Since my buddy was struck by an unrepentant driver on Pinnacle Valley Road a few weeks ago, I have engaged in quite a few conversations and have made some observations of riding in the area.
First, let me say that things are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Folks in leadership positions within Pulaski County Government, Arkansas State Parks and at Pinnacle Mountain State Park have expressed a desire to improve the situation on the roads west of Two Rivers Park, but there is not an easy fix and none have the financial resources for adding shoulders to the existing roads or building dedicated bike paths.
It is somewhat ironic that we really have a lot in common with the drivers in the area. Like them, the cycling community would like to have infrastructure that would allow us to safely get the hell out of the way. Until that time, we need to learn to work together as best we can. I don't hold out much hope for reforming many Roland commuters, but we should be able to ease things a bit if will just pay attention.
Please pay attention and be polite
I'm always resentful when rider behavior is blamed for all conflict on the road, and I'm quick to defend cyclists on the whole, but I shake my head at some of the things that I see. Last weekend as I rode back in toward Two Rivers Park on County Farm Road, I observed two female cyclists heading west on road bikes and in full kit (I mention that for context-they should know better.) taking the entire lane as two cars were held up behind them waiting for an opportunity to pass. They were riding two abreast, one near the center line and the other near the white line, chatting as they rolled along at 12-14 MPH, seemingly oblivious to the patient drivers behind them. The sight distance is long at that point and I kept waiting for the riders to do something right. Not only did these riders not move to the bike lane, but they made no effort to acknowledge or work with the drivers at all. That's not sharing the road. That is hogging the road. Ladies, not only are you potentially inflaming already strained relations between cyclists and drivers, but you are simply being rude. If you had been driving a car that will only go 15 MPH, you would likely have eased to the side of the road to let other drivers pass. And then you would get a better car.
Being on a bike does not mean that you can't use good manners. In fact, our vulnerability should drive us to have very good manners.
Pinnacle Valley Road At Highway 300- Don't Gather There
A few months ago, my small bunch of riders had stopped on the shoulder on highway 300 at the end of Pinnacle Valley. A state park ranger pulled up and asked us to move down the shoulder and back from the road so that we did not block the line-of-sight for drivers at the stop sign there. That makes sense.
A few weeks ago, a pair of my friends were sharply admonished by another ranger for stopping there and told to get off the shoulder and on to the grass. That made less sense, and no reason was given for the command, but they complied.
Subsequently, I have spoken to Ron Salley, superintendent of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. They have become sensitive to groups of riders stopping to regroup or gather at that location, with large groups often simply stopping in the road. Admittedly, I have been in groups which have done just that. The park gets complaints from drivers and the situation can be dangerous for riders. When stopping at that intersection, please don't stop on Pinnacle Valley Road, and move far enough away from the corner on the shoulder of 300 so that your group does not block the view of drivers at the stop sign.
We are creatures of habit and groups tend to use the same points to gather. In this case, we are drawing the ire of drivers and park officials alike, so let's try to work with them. We need folks like Ron Salley on our side. He has been very supportive of the cycling community and we do not want to be perceived as making his job harder.
Pass it on.
Pinnacle Valley Restaurant opening
This restaurant at Pinnacle Valley and Beck Rds. is in the "soft opening" stage. Based on the posted menu, the fare will consist of catfish, barbecue, burgers and similar fare. The Budweiser signs are up in full force and there was a notice of application for a mixed drink permit several weeks ago.
What does this mean for riders? In the event of a bonk, you will be able to refuel with a hot dog and fries for $4.99. It will also mean an increase in traffic and some of those drivers will have had a beer or a cocktail, which is all the more reason to exercise good road riding practices in the area.
I have no idea of who owns or manages the business, but most merchants welcome a cycling community that patronizes their business. The few businesses that I have encountered that did not appreciate cyclists were those who felt put upon by groups coming in only to use their restrooms, fill bottles, or take a break in their parking lot.