If you travel Maple Street or Holcomb Avenue regularly, you have encountered the recent installation of an on-street, protected bikeway. The bikeway extends from the library, past Murphy Park and Springdale High School, across Thompson, past the hospital, north along Holcomb past the Montessori school, then east on Meadow to the Razorback Greenway. This bikeway connects residential areas west of the library to the Razorback Greenway with a protected bicycle route. The protected bikeway is a one-year demonstration project sponsored by Bike NWA and funded by the Walton Family Foundation. This is one of three protected bikeway demonstration projects being installed in Springdale, Fayetteville and Siloam Springs.
On-street, protected bikeways are common in other parts of the United States but are fairly new in Northwest Arkansas. The construction of the Razorback Greenway brought on-street bikeways to Springdale along Silent Grove and Powell St. Protected bikeways are shown to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists but implementation in our area will not be without a period of adjustment.
Planning for economic growth and changing demographics is requiring the recognition that our rights-of-way must be adapted to a safer, shared use by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. Historically, our streets were considered shared spaces where drivers watched out for children on bicycles or neighbors visiting with each other. Over the years, streets have become the nearly exclusive domain of cars and trucks hurrying to transport us quickly from point “A” to point “B”. In recent years there is increasing demand for a return to the shared use of public spaces including rights-of-way. The most common complaints heard by the City’s Traffic Committee are the need for traffic calming in residential areas and the need for safe space for children and adults in neighborhood rights-of-way. A response to these demands will require evaluation of our community goals and the changing nature and uses of public spaces. Rights-of way will need to be designed to safely accommodate various uses and users. The demonstration project was not designed for the “spandex, road warrior” cycling crowd, it was designed for family cyclists. The “protected” part of the design is to minimize conflicts between motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians increasing user safety. The next year will be a period of education, public discussion and data collection to discover the safest, cost effective way to share the rights-of-way with all users in Springdale.
Early comments from our citizens were received during project installation. The construction process is often inconvenient and there is an adjustment period following project completion. Early comments have primarily been associated with the reduced turning radii allowed by the flex-posts at intersections. The post locations will be adjusted in the coming weeks to allow room for turning movements while protecting the bikeway. This is a demonstration project and community feedback is an important part of the process. Your comments are welcome but please make comments specific so your concerns can be addressed. Click here to complete the feedback survey.