Friday, August 30, 2013

Orbea Move On Tap

As many of you may know, Orbea USA recently sold their headquarters building on North Broadway in North Little Rock to Diamond Bear Brewery. Diamond Bear has long outgrown their Little Rock space and will be moving the brewery and tasting room to the NLR location. It will be a convenient stop from the nearby River Trail! Thirsty riders will likely be appreciative of having a nearby and, hopefully, bike friendly place to enjoy a post-ride cold one. The move left open the question of what Orbea was going to do next.

I have been gently badgering Tony Karklins of Orbea over recent weeks for detailed information about their plans, but Tony has maintained silence as Orbea's plans are being finalized. If I ever need somebody to keep a secret, Karklins could be the guy! What Tony has shared is that the new location will be 119 S. Main in Little Rock, and that there will be a media event next week to detail the plans.

This downtown location at 2nd and Main will house the new Orbea location.
While Tony has been keeping the code of silence, I've been picking up enough bits and pieces of facts and speculation to put together a picture with only a few missing pieces.
I've heard some indications of a retail presence representing the "complete Orbea line", a product demonstration center for dealers, and a possible relocation of most warehousing and actual bike distribution to locations closer to key markets.
The store would be exclusively Orbea and would be associated with a current Orbea dealer, so that nobody is getting thrown under the bus. It would include a coffee bar. Hmm..that sounds familiar. All Orbea models will be stocked in depth to support both local retailers and others in the region.
One thing I heard that intrigued me was the reference to the "complete Orbea line". I've never really though of Orbea beyond bikes, but a visit to their website let me know that they offer a line of wetsuits and tri gear under the Orca trade name, bike kit and helmets, and international cycling travel packages, including some to Arkansas. Hey, we're international if you happen to live in Girona! Trek has what appears to be a very successful travel offering, so there is no reason that it should not be a fit for Orbea, as well.
Orbea recently introduced their 2014 models and all of the buzz that I have seen is very positive, especially regarding the mountain bike models. Orbea bikes have enjoyed good market share in Central Arkansas and the expanded presence should only increase that.
I look forward to hearing the official announcements next week,  My quasi-journalist credentials may not get me an invitation to the press conference, so I could not resist the temptation to get a little jump on the mainstream media!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tack Attack Update, More Manners Feedback

Even though Pulaski County has had a street sweeper working out on County Farm and Pinnacle Valley Roads, reports continue to come in of flats from the tacks that were strewn out there last weekend. Riders are understandably outraged and calling for action; however, the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department says they cannot do anything unless they witness the act or if a witness comes forward. Victims need to file a report!
This from the BACA Facebook page:

Judge Villines was apprised of this and sent out sweepers to sweep up the tacks. He has also alerted the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department which will patrol the area. In a response to our e-mail, Sheriff Holladay stated:

"I have received your e-mail correspondence with Judge Villines. The e-mails have been forwarded to Patrol Commanders with instructions to have deputies patrol the area as frequently as possible. Criminal charges (Criminal Mischief) can be filed if individuals are caught in the act or if a witness comes forward to identify the person/s responsible. Victims who need to file a report can call our dispatch at 340-6963 and a deputy will contact them and prepare a report. We will assist you in any way possible. If you need to speak to me directly you can contact me at 340-7060. Sheriff Holladay."

Thanks Sheriff. Cyclists, remember to file a report if you were the victim of this cruel act or have information and remember to report violations of the 3 foot passing law.

I'm catching heat about rider behavior and some of it is downright embarrassing!

I participate in a few committees dealing with bike advocacy and trail development. These committees include representatives of city and county government, state and local parks, planning and tourism entities, to name a few. I'm considered to be somewhat of a representative of road cyclists, and I'm often confronted with complaints about rude cyclists, some of which are justified and others that are just the run-of-the-mill "spandex clad racers", "too fast", "run stop signs" boilerplate stuff that we hear on a regular basis. I take anything that taints our relationships as a community seriously, but the usual minor conflicts will never be resolved and I accept them as part of the deal.

Today, I heard from a Little Rock City Parks official who reported that some of their workers were yelled at and chastised as they worked to improve or repair problems on the trail. As some of us discussed the tack problem, he spoke up and said jokingly, "It may have been my guys. They're starting to hate cyclists.", then related a couple of recent incidents.

 One crew was straightening a sign using a come-along and was waving folks down, as they had to block the trail for a few moments. Another crew was cleaning gravel off of the trail along Rebsamen Park Road. Both crews were yelled at as they went about their jobs, and they were rightfully pissed off about it. All I could say to that is that, yes, there are some assholes who ride bikes. Unfortunately, we are often all considered to be of the same ilk, good or bad.

Folks, anytime we see anybody working along the trail, please keep in mind that it is their workplace and that we benefit from what they do. The workers may not know how traffic flows along the trail and they may be in your way, but they are doing their job. I know that I don't want some jackass yelling at me while I work, especially if I'm working on something for their benefit. The next time you see a parks or road guy out working along the River Trail, take the time to slow down and say "Thank you".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rainbows and Butterflies

Rainbows and Butterflies

Enough said.
Diane and I got caught in a little shower on Friday afternoon while riding the Arkansas River Trail, and were then treated to a full arc rainbow over the Big Dam Bridge. We've got it pretty good when it comes to cycling venues.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Flat Tire Festival

Last Saturday was a beautiful August day for getting out on the road bike. It was sunny, virtually windless, and the temerature was pleasant by August in Arkansas standards. In addition to the fine conditions, I think that it has dawned on many  riders that the BDB100 that they signed up for a few months ago is now only weeks away and that the plan for a summer-long training regime faded to the point where they are now relegated to the Super High Intensity Training list. Saturday was also the day of the ALS Bike and Hike, which appeared to have been very successful.
As a result these many factors, the Arkansas River Trail and the roads west of town were alive with cyclists. I smile at the sight of so many riders out on the trails and roads, but not everyone finds such joy. Many drivers on Pinnacle Valley Road and Highway 300 resent sharing the road with cyclists and aggressively demonstrate their feelings in the form of high speed drive-bys, honking horns, and flying fingers.  Somebody bumped it up a notch on Saturday by scattering carpet tacks from Two Rivers Park to Highway 300. Some reports also put the tacks along the River Trail to near Two Rivers Bridge.
Based on the number of riders on the road and the number of bikes already at Pinnacle State Park, I would sat that the ALS Bike and Hike was a smash. Unfortunately for many, the trip included a flat repair.
The tacks did what they were intended to do and caused a bunch of flat tires, with many of the victims being participants in the ALS charity event. It is unfortunate that good-hearted people give their time, energy and money to help a worthy cause, only to to be targeted by some asshole. One rider reported having 3 flats!
There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. It is a nuisance, it costs money to replace tires or tubes, and a flat could easily cause a rider or motorcylcist to crash. Here's hoping that karma strikes hard against the person who did this. I've heard that acts vandalism often stem from deep-seated insecurities caused by having a tiny penis. I can't recall the authoritative publication in which I read that, but I believe it to be true.
Thanks go out to Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines and Director of Public Works Sherman Smith. When they were informed about the tacks on the road, a sweeper was quickly dispatched to deal with the problem.
Let's Be Fair: Share the Damn Road! That Means Us.
We cyclists like to point to our right to be on the road. "Share The Road" is a nifty slogan, but it goes both ways. Some drivers simply do not believe that bikes belong on the road and nothing will alter their position. Most people don't have a problem in theory with sharing the road, but they want and deserve a little consideration.
A friend and fellow rider happened to be out on Hwy 300 Saturday on his motorcycle. He was behind a line of cars that was creeping along at 12 MPH as a couple on bikes rode two abreast, taking the lane and ignoring the cars behind them. There is no shoulder on most of 300, but there is no excuse for not moving over as far as practicable and going single file. Situations like that were taking place all too often. Large numbers of cyclists on the road can make us feel empowered, but the fact is that the more cyclists take to the road, the more we need to be sensitive to the drivers with whom we share the resource.

We need drivers on our side and it only takes a few interactions like the one above to turn a patient, cooperative driver into the horn honking fist-shaker that we are all too familiar with. Acknowledge cars that approach you out on the road and let them know that you're trying to work with them. For most people, that's enough to get you a full wave instead of the single-finger variety.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Along The Trail: Hopeful Talk, Signs, ALS Bike-Hike

We've been doing a little traveling and quite a bit of riding in recent weeks. The weather in Central Arkansas has been nothing short of spectacular and the crowds have returned to the River Trail. Behind the scenes, the work of bike advocacy and the associated politics goes on full time!

River Bluffs Trail Section-Hope In Casual Conversation?

There have been interesting developments coming out of the various groups working on our behalf, but one of the more interesting tidbits came in the appearance of mayor mark Stodola at the most recent Little Rock Bike Friendly Community Committee meeting. I've noticed that the mayor usually makes a personal appearance when he either A) Has good news, or, B) Is seeking support.  As has been previously noted, projects for both the east and west ends of the River Bluffs trail section , aka Dillard's trail section, are in some stage of planning, with at least some funding in place, virtually assuring the these projects will go forward. Both will come to a practical dead end as they will rely on the sidewalk on the north side of Cantrell Road to connect to one another. That sidewalk crosses 6 driveways and has numerous other impediments that would strike fear into the hearts of the most confident cyclists during peak traffic times.
Mayor Stodola taking part in the LRBFCC discussion.
While Mayor Stodola did not make any firm promises, he said "some progress" had been made in conversations with Dillard's and then related a casual conversation at a social function at which he says he was assured that "something can be worked out" to accommodate the construction of the dramatic River Bluffs section. I'll be cautious in my attributions, but will say that I understood that remark to have come from the one person in the most likely position to make that happen. This isn't headline news, but it is certainly whisper-worthy. The Broadway Bridge construction and associated trail closures may serve to give the issue of "closing the loop" some practical breathing room, but it would also be a great time to begin construction of another major project along the trail.
I've been critical of Stodola at times, but he is a pragmatic politician with many factions to please. It may just be that the stars are aligning in the our favor.
LRBFCC: More inclusive and seemingly making progress
The mission of the LRBFCC is nominally to guide the City as it seeks "Bike Friendly Community" status from the League of American Bicyclists. Things can get pretty complex as that process requires changes in city policy, construction of infrastructure, and the allocation of resources. You can boil all of that down to "politics and money".
Committee chair and LR Bike-Ped Coordinator Jeremy Lewno is doing a good job of identifying problems and opportunities and of involving a diverse range of participants in the process.
I was particularly pleased to see LR City Director Erma Hendrix at the meeting and taking an active role. Hendrix has been critical of the South Main project in Ward 1, which she represents, and of other city commitments to bike infrastructure. Follow the link and read the article and you'll get a good feel for her tone on such things as of May 15. I won't go so far as to say that she has totally changed her mind, but I think that she has listened to the facts and has spoken to her constituents, many of whom see a benefit in improved bike and pedestrian safety, and has become active in the process rather than firing shots at the results. I commend Jeremy for reaching out to someone who could be regarded as adversarial and I commend Hendrix for being open to change.
A few bullet points from the BFCC meeting:
-A contract has been let for Kavanuagh Blvd, sharrows project
-The South Main project was bid September 11 by the AHTD. Once contracts are in place completion should take 30-60 days
-A design contract is in place for the reconstruction of Pinnacle Valley Road from Highway 10 to the rail crossing to the north.
-Lewno laid out some goals for the next couple of years to coincide with the city's 3-year street resurfacing plan. The short version is that he hopes to provide east-west and north-south corridors to connect much of the city and the River Trail with bikable streets and/or lanes.
ART System Signage
By way of the ART Task Force, Metroplan obtained a grant to provide uniform signage throughout much of the Arkansas River Trail System. If you've been our riding the trail, you've likely started seeing the product of those efforts.
This sign is located near the Big Dam Bridge in North Little Rock.
In addition to the way finding signs like the one shown above, there are simpler directional and mile marker signs along the trail. The real beneficiaries of the signs will be visitors, along with new or occasional  trail users. There are few confusing twists and turns along the RT and it will be comforting to those folks to know the distance to their destination and that they are still on the righteous path. Thanks to task force chair Rob Stephens for driving this effort. It took input and coordination from many entities and the grant required quick execution.
ALS Bike and Hike
This is a out of the realm of bike politics, but deserves a call-out!
This cool event is organized by Tim Vahsholtz as a tribute to his father and to raise awareness of ALS. Last year, severe weather put a literal and figurative damper on the event, but this Saturday looks like sunshine and blue skies for a ride to a hike at Pinnacle State Park.
From the website:

  • Registration: Friday from 4 – 8 pm. Saturday from 6am – 7am at RIVER TRAIL STATION.
  • Bring your hiking gear with you to registration.
  • Online registrants will still need to sign release forms.


  • Bring your gear to registration Friday night or Saturday.
  • At registration, participants will be given a limited edition BIKE & HIKE nylon bag for shoes and any supplies you need for the Pinnacle Mountain transition area.
  • Gear will be shuttled from the start to the Pinnacle transition station at 7:00am Saturday.
  • At the transition station, you will be able to leave your bike safely and change into your hiking shoes and/or gear.
  • Please sign in and out at the transition station so we know you have arrived and departed safely from Pinnacle Mountain.
  • Gear bags will be returned to the start line later in the morning.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Desktop Cleanup

Every now and then, I just have to clean off my desktop.Things pile up that I found interesting or novel, but that would not make much of a topic on their own. The result is this!

Levy Spur- North Little Rock continues to add the the city's bike-pedestrian infrastructure, as funding has been obtained to extend paving of the Levy Spur north beyond 52nd Street.
The Levy Spur will become an important link to the Arkansas River Trail.

As you may recall, the Levy Spur takes advantage of an abandoned rail spur that reaches from 33rd Street in the Levy area to Remount Road before entering Camp Robinson. Though there is a sketchy stretch on the bike route in the Pike Ave. area between 33rd Street and  Parker Street, the Levy Spur will eventually provide a safe route to the ART system for riders from Levy, Indian Hills and Sherwood.
I had occasion to use it recently as I came into town from Batesville  Pike heading for home in Park Hill. What a pleasure! In the past, riders either had to brave Camp Robinson Road through the heart of the Levy, with its many cross streets, fast food joints and driveways, or wind through disjointed back streets. Now, that is easily bypassed on the well-built and quiet spur. For those who use their bikes for more utilitarian missions, a bike rack has been installed on the route at Neighborhood Wine & Spirits.

Sundial- Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines has proven himself to be a visionary in many ways, helping to build and hold together the coalition of county and city governments in the years-long effort that resulted in the Arkansas River Trail System and, particularly, the Big Dam Bridge and Two Rivers Parks Bridge. Part of his vision has been to making of Two Rivers Park into a destination to be enjoyed by strolling families, walkers, runners, riders, and nature lovers.
Over the last few months, we've watched the construction of a large mound in the heart of the park, which has had sidewalks, benches, and trees added to make the space a very attractive one. The elevation in the otherwise flat park makes it a unique vantage point. At its center, on the apex of the rise, is a sundial which is designed to use a standing person as its gnomon. The idea is a good one; however the execution seems to have been lacking.
The Two Rivers Park Sundial seems to be missing the point. What time is it? It must have been break time for the guy with the instructions. Our gnomon model is none other than Mrs. JBar.

I've visited the site regularly during the course of construction and have remained mystified by the orientation of the time ring, as at no time that I visited was a shadow cast anywhere near a number that coincided with the time of day. Assuming I was missing something, I kept checking back, only to find that our sundial simply doesn't tell time, at least not here in the summer months. Oops.
Here is a link to Building a Sundial. Perhaps the fine folks with Pulaski County can use this 5000 year-old information to "set the clock".

Maumelle Trail- The City of Maumelle is also adding to its trail; system. A lane on Maumelle Blvd. from Arnold Palmer Dr. to Crystal Hill Road, eastbound, will be closed for the next few months for construction of a Bike-Ped path. I'm very glad to see this addition, as Maumelle Blvd. is not a comfortable route for cyclists.

Cossatot- OK, this has nothing to do with cycling, except that I skipped a day on the bike to enjoy a rare July day at the Cossatot River. Boaters have been roaming around the hills in pure joy as recent rains have made for some great unseasonable boating opportunities. That, and the fact that I was sent some cool photos of ME!

My little playboat disappeared into the seam at the bottom of the Washing Machine at Cossatot Falls on a recent Saturday. 

What goes down, must come up!
I don't get too many action shots of myself at play, as I'm usually on the back side of the camera, so I appreciate Jeremy Hayes forwarding these to me.

Good News-We Don't Suck!
When Arkansas was ranked dead last among the 50 states for bike friendliness last year, we let out a collective moan and then went to work. This year, Arkansas was ranked 37th and I expect a continuing positive trajectory.

More recently, Kiplinger rated Little Rock as #1 in its 10 Great Places to Live feature, and cited the River Trail System as a key attraction. They know what many others know-- the Arkansas River Trail enhances lifestyles, provides for fitness and recreation, and attracts educated, employable young people to our city.
 Alternative transportation infrastructure is not a waste of money to spoil the spandex pants crowd, but it is a prudent investment in the future prosperity and well-being of our community.

Arkansas also ranked high with our traffic laws, which generally demand that cyclists share the rights and responsibilities of road use.

Granted, most laws regarding cycling date back many years to a time when automobiles were squeezing out bikes as a viable transportation mode. Those laws seem prudent, fair and downright enlightened as current-day cyclists strive to educate motorists that there is a place for cycling as transportation in our modern world.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Along The Trail: Detours Ahead

There are several projects on the horizon that will require temporary closure of portions of the Arkansas River Trail for time periods ranging from 3 days to 18-24 months. Firm dates have not been set for the closures, so I'll provide updates as they become available.
Here are the planned closures that I am aware of in order of projected magnitude:

Two Rivers Park: The loop on the east end of the park near the foot of Two Rivers Park Bridge. This area of the trail is compromised by broken pavement and numerous bumps and ridges, making it hazardous for cyclists and skaters. The bumps are to be ground down and fresh asphalt is to be overlaid. The contract will be let by the City of Little Rock and work is expected to take about 3 days to complete. The trail will be closed during construction according to a parks department spokesman. The bids have not come in yet, and I will provide an update as information becomes available.

River Road-North Little Rock-A detour will be required at the River Trail near the Rockwater Marina along the closed-to-traffic River Road. An easy detour will take trail users along Old Pike Ave and Rockwater Blvd. The area will be closed for about a month as Entergy replaces aging utility poles.

River Trail- Little Rock and North Little Rock downtowns for Broadway Bridge construction: This will be the biggie. I'm not sure when construction will required trail closures, but the result will be havoc for riders and drivers as the bridge will be closed for 18-24 months and portions of the River Trail will be closed for most of that time.
In North Little Rock, the plan is to divert trail traffic to Riverfront Drive or West Broadway. These routes are viable alternatives, though both will likely be choked with cars piloted by frustrated drivers as about 24,000 automobiles try to squeeze onto the Main Street and I-30 bridges. Much of the Broadway Bridge traffic comes off of Pike Avenue from Levy and neighborhoods to the north.
Things are even less clear on the south side of the river. Little Rock bike advocates and planners have struggled to come up with a plan, but it appears that 3rd Street will be the best alternative. High traffic counts at peak times will likely mean downtown gridlock, so a bike may be the best way to get around!

I heard NLR Mayor Joe Smith quoted as suggesting we might have a need for commuter lots in downtown North Little Rock so that commuters can leave their cars and use the Clinton Park and Junction Bridges to complete their trip to downtown offices. That's some good thinking, Mayor.

There will be much cussin' and discussin' as we approach the start of bridge construction, and I'll report from time to time.