Thursday, May 24, 2012

Arkansas Least Bike Friendly State

  The League of American Bicyclists ranks Arkansas #50 in terms of bike friendliness.  I'm a little shocked to see that ranking given all the money and work that has been put into trails in both the central and northwestern parts of the state, but even in Little Rock and Fayetteville you don't have to look far to find tons of room for improvement.  The rankings looked at lots of variables and the report shows that Arkansas lags far behind in terms of legislation, programs, infrastructure, funding, education, and planning.  Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised we are last given that some Arkansans believe bike trails are part of a conspiracy to take away people's cars while others think trails like the River Trail are a complete waste of money and should be converted to roads to decrease commutes for people who choose to live and pay property taxes 30 miles away from Little Rock, but still want to get there and leave ASAP, with little concern for local quality of life.  If you happen to agree with that sentiment, check out these traffic numbers for the Big Dam and Two Rivers bridges.
  Last year, I was excited to see that Bicycling magazine ranked Little Rock as one of America's 50 top bike-friendly cities, but my happiness was lessened upon reading that they ranked Little Rock #49 and only because they wanted their article to have geographical diversity and not just be a list of 50 cities in California and Oregon.
  If you want to see Arkansas break out of last place:
1.  Read this piece on Master Plans in various cities in the state.
2.  Let your local, state, and federal elected officials know you enjoy trails and would like to see more of them.
3.  Push for increased funding for trails.  Make sure someone in your local government is aware of all the various funding sources for trails.
4.  Join BACA or BCO or at least check out their websites to learn more about the issues.
5.  Work to get your town or university designated as "bike-friendly".  Interestingly enough, this designation is granted by the League of American Bicyclists.  Fayetteville, Conway, and North Little Rock have achieved Bronze status in this program.
6.  Volunteer to help design and maintain trails in your community.
7.  To see the actual report for Arkansas and specific statewide policies we are lacking, click here.

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