Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Need for Complete Streets and Greater Active Transportation Funding in Arkansas

Updated 4/22/2015: Little Rock passed a Complete Streets Ordinance 

I found out today that the Little Rock City Board of Directors voted last night to defer voting on a complete streets ordinance. North Little Rock and Conway (updated from comments) are the only Arkansas cities I know of with complete street policies or ordinances (let me know if there are more) so I wanted to share some thoughts on why communities in Arkansas need them and why developers shouldn't be scared of them.

First, what are Complete Streets?
"Complete Streets ... are designed to encourage safe street access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders."
Worded differently, they place pedestrians, bicyclists, bus users, baby strollers, and wheelchair users at the same priority level as automobiles.

So why does Arkansas need them?

1. Too many bicyclists and pedestrians are being killed by collisions with cars and many of these deaths could be prevented with better street/trail design.

2. Whether city directors or developers like it or not, people, in particular younger educated people, millennials, and the "creative class" that all states and cities fight to attract, want to live in walkable communities. Arkansas cities currently rank very low in terms of walkability and this needs to improve if we want to continue to attract young professionals and keep our best and brightest from fleeing to the coasts.

3. This article by Drew Linder, a Fort Smith banker, highlights many of the economic and social benefits of active transportation infrastructure and gives great reasons for why funding for such infrastructure needs to be increased in Forth Smith (and Arkansas as a whole).
Some key takeaways:
"A nationwide study by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found that $1 million invested in bicycle infrastructure resulted in 11.4 new jobs. That’s more than the 7.8 jobs for $1 million invested in road-only projects."
"The September 26, 2014 Wall Street Journal had an article about how trails and bike lanes are spurring real estate development in a number of cities. They appeal to both '20 and 30-somethings who want to live closer to work and to older baby boomers looking for a more walkable, bike-able lifestyle.'"
"On a more local level, the Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission noted the importance of quality of life amenities as a recruiting and retention tool. The two specific examples he gave were craft breweries and trails systems. He said they provide a “cool factor” that cities need in order to be competitive. "

4. Complete Streets, protected bike lanes, and bike trails spur economic growth and development. It is ironic then that much of the opposition to complete streets ordinances seems to come from developers. Putting these policies in place will improve public safety and boost our local economies. Over 700 jurisdictions have enacted complete streets policies, with over 70 communities doing so in 2014. This is not some newfangled untested concept that heaps unbearable expenses on developers, as some would have us believe.

If you believe Arkansas needs complete streets and better funding for active transportation infrastructure, please let your local elected officials know and pass this information along to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.

More Information:
Background on Complete Streets -
Arkansas Outside Article on Little Rock Vote and Ordinance Development -
Arkansas Roads Dangerous by Design -
Walkability Ranking of Arkansas Cities -
City Wire Article by Drew Linder -

Conway's Complete Streets Ordinance -
North Little Rock's Complete Streets Ordinance -
Little Rock's Complete Streets Ordinance (Not Yet Approved) -


  1. Conway has a complete streets ordinance, since about 2009 or so.

  2. Thanks Greg! I updated the post to reflect that info.