare in July of 2011, but by January 2012, problems with the lights had become apparent and the bridge had to be closed for a couple of days to facilitate repairs.

This November 2011view hasn't been duplicated lately.
Last Thursday, I mounted my headlight for the first time this fall and, after some hill drills at Fort Roots, went touring on the harvest moon night. My companion had never seen the bridges in their illuminated glory and darkness was just falling so we headed up river. The BDB lights were not yet on, so we headed up to the Two Rivers Bridge to check it out, only to find that it, too, was dark. By the time we headed back to the BDB, it was alight and I thought all was well.
I assumed there was still some minor glitch at Two Rivers and didn't realize that the lights were not working at all. A lunchtime conversation Friday led to contact with John and the word that the problem was not solved. I was then directed to a news item on KARK's site.
The project is two years old, as are the problems. It is unclear whether the issues are with the lighting product or with the installation, but the implication is that the lights and/or fixtures are not up to the duty. The news article said the county was prepared to "send the bond back" and that that would mean the contractor would have difficulty "getting work in the future".
Typically, contractors provide "payment and performance" bonds to assure project owners that suppliers and subcontractors will be paid and that the job will be completed in an acceptable manner. It is esssentially an insurance policy to provide protection from liens and shoddy or incomplete work. Contractors will go to great lengths to prevent a claim from being made against a bond, as it affects both their ability to obtain bonding and the rate that they pay for bonds. Like your auto insurance policy, claims against a bond raise rates and can lead to cancellation. If a contractor cannot bond a job, they are excluded from most major projects. For that reason, and the fact that it is just good business, I would expect Koontz to solve the problem. In the TV News segment, Pulaski County Director of Public Works Sherman Smith, said the lights should be back on by mid-November. In the meantime, the Two Rivers Bridge remains dark.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Meetings, meetings: People Are Working For You!


Goals: Close The Loop, Complete Streets
At BACA's recent general membership meeting, president Judy Lansky re-emphasized the organization's efforts to "close the loop" of the Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock. In addition to closing the loop, BACA has set as a priority the adoption of a "Complete Streets" policy by the City of Little Rock. The Little Rock Board of Directors has passed a resolution to implement such a policy, but it is not let on the books and will likely see resistance from developers to any substantive actions. Board member Mason Ellis delivered an extensive presentation of the features and benefits to the community of Complete Streets.

Mayor Mark Stodola made an appearance and spoke optimistically about the prospects of completion of the River Bluffs trail section to extend along the river behind the Dillard's corporate HQ on Cantrell Road. Projects have been approved that will extend the trail from both the east and west termini of the section, and Stodola stated that funding has been identified that could finance the project. One recent hitch came from the owner of the Riverside Marine property west of Dillard's. The property owner had previously agreed to donate a right-of-way, but has apparently reneged on the offer and has now set a price for the land needed for the trail extension.

Mayor Stodola addressed the recent general session of BACA.
Stodola indicated that he had had direct conversations with decision makers at Dillard's
and that a positive outcome for the River Bluffs project was likely. Concerns over construction activity and security were mentioned as some items to be overcome, but I consider simply engaging in discussions with Dillard's to be progress.
In addition to an agreement with Dillard's, the project will also require the support of the LR Board of Directors, and this is where Lansky is asking for support in contacting board members asking them to support the Mayor's efforts. Elected officials do respond to their constituents, and it is important to provide input long before such matters come to a vote. If there is one thing that I have learned in dealing with municipal governments over the last few years, it is that most decisions are made long before the vote is held. I have never seen the impassioned pleas of citizens during the public comments time sway a vote at a city council or board of directors meeting.  The work must be done long before the vote.
To this end, Little Rock supporters of the River Trail need to contact their directors and the at-large members of the board. Be positive about the impact of trail development and the opportunities that completion the River Trail represent for the City.
The link above will take you to a list of the LR Board of Directors by ward, a ward map, and contact information. Mayor Stodola emphasized that it would be helpful for them to hear from high profile individuals and from folks with connections outside of the cycling  community. Many cyclists are also business owners, bankers, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs, so use those credentials when communicating! They need to know that cycling is mainstream.
Broadway Bridge Construction Reroutes
Rerouting the ART on both sides of the river during construction of the Broadway Bridge has been a topic of conversation among all of the bike advocacy groups in recent months.
Lawren Wilcox and Seth Yancy of the engineering firm Garver laid out likely alternatives for cyclists.
The construction of the new bridge will take about two years and trail traffic will be disrupted for most of that time. Construction contract stipulations will require the builder minimize impact on the trail, but that impact will still result in extended closures, beginning as equipment and materials are staged along the river before construction begins.
In North Little Rock, riders will be directed on to Riverfront Drive, which would be only a minor inconvenience were it not for the fact that most of the 18-20,000 cars that cross the Broadway Bridge daily will be clogging Riverfront as they attempt to reach the Main Street or I-30 bridges.
In Little Rock, 3rd Street is the designated alternative route, but, it too will likely see daily gridlock.
Folks, we are facing two years of traffic mayhem in which any minor fender bender or breakdown on the I-30 or Main Street bridges will cause massive back-ups. Though cyclists will face challenges, bike commuters will have an advantage due to their small footprint and their ability to jump to a sidewalk as required. Sidewalks are nominally off-limits to bikes, but any pavement will do in a pinch. If you don't believe me, look at the designated bike routes along Cantrell Road.
Little Rock Bike Friendly Community Committee
Jeremy Lewno, Little Rock Bike-Ped coordinator, chairs this committee. Jeremy reported that Little Rock's completed application for Bike Friendly Community status has been submitted to the League of American Bicyclists.
In other business, Jon Honeywell of Little Rock Public Works reported that the project to add sharrows to Kavanaugh Blvd has been completed, and that several street resurfacing projects are in the planning stages.
I spotted the new sharrows on Kavanaugh as I rode to the BACA meeting.
Among the streets slated for resurfacing are Louisiana St. and Overlook Drive. Plans are not firm for either project, and Overlook is is likely to draw the most interest of cyclists, as it serves as River Trail access for a great many riders. It is too narrow for two bike lanes, but it may accommodate a bike lane on the north side for the climb and sharrows on the south, where the descent allows bikes to travel at the speed of automobile traffic.
There was also a good deal of discussion about improving the safety of the several driveways that cross the multiuse trail along Rebsamen Park Road.
“The world is run by those who show up. Don’t under estimate the power of phone calls and short notes.”
Trek’s John Burke at the Wisconsin Bike Summit

Friday, October 11, 2013

Junction Bridge LED Lighting Project: Sneak Preview

My friend John Martin sent me a link and I poached this video from the Arkansas Times Arkansas Blog. The lighting of the downtown bridges will make the already dramatic setting of our City along the river into something that is nothing short of a spectacular nighttime scene!
I believe that many travelers passing through on I-30 will say to themselves, "Wow! I've got to come back and see what this city is all about."
Very cool stuff continues to happen here in Central Arkansas.

As food for thought, let me pose a question:
Would this investment/gift have happened if it were not for the Arkansas River Trail?

Many people have contributed to the decades long effort to get us to where we are today, with Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines and former North little Rock Mayor Pat Hays deserving much of the credit for their vision and tenacity. Perhaps Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola will be able to add his signature if he can bring about the completion of the River Bluffs trail section behind Dillard's HQ.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Many of you will recall "PopUp Main Street", the effort in which South Main was temporarily re-striped with bike lanes, a median, and other bike and pedestrian friendly amenities. The concept proved to be a winner as it was embraced by both the community and the city. The result is that So. Main is being rebuilt to include many of the traffic calming, people friendly features of the pop-up.

Now, the "PopUp" concept is coming to 7th Street!


The Facebook page is here.The Main Street event took on a festive atmosphere, so plan to ride or walk on over to 7th Street for this event.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Will They Think Of Next? LED Gadgetry

There is a price to be paid for being my neighborhood bike shop, as the genial Dave Larson of Angry Dave's Wheels and Bikes has discovered. The shop at 3515 JFK in the North Little Rock's Park Hill is just a few blocks from our home, literally a minute or two away, and I'm the guy that shows up at closing time in need of a cable or cable ends, maybe some assembly paste, or, worse yet, advice on some bike project that I've embarked upon. Dave is always helpful usually has exactly what I need.

I do try to actually buy some stuff and I mentioned a Serfas tail light purchased from Dave in a recent article. I imposed on Dave this week for some technical assistance and as he bailed me out (he was really trying not to roll his eyes), I noticed that he was unpacking yet another cool light from Serfas.

This adaptable light goes both ways- headlight or tail light.
It is a small USB charging light that is selectable for red or white light in both flashing and steady modes. I stepped slowly away from the counter but I've got the feeling I'll need one of these. My bikes are all well light-equipped, but this is a cool gadget. I like the idea of having a white light incorporated in a tail light. I almost always have a tail light on my bike and having a tail light that can serve multiple duties, such as becoming a flashlight to change a flat or back-up headlight, seems handy. As a boy, I felt that you could always use another flashlight or pocket knife. Some things just don't change much.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Too Much Going On! Mayor's Challenge, Arky 100, Biketoberfest

That's not a bad thing when it comes to bike-related activities, but it challenges me to try to keep up with all of my self-appointed responsibilities while maintaining the priorities of my job and my ride time.

Little Rock Mayor's Car Free Challenge

I'm obviously behind the curve on this, as it kicked off last Sunday, but I appreciate Mayor Stodola's efforts and it's not too late to join in for a day or two. 
From Mayor Stodola:

I would like to invite you to join me in the 3rd Annual Mayor’s Car-Free Challenge where I, along with many citizens, will give up the use of our cars for a week!

The challenge is Monday, October 7th through Sunday, October 13th. Our Car-Free Challenge will kick off on Sunday, October 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with a Safety and Learning Fair at the River Market West Pavilion and will culminate with a drawing for prizes at Bernice Garden located at 1401 South Main Street at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 13th.

I know you’re thinking “I can’t do that!” But please realize you can walk, bike, ride the bus, hitch a ride with a friend or any combination of these alternative forms of transportation. You can even cheat a little if you must.

It’s easy to participate and even win prizes. Just print out a scorecard at to keep track of your daily activities. You can also register your participation on Twitter by using #CarFreeLR. You can enter the drawing for prizes by turning in your scorecard at Bernice Garden on Sunday, October 13 or by using #CarFreeLR.

This challenge is important to our community because of both the health benefits and the environmental impact. Walking or biking to work is a great way to add exercise to your day and it serves as a helpful example to our children of how to live a healthy lifestyle. There are also many positive environmental impacts from walking, biking and carpooling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leaving your car at home two days a week can reduce your carbon emissions by two tons a year. By making small changes in our lives, we can make a big change in our impact on the environment.

Please join me in this challenge! Thank you.

Mark Stodola


Arky 100- Sunday, October 13
This venerable century ride is in its 42nd year. When I started riding, the Arky was a goal for me, as the idea of me riding 100 miles on a bicycle seemed about as likely as becoming an astronaut. To convince myself that it was possible, I went out and did a 100 mile ride the week before the event in a fateful move, as the day of the Arkie that year was marked by incessant rain and Biblical floods, so I went boating, instead.
I did follow up the next year and found the Arkie course to be a good one, consisting of lightly travelled roads, rolling hills, and rural landscapes. Thanks to the Arkansas Bicycle Club for continuing the tradition of the Arky100. Click the link above for registration and event information.
PS: The Arky is known to give a nice technical T-shirt, making event part of the registration fee kind of a freebie.

If you sleep in on Sunday and don't make it to the Arky, you have options!

Biketoberfest- Bikes, Beer, more (as if you needed more)!

Ride on down to the River Market Sunday afternoon to enjoy some brew, bike demos and competitions, good music, and a chance to win some great prizes from co-sponsor Chainwheel

You can join a ride from Cook's Landing to the event here.
Don't get too crazy sampling the beer, as you'll want to join the Rockabilly Fun Ride from 3-4PM.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Along The Trail: Detour Ahead, Seasonal Crowds

Trail Closure/ Detour On the North Side

Work is to begin on Monday to replace utility poles along the River Trail near the Rockwater Marina in North Little Rock. The trail will be closed until mid-November, but an easy detour on Rockwater Boulevard will minimize inconvenience for trail users.
Contractors for Entergy have been clearing trees and brush from the right-of-way in preparation for the replacement of the wooden utility poles.
The stretch of trail formerly a part of River Road will be used to stage equipment and materials for the Entergy project. Though the parallel section of Rockwater Blvd. does not have bike lanes, it does have striped "designated shoulders". They were not called bike lanes as it was thought that at some point in the future, some on-street parking might be needed in the area.
'Tis The Season To Be Alert, Be Polite, Stay Right
Mild fall weather is upon us and with it comes large crowds of occasional trail user, many of whom do not have a clue as to how to behave. It doesn't make them bad people, but it does make them dangerous, so it falls upon the rest of us to adjust to the presence of large numbers of moving, unpredictable obstacles.
The howling wind had the flags straight out on Sunday, but the mild temperatures and sunny skies attracted a crowd.
The deer in Two Rivers Park are not shy and many folks just have to stop to take a look. Some prudently step off of the trail. Many don't. Be prepared for sudden stops.
The newly repaved loop in Two Rivers Park makes for smooth, safer cycling, but it doesn't make high speed any more prudent on days like this. Riders just need to be resigned to slow speeds when the crowds are out. There is plenty of nearby open road to put the hammer down.
I'm mostly preaching to the choir when I advise my readers to exercise care on the River Trail. Experienced riders don't have anything to prove and the ego-driven goobers who would push through a crowd like the ones shown above are likely not much on reading this kind of thoughtful writing. Seriously, many of the complaints about cyclists come from people who don't have an understanding of trail protocol and therefore put themselves and others at risk by ignoring the simple admonition to "be alert, be polite, and stay right". And most of the riders who truly ride dangerously are either inexperienced, impolite, or both. Fortunately, there is little real conflict on the trail because most people are by nature polite and they make an effort to accommodate others.
I-430 Beauty Shot, the "icebox", and the CPB.
Even a freeway bridge can be a thing of beauty when viewed from a bike bridge!
The stretch of trail between the BDB and Two Rivers Park Bridge is known to cyclists as the "icebox".
The icebox lies in the shadow of the ridge to the south and will not see afternoon sun again until spring. The result is that it noticeably cooler in winter than other sections of the trail. If you want to ride on the sunny side, head to North Little Rock, where the sun always shines!
The Clinton Park Bridge is seldom crowded on weekends, and it affords some striking views of the river and of downtown Little Rock. I'm looking forward to seeing it illuminated by the recently installed LED's.
There was a nice article in Sunday's Dem-Gaz about the development and construction of the Arkansas River Trail. It served as a good reminder of the time and commitment required to build such a resource. Without the Arkansas River Trail, the Little Rock area would likely not have been featured as it was recently in such diverse publications as Kiplingers and Outside Magazine. What started out as an idea to tie together a few parks has become a defining centerpiece of a thriving Central Arkansas. And, folks, we're not done, yet!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Southwest Trail Proposal: Little Rock to Hot Springs Bike Trail

I received an invitation to a press conference taking place today to announce a proposed bike trail to run from Little Rock's River market to downtown Hot Springs. Usually, when a project of this magnitude is announced, it has been cussed and discussed to the extent that there is little to be surprised about. I was admittedly out of the loop on this endeavor.

The working team consists of Jeremy Lewno, Brett Budolfson, Mason Ellis, Lawson Baker, and Tim McKuen (not in photo) 

The trail would follow an abandoned Rock Island/ UP rail right-of-way and would involve Pulaski, Saline and Garland Counties, along with the cities of Little Rock, Shannon Hills, Bryant, Bauxite, Benton, Haskell, Lonsdale, and Hot Springs. The three county judges and the respective mayors from each of the cities were in attendance, along with representitives of chambers of commerce. It is truly remarkable that in today's political climate, all of these leaders could come together with a common goal. Several spoke and all shared a common theme: that cycling and pedestrian trails serve as a transportation alternative, create jobs through tourism, lodging and retail, provide healthy lifestyle opportunities for their citizens, and enhance property values.
The Mayor of Bauxite noted that the rail route that once hauled the mineral bauxite from his city will now bring in people. Garland County Judge Rick Davis observed that bicycle tourism is among the fastest growing segments of that market and that cycling opportunities serve as an attractive marketing tool for conventions and meetings.
These leaders run the spectrum politically, but they were all on the same page today.

Mason Ellis laid it out.

The power point presentation below, which was presented by Mason Ellis, will give you some insight of the nature of the route, though I will not attempt to reproduce Mason's narrative. You can get a bit more information here.

Judge Buddy Villines, Pulaski County, estimated the total cost of the project to be 20-25 million dollars in public and private funding and guessed that it would likely be 5-10 years to completion.
Portions of the right-of-way will be integrated into existing trail systems along the way and, as the right-of-way is established and cleared, portions of the trail could open to hikers and mountain bikers long before paving takes place.A representative of a hiking group noted that there are organizations seeking new venues to hike and new trails to build, so volunteers could play a significant role.
There was a large turnout of mainstream media for the press conference, along with the really important journalistic giants like Joe Jacobs of Arkansas Outside . I'm glad they had it near the lunch hour so that we could make it and keep our day jobs.
This kind of grand project requires long-term vision and political tenacity to complete, but look at what has come about with the Arkansas River Trail. It is yet to be complete, but 10 years ago, a projection of what we have today would have been considered a pipe dream. Much credit goes to Judge Villines and former NLR Mayor Pat Hays for keeping that vision alive. Let's hope that the leaders who gathered today and their successors have the will to bring this dream into being.
Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Briefs on Unrelated Topics

Lighting Project On Clinton Park Bridge Complete

The installation of LED lights on the Clinton Park Bridge has been completed and the bridge is now re-opened to the public at all hours. I'm not sure whether the lights have been activated, yet, but I'll ride down to check it out at my first opportunity. The lights on the Big Dam Bridge and Two Rivers Park Bridge are stunning, so I'm looking forward to seeing the downtown bridges similarly illuminated.

Another BDB Bike Celeb
I guess journalists are supposed to report the news rather than be the news, but Peter Flax, editor-in-chief of Bicycling Magazine, was in town for the BDB100 as a guest of Orbea USA and Orbea account manager Steve Brawley. As Tony Karklins of Orbea put it, "they sampled the best of what Central Arkansas has to offer", including an opportunity to ride the BDB100 on an Orbea, a stay at the Capital Hotel, and participation in the events surrounding the BDB100.

Bicycling Magazine editor Peter Flax and me at the Capital Hotel/Orbea street party last Saturday evening.
I am hoping that my quasi-jounalistic credentials are slightly enhanced by having my photo made with Flax. After all, we are both in the business of serving the cycling community with news and information, though our circulation numbers differ (Bicycling circulation wordwide= a bunch;  JBarCycling circulation= well, uh, call it "very targeted marketing"), Bicycling lists an editorial group of 12; JBarCycling does not; and, unlike JBarCycling, they sell a lot of advertising which generates profit.
Other than that, you can see that the two operations are near identical. Look closely at the photo. We are both smiling and we have identical credentials!! OK, yes, he's taller.
I saw Peter on Wye Mountain and he finished the ride with Mike Collier, a JBar Cycling reader and long-time friend, so I know he got the full experience, suffering included.

Peter had very good things to say about his stay and the ride, so I look forward to seeing if he writes about his Arkansas experience in an upcoming issue of Bicycling.

The geese are back in NLR Parks- Call in the drones!!
In Ottawa, they're tired of their gees pooing up their parks just like we are. You'd think they'd embrace the feces since the birds are, after all, Canada geese. Eh? As it turns out, Canooks are spending big loonies to call in drone strikes in an effort to rid their riverside parks of the beach fouling fowl.
This could be Victory Lake. Photo from
 I know that we have some local hobbyists who would be delighted to put their UAV's to work keeping our parks clear of geese and safe for America. In fact, the National Guard Air Wing in Fort Smith is converting from A-10 Warthogs to drones, so perhaps they could use Burns Park as a training site, though they might have to dial the Hellfire missiles back a bit.
The Ottawa plan uses a helo type drone equipped with lights and noise generators to harass the geese out of their comfort zones. I think it is a damn fine idea.
Out-of-Town Townie riding

B-double-E-doubleR-u-n. Platform pedals, no helmet, and a floral beach bag. I was somewhat out of my element but ready to roll!
We recently visited family in Connecticut and, while I had resigned myself to taking a few days off of the bike, I aired up the tires on my sister Kathy's cruiser to explore the neighborhood and make the short run to the beer store. The area is made up of many small communities and beach associations, so most local shopping and dining destinations are within easy walking or riding distance.
Friday night beachfront road riders  
Friday evenings bring a big road ride past my brother-in-law's home. He said there are easily 70-80 riders most weeks. The riders visible above are the tail end of the group. I visited with some of them and, though they have an active cycling community, it sounded as though their access to good road riding pales in comparison to what we enjoy here. The high population density of the area precludes easy access to little-traveled rural roads.
As I cruised around some of the very exclusive enclaves in the area, the spectacular old estates, tennis courts, and private community security forces certainly gave it an atmosphere that told me that I was not in Arkansas. That said, I was made to feel quite at home after I was chased by a couple of large dogs and then passed a sign on the yard of an oceanfront property that said "Trespassers Will Be Shot. Survivors Will Be Shot Again". For a moment, I thought I'd just passed the Saline County line.
More Local Than Connecticut, But A New Ride For Me 
We have a small home on the Little Red River near Heber Springs, and we will embark on a road ride in the area from time to time. Unfortunately, all of our routes involve riding some sketchy stretches of highway to connect some otherwise high quality miles of road.
One of our local friends, fishing guide Matt Milner, has been bitten by the bike bug, and has been logging a bunch of miles around the area. I recently spent a weeknight at the cabin in order to get an early jump on a business trip the next day, so I imposed on Matt to show me one of his routes.
It's hard to beat a low traffic count, rural scenery, and new asphalt, especially on a "town ride".
 Matt's after-work ride took us through several Heber Springs neighborhoods along Greers Ferry Lake, circled down to a marina, followed a short stretch of not-too-busy highway, and took in several miles of isolated freshly paved secondary road. I was pleasantly surprised  that, while our 27 miles included a little backtracking, the continuity of the ride was very good. There were very few stops required and the drivers that we encountered all gave us plenty of room in passing. Thanks, Matt, for sharing!
Back On The Home Front
Fall brings a different quality of light to the scenes that we enjoy on every ride along the Arkansas River.
A common sentiment that is often shared by Central Arkansas riders is that we are blessed not only by some great bike infrastructure, but by the stunning beauty of our surroundings. It can be easy to take it for granted when a new scene presents itself at almost every turn.

The fishing pier at Burns Park is enjoyed by both fishermen and folks just seeking a quiet place beside the water.
 Though the last couple of days have been gloomy, the next few weeks should include some of the best riding that Arkansas has to offer. The weather is mild, the days are still reasonably long, and changing leaves are promising some spectacular scenery.
Go ride your bike.