Northwest Arkansas seems to have embraced the biking culture. With the Razorback Greenway and its appendent biking trails, nationally renowned mountain bike courses and bike parks, those who enjoy the two-wheeled self-propelled arts have plenty of places to put the pedal to, well, um, the pedal.
But not everyone is along for the ride. It’s still largely a car-and-truck community and, in fact, always will be. The cities and towns in Northwest Arkansas were more likely built with cars, or in some cases, horses and buggies, in mind rather than bikes. Though communities like Springdale and Fayetteville are growing more dense and urban, riding in or on motorized vehicles is still a requirement for almost all of us to go about our daily business.
So it’s inevitable that the rush to make our communities more bicycle-friendly will occasionally create friction with our need for cars and trucks.
Take for example last Tuesday’s Springdale City Council meeting, where the bike culture and the car culture traded a little pain.
Residents along Springdale’s Maple Avenue and Dick Smith Street told the council they were none too happy about the recently installed bike lanes in their neighborhoods. The lanes were installed on both sides of the street and make the central roadway too narrow for comfort, they say. And the also complained that the bollards, or street level obstructions installed to separate the cars from the bike lanes, interfered with on-street parking. Their visitors, the residents say, have no place to park.
Mayor Doug Sprouse listened and said there may be some changes or tweaks that can be made to the bike lane plan, but probably not until the installation project is complete later in the Spring. They may be able to put the bike lanes on one side, or change the orientation of the bollards — also called zebras because of their black and white stripes, to create more space for parking and two-way traffic.
Residents near Springdale’s downtown had some similar complaints last year about bike lanes installed there. The city made a few changes and, Sprouse says, complaints have decreased.
It’s good that Springdale is trying to accommodate the increased number of bicycles on the street. But it’s also important that the city administration respond efficiently to complaints from other citizens.
Based just on what happened at Tuesday’s council meeting, one might think that everyone agrees that the bike lane plan was wrongheaded. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that there was really only one side of the story told Tuesday. We surmise that Springdale residents who have fully embraced their inner bike rider have something to say about all this as well. If they haven’t already, members of the city council will be hearing form them, too.
For now, Springdale’s leaders need to keep listening and adapting. There’s room enough bikes and cars on the city streets. The trick is figuring out how to make the roadways as safe and as efficient as possible, no matter how many wheels are involved.
WHAT’S THE POINT?
Residents who voiced concerns about new bike lanes in their neighborhoods deserve to be heard. But city leaders must take a careful approach to addressing