JOIN US AS WE CELEBRATE ANOTHER YEAR OF BICYCLE ADVOCACY

General Membership Meeting
February 7th at 6:30 p.m 
Oyster Bar, 3003 W. Markham
Little Rock 



There is lots of news for bicyclists. Hear what has been happening of interest to bicyclists in Central Arkansas. Meet the new Little Rock bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, learn of the latest developments concerning bicycling in Central Arkansas, and find out about the new state-wide advocacy organization and what we can do to improve bicycling in the state during this legislative session. 

Special Program: Welcome Alan Ley, Bike Bentonville’s director of outreach and advocacy and hear why Bentonville was awarded bronze status as a League of American Bicyclists bicycle friendly community, and what it is doing for bicyclists. 

As always there will be good friends and good food. Come see old friends, meet new ones, and help make Central Arkansas bicycle friendly. Get Bike LR and NLR bumper stickers. We hope to see you on February 7th. 

GET INVOLVED!!

Do you like to ride your bicycle in Central Arkansas? BACA has been working hard for over 10 years to improve opportunities and facilities for bicycling. Let’s keep the momentum going. Please join us in making Central Arkansas bicycle friendly. 

Here are some of the volunteer opportunities that are available – we need your help!. If you are interested in helping in any of the following (or in any other way) please e-mail judy atlanskygould@comcast.net or call 501-225-5343. Compensation may be available for some of the activities.


  • Staffing tables at events
  • Meeting/greeting at meetings
  • Writing articles for the newsletter
  • Monitoring legislation – national, state, local
  • Attending City Council meetings
  • Developing promotional/informational materials about BACA/bicycling for distribution
  • Developing/producing PSAs for radio and TV
  • Fundraising
  • Serving on the Board of Directors

If you haven’t been to a BACA meeting lately, please come on February 7th and hear about all the new and exciting developments. If you’ve never been to a BACA meeting, please come and learn how you can be part of your local bicycle advocacy movement. 

For more information about BACA see: www.bicycleadvocacy.com and follow us on Facebook.

Hope to see you February 7th.

Thanks,
Judy Lansky
Acting President, Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas


Message from a past president

The ongoing debate about the proposed development in the Big Rock Quarry in North Little Rock has generated some amazing responses. Here’s one that Tom Ezell shared last night. Take a few minutes and give it a read. You’ll be glad you did:

I got my start in advocacy about 20 years ago with battlefield preservation.  Having been to many fields — preserved and unpreserved — over the past 40 years, it’s often heartbreaking to see what’s been allowed to happen to these places through commercial and residential development.  I used to, and still do, serve as a tour guide for local battlefields and it’s really tough to get someone in the mood of the historical moment when you pull up to a point and try to explain what happened here and how the shape of the land affected things.  We have lost more than 2/3rds of the old battlefields here in central Arkansas… Bayou Fourche battlefield lies underneath the LR Port Authority, I-440, and a residential development, with only a couple of stome markers and a split rail fence to mark the place.   Terry’s Ferry lies underneath the Willow Beach housing area.  Some of the classic examples are Chancellorsville, VA, and Franklin, TN, where bloody ground now lies under strip malls, parking lots, and up until the year before last, a Pizza Hut parking lot marked the place where Arkansas General Pat Cleburne gave his life.

Preservation is an interesting debate as to who we are and what we value.  I remember downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock from the 1960s and early 1970s, when these were the commercial hub of the city.  Riding down Main Street now, I am nearly heartbroken to see what’s been torn down, what’s been lost to the community, and the endless stretches of blank concrete and asphalt parking lots.  These have become symbols to look into the modern world. We have a population explosion that nobody is, or can, address. My core feeling is that land needs to be protected for cultural, environmental and agrarian reasons. Our historic, natural, and recreational resources are traditionally underfunded and underutilized because the potential these outdoor social and military classrooms offer is not realized. The truth is the battlefields are diamonds in the rough. They are also becoming islands of green within a sea of concrete.

The value of the River Trail is that it really is an “Island of Green” in our community… where one can briefly escape the pressures of urban lifestyle and commune with nature.  Its natural beauty and atmosphere attracts not only our own citizens, but visitors from all around the state and from out-of-state to enjoy its wonders.  Sadly, this natural beauty is the same quality that entices a commercial developer to think, “Wouldn’t it be a sweet deal to put an apartment complex there?”

Adding the proposed number of housing units in the area will greatly increase the amount of motor traffic on River Road, and greatly increase the conflicts between park and trail users and the potential residents.  The noise and visual pollution will significantly degrade the natural beauty that gives that section of the trail its popularity and attracts as many visitors as it does.  Conflict in this situation is not just possible, it is guaranteed.

The Big Rock Quarry area has always been regarded as a natural and recreational park resource, and that continues to be its best anticipated use as far as all central Arkansas residents are affected. North Little Rock is blessed to have as much park and green space as it does, and park resources should be used and developed only for natural and recreational use — not for yet another housing area in an already nearly-saturated market.

We cannot expect government to fix this issue without our advocacy. Sometimes tough economic and social issues revolve around protecting historic and natural green space – land rights, government power, lack of financial resources to protect historic sites, immigration, quality of life, habitat, race, air quality, ecosystems, defining culture, family values, and so on.

As our population expands serious questions must be asked about how we are planning and zoning. If we really value exercise, fitness, healthy lifestyles, and natural resources, we need to put those beliefs into effect — by preserving those “islands of green” that make North Little Rock the wonderful community — and home — that it is. Often the critics are the people who have financially invested in the natural property they want to develop. Rarely is there a non-financial motive in trying to stop the protection of a historic site. Local government is habitually the lynch pin to saving or destroying historic resources, and sadly often the status quo is to build.

Look around — Rapid growth in the surrounding area, and hundreds of other examples tell us we are losing not only historic green space at an alarming rate, we are losing the family farm and forests that helped define Arkansas as the “natural state” as well as America as a whole. All side issues aside, this is neither the time or place for this sort of development.   We need these islands of green to keep our sanity and our connections within our community.

The Bluffs: to support or not?

As you’ve no doubt heard already, the City of North Little Rock is considering selling roughly 43 acres of city-owned land in the abandoned Big Rock Quarry, between the Arkansas River and Fort Roots / Pulaski Technical College. The BACA board met on Tuesday, August 14, to discuss a possible response, and during the spirited debate that ensued one of our wise Emeritus Board members suggested that this is a big enough issue with enough valid arguments on all sides that we should find out what the membership thinks before making a decision.

So, without further ado, here are 3 possible responses with a bit of editorializing added for each one. Think them over. Discuss on your weekend rides. We’ll send out a survey on Monday or Tuesday next week to gauge opinion. (And if you don’t receive our emails, please join or sign up for our mailing list here.)

1. Take no action. Some would argue that the development is for the most part a done deal, with the upcoming public hearing simply a formality. Taking a stand for or against would likely alienate some portion of the cycling community and others that BACA needs in order to be effective on other issues in the future. So, leave this sticky issue alone and move on.

2. Oppose the development. A few of the many reasons to do so:
(a) A lot of people were surprised to learn that the property in question has never been designated as a North Little Rock city park, given its location and rough-around-the-edges beauty. Officially adding the land to the parks system makes more sense than building condos on it. The contrast between the industrial detritus of an abandoned quarry and the slow power that plants, trees, and the elements have exerted on the landscape over the years makes for a very interesting and unique place that arguably should be left to continue to evolve. Once condos are built, there is no way to go back.

(b) Building several hundred apartment and condo units along with a large public marina will add a huge amount of traffic to River Road. For those who have ridden the River Trail on a pleasant weekend day, that stretch of road between the FOP building and the intersection with the new Rockwater Boulevard feels like the most relaxed and least conflict-infused portion of the whole loop. There’s plenty of room for people to pass and be passed and there’s very little car traffic to worry about. Any development in the quarry will forever change the feel and safety of riding that portion of the loop. Plus, the narrow, windy section between the quarry and the wooden bridge connecting Emerald and Burns parks will likely see a large increase in trail use.

(c) It is questionable whether the tax revenues generated by the development will cover the long-term costs associated with maintaining and replacing utilities, stepping up police and fire protection (there’s already been talk of NLR buying and staffing a fire boat to douse fires in the quarry from the river), and maintaining the streets leading to and extending throughout the development. Despite its location in the middle of the city that quarry is fairly remote, and there probably won’t be any further development nearby to help share the future cost burden of the sewer lines, water lines, power poles, etc. that will be installed to reach it. Developers pay the upfront costs of building such necessities, and then cities typically assume their future costs without considering how they’ll be paid for. (See Little Rock’s recent half cent sales tax increase for an example of what happens when developers are allowed to build without demonstrating how their development model will pay its own way.) Given today’s strained budgets, both at the government and individual levels, it seems very irresponsible for a city to potentially burden all of its citizens with a large repair bill tomorrow so a private developer can reap more profits today. The question of what the actual economic costs and benefits of a development are going to be needs to be asked and answered in an honest, open way. Blindly hoping that all will be rosy in the future does not make it so.

3. Support the development, possibly with some caveats. This would be an unexpected, but potentially the most valuable response from BACA. One of the main arguments everyone cites as a justification for investing in cycling infrastructure is that it leads to economic development and greater prosperity. McKimmey’s The Bluffs project only makes sense because of the River Trail. I can almost guarantee that cyclists will be featured front-and-center on all the marketing materials used to attract potential condo buyers, and the price per square foot will likely be higher given the existence of the trail right outside the front door. For the cycling community to oppose this development could burn some big bridges down the road. Despite the reasons listed above in Option 2, a nuanced opposition would likely be simplistically interpreted by many people as “BACA is anti-development,” and any request for later help might sound like “Dear Ms. City Council Member, Please pay for our pretty bike trail. Normally it would lead to a lot of economic development in your ward in the future. Of course though, we are likely to fight against that development when it is proposed.” If, on the other hand, we support this project, then other developers’ doors might open a little wider for the cycling community’s input in the future and politicians would have a concrete local example to look at that shows the powerful results of investing in bike-friendly, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure that adds to the livability of their communities. We could divisively set up an adversarial relationship between BACA and developers or we could reach out and be a partner to them.

Some of the possible caveats to our support
Parts (a), (b), and (c) from above can all be addressed in a way that would strengthen the development and possibly even improve the experience for existing trail users. Doing so would also lead to a better example of what cycling infrastructure makes possible.

Parkland and concert space: there’s no reason that the development couldn’t be clustered in a denser manner that would leave room for a park with potentially a small outdoor film/concert venue somewhere by the river or deeper within the quarry. If NLR code arbitrarily limits dwelling units per square foot of land, those rules should be bent in this case to allow for open space. The total number of units within the quarry doesn’t have to change, just where they’re located.

Traffic on River Road: the $1.2 million that NLR is set to receive from this land transfer should go to improving the trail outside the development. Either the shoulders on River Road or the separated path need to be widened and improved to smooth flow and accommodate more trail users. A portion of the additional property tax revenue should be devoted to future investments in bike and pedestrian infrastructure too.

Tax revenues not covering long-term costs: Show the citizens the money. Hire an independent analyst to estimate long-term costs and revenues, and then compare. One big change that could lead to immediate savings for both the developer and long-term savings for the City would be to build in a smaller area. The conceptual plan shows a lot of individual buildings separated by big parking lots and roads. It’s the same stuff we’ve been building for 50 years, just with new materials on the facades, and it is completely inappropriate for the 21st century. Shrink it down; concentrate the parking on the edge; make everything inside livable and walkable, like small village. A denser development would leave more room for open space, would make local businesses like a corner store or coffee shop or restaurant/bar more viable, would be more attractive to today’s buyers, and might even create a situation in which altering a Central Arkansas Transit route to serve The Bluffs makes economic sense. Just imagine that sales pitch to potential buyers: Move here and enjoy the freedom of going car-lite! Walk, bike, take a boat, or let CAT drive for you!

And finally, McKimmey should hire an expert in designing for people on bike and on foot. The project architect on Monday night admitted that he hadn’t considered how to accommodate runners and walkers on the River Trail. That level of disinterest is unacceptable and only harms the viability of the project. Proper active transportation design requires specific training and experience that quite a few firms around the country have amassed (Alta Planning is one). There is a lot of invaluable knowledge out there that should be tapped into instead of McKimmey and Taggert trying to reinvent the wheel here.

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So, you can probably tell from the number of words written that I’m leaning toward support right now. Personally, I would rather leave the quarry alone and see NLR’s developers focus redevelopment efforts closer to downtown. However, I think it’s in BACA’s long term interest to view this as an opportunity to work with a group of people who have the power and money to play a big role in shaping how the future of Central Arkansas looks. If we engage with McKimmey now, then we could make this particular development better for trail users and we would show other developers the value in welcoming the cycling / active living / active transportation community to the table in the future. 

Don’t let the past arbitrarily limit our future

A friend of mine on a local planning council here in central Arkansas forwarded me an email thread this afternoon that’s been growing over the past couple of days. Apparently, some forward-thinking people in the group are envisioning a re-imagined President Clinton Avenue that some day could serve as a safe, attractive, business-friendly transit and pedestrian space in the River Market area free of today’s near-constant parade of cars driving back-and-forth, backing onto sidewalks while the drivers learn how to parallel park via trial-and-error, and gliding through crosswalks and stop signs without regard for the people on foot. Changing the current situation sounds like a compelling idea. Sounds like a conversation worth having. No doubt it would be a dramatic change requiring a lot of forethought and careful execution, but concrete steps could be taken now to move the area forward so that some day it would make perfect sense to all the stakeholders that accommodating people is more important than accommodating cars on that short stretch of street. 

Anyway, one naysayer’s contribution to the thread irked me a bit:
Some of you obviously don’t remember the disaster that was MetroCenter Mall. It was a huge mistake then to close off a street, and would be now.The drunks at the bars on Clinton Blvd would be happy right along with you though, so you have their vote. No disrespect to our European traveler, but this ain’t Europe, or even close. This town was laid out horrible from the start, and parking is NOT where it needs to be for even a large convention(Big Buck Classic). How about deliveries by truck down there? Its REALLY bad now, and with no other way to get goods, we are stuck with the trucks. It would be nice if everyone who worked downtown lived downtown, but until we get the thugs out of the River Market(just go down there anytime after 10pm at Main and Scott), that aint happening. Last time I checked, not alot of employers have showers at work so that employees can wash up before work after a small bike ride either. We have to deal with what is here and now, or the next group will take over what we have: Problems.

and prompted an admittedly feisty reaction from me…
1. MetroCenter Mall was an attempt to artificially inject life into a lifeless place. Closing Pres. Clinton Ave. to cars couldn’t be further from what the MCM was. There is amazing life in the River Market area now, but it’s being disrupted, choked, and limited by 4 lanes of cars (2 parked and 2 moving). If some people have to park on Capital Ave and walk 4 blocks, great! We need more eyes and activity on the street over there anyway, and the short walk would do everyone some good. 
2. “
This town was laid out horrible from the start…” First, I disagree. The horrible stuff didn’t happen until the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Second, if some bad decisions were made in the past, then why should that be a reason to continue making bad decisions today?
3. Perceived lack of access to the Big Buck Classic does not come from a parking problem, but from a mobility problem instead. If we turn everything into one big parking lot, then we eliminate the reasons people want to be downtown in the first place. Convention Centers (and arenas and tech parks and museums) are sold to the public as a way to enhance the day-to-day life of a city. It would be self-defeating to sacrifice that vitality just to make it easier for out-of-towners to park close to a boat show. Prioritize people instead of cars; watch tax revenues increase from greater commerce happening and from property values rising; and then we can start talking about investing in better transit connections between downtown LR and other parts of the region… maybe even to Conway, thus lessening the ‘need’ for more parking and more interstate lanes. 
4. Every car-free street I’ve ever seen has removable barriers or bollards at the ends that allow delivery trucks into the space. Some of them are even automatic so the drivers don’t have to get out. In fact, going car-free actually makes it easier for deliveries to be made, because there’s no traffic and no parked cars to maneuver around. 
5. People won’t live downtown “
until we get the thugs out of the River Market…” Tell that to the hundreds or thousands of people who do live downtown right now. High cost and lack of choice are probably the biggest limiters… not crime/safety. Our old-fashioned parking requirements that force any new building to have several stories of garage space sandwiched in between the ground floor and the residential floors drive the costs of projects up. It doesn’t take too much pencil pushing for a developer to conclude that luxury condos are the only way to go given the current zoning and parking code. Let’s change the parking minimums to parking maximums and see what happens. Also, homeless people are not ‘thugs.’ If someone feels like the concentration of homeless people is too high though, then instead of simplistically rounding them up and sending them somewhere else, why not figure out how to get more people on the street? Ten panhandlers on a sidewalk with 20 other people feels a lot different than ten panhandlers on a sidewalk with 200. ‘Getting them out’ doesn’t solve anything. 
6. Showers at work. Bring it on! Simply pointing out that we don’t have any showers today does absolutely nothing to change that fact for the future. Let’s reduce our car parking requirements for developers and replace them with some shower / bike parking / locker requirements for new and renovated buildings. It’d be cheaper and better for everyone in the long run. Problem solved. 
7. “
We have to deal with what is here and now, or the next group will take over what we have: problems.” EXACTLY! So, deal with it! Change it! Make it better! Throwing our hands up and doing nothing is the exact opposite of actually dealing with something.

What are your thoughts? Anyone remember the MetroCenter Mall? Has anyone been to lively, people-centric streets elsewhere that the River Market and Prez. Clinton Ave. could improve upon? What are the reasons people don’t live downtown?