Springdale to Install Protected Lanes for Bicyclists

Jonathan Perrodin recently rode his bicycle west along West Maple Avenue in Springdale, Arkansas. A driver in a large pickup honked from the parking lot as Perrodin rode by Northwest Medical Center.

“He didn’t pass me until we crossed 71 Business, but then he gunned his big V-8 diesel to get around me,” Perrodin said. “But I know I was in the right.”

Automobile drivers soon will get a reminder of that “right.” The city plans to install one-way, protected bike lanes on Maple from South Pleasant Street to Holcomb Street. The lanes will run along Holcomb Street to West Meadow Avenue, then along Meadow to connect with the Razorback Greenway.

“I’m excited,” Perrodin said. “It’s a great way to get to downtown and a great way to open it up to a whole new community.”

The Walton Family Foundation awarded a grant to Bike NWA to create three examples of good on-street bicycle lanes, Ryan Hale, founder of Lane Shift, recently told Springdale City Council members.

Lane Shift is set to build the protected lanes in Springdale, Fayetteville and Siloam Springs, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The route in Fayetteville is planned along Rolling Hills Drive, across North College Avenue, through the Fiesta Square shopping center, ultimately ending at Apple-bee Road. Access through the shopping center is still in the discussion stage with the owner, and the rest of the route is under design. Bike NWA expects the lane to open Oct. 10.

The Siloam Springs lane is planned from East Main Street and East Jefferson Street to South Elm Street into the city’s downtown area. Donald Butcher, BikeNWA’s Benton County project coordinator, estimates 90 to 100 days until opening.

The route of Springdale’s bicycle lanes will be marked in green paint, Hale said. Then lines of “zebras” will be placed between the bike lanes and the roadways. Zebras are heavy rubber pieces about 71/2 to 8 inches tall that look like a combination of a speed bump and a curb, said Anya Bruhin, Washington County project coordinator for Bike NWA.

Hale said he hoped for the green lanes to be 41/2 to 5 feet wide, with 2-foot painted buffers between the bike lanes and the zebras. That would leave 9-foot lanes for automobiles along most of Maple. Parallel-parked cars might act as the buffers on Holcomb, he said.

The particulars of the bike and automobile lanes – including size – are under consideration, said Brad Baldwin, director of Springdale’s Department of Engineering. City officials have been working on the project with BikeNWA and Lane Shift representatives for about three years, and Baldwin expects to see something on the roads in 90 days.

Patsy Christie, the city’s director of planning, said Springdale needs approval from the Arkansas Department of Transportation for the crossing at South Thompson Street because it’s a U.S. highway.

The Meadow Avenue project also will serve as the first section of the proposed Pride of Springdale Trail, which will connect Springdale High School with Har-Ber High School, Christie said.

Drivers on Maple recently crossed traffic counters on both sides of Thompson. Officials also plan pedestrian and bicycle counts during the pilot project, Hale said.

Bikers, drivers and all community members will help decide whether the bicycle lanes remain and others are completed, Bruhin said.

“Why does this mobility matter? It’s about being competitive for talent,” Hale said. “The young folks are moving in for amenities in communities even before they have a job. They want a walkable environment.”

Christie noted Tyson Foods’ downtown office includes bicycle racks and showers for employees who want to ride the Greenway on their lunch hours or commute by bicycle.

“The redevelopment and revitalization of downtown Springdale is a result of the Greenway,” she said. “People might be able to see a part of Springdale they’ve never seen before now that they have different modes of transportation.”

Baldwin noted the zebras and their installation cost less than building concrete barriers, and staff at city street departments can be trained to install them. This will allow cities to create more bike lanes through more neighborhoods, he said.

The Springdale project also will serve as an example of how to better allocate rights of way for different modes of transportation, and the work on the city’s protected lanes will help set design standards for such projects and serve as a demonstration for the region, Baldwin said.

The project on Maple Avenue will narrow the driving lanes so drivers slow down. Baldwin called it a “road diet.”

“If we are able to do this in other areas of town, we will make a safer way for kids to go to school,” Christie said. “And we’ve also been looking at a way to get people at the hospital to Murphy Park and the library.”

Springdale residents who live on and around Maple Avenue said they didn’t know much about the planned bike lanes.

Harry Blundell, who bikes and walks in the neighborhood, first said, “That’s a perfect idea.”

But as the details came to light, the thought of building protected lanes on both sides of Maple Avenue and narrowing the driving lanes made him say, “What a disaster.”

“I’ve talked myself out of it completely,” he laughed. “I guess I’m a 50-50 guy.”

Steve Ussery, who lives on Maple Avenue and uses the Greenway to walk and ride, said he likes the accessibility to the trail the new lanes would provide.

“I wouldn’t have to use the sidewalk,” he said.

He also thinks the protected lanes would be best on just one side of Maple Avenue. Baldwin said the exact location of the lanes remains under design.

Perrodin noted friends of his who live west of South Thompson Street don’t ride to downtown because they don’t want to cross the busy highway.

“This will show those who have inclinations to biking that they are accepted,” Perrodin said. “They won’t have to fight and share space with a car.”