Tem­po­rary bi­cy­cle lane causes stir

Ad­just­ments pos­si­bly needed, city of­fi­cials say

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RYBURN

FAYET­TEVILLE — A tem­po­rary bike lane that has neigh­bors di­vided ap­pears to be slow­ing down cars as in­tended, but some ad­just­ments may be needed, ac­cord­ing to city of­fi­cials and vol­un­teers be­hind the project.

A pro­tected bike lane has spanned Rolling Hills Drive from Col­lege Av­enue to Old Mis­souri Road since Novem­ber. The project was made pos­si­ble through a grant with the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion and spear­headed by non­profit re­gional bi­cy­cle ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion Bike NWA.

The lane goes from Rolling Hills through the Fi­esta Square shop­ping cen­ter west to Ap­pleby Road. Two sim­i­lar projects went up in Siloam Springs and Spring­dale as part of a larger pi­lot pro­gram at­tempt­ing to make travel more ac­com­mo­dat­ing for bi­cy­cles and pedes­tri­ans.

WHAT ARE PEO­PLE SAY­ING?

Fayet­teville has re­ceived about 100 com­ments from the pub­lic since the in­stal­la­tion, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­tor Su­san Nor­ton said. About three-quar­ters of re­sponses were neg­a­tive and a quar­ter pos­i­tive. Some res­i­dents are con­cerned about the width of the car lanes, oth­ers don’t like the way it looks, and oth­ers wor­ried about it bot­tle­neck­ing traf­fic, she said.

Mike Tay­lor, a res­i­dent

of the neigh­bor­hood, said he feels hin­der­ing the traf­fic flow of cars to make room for bi­cy­cles isn’t the way to go. The city may clas­sify Rolling Hills as a col­lec­tor of traf­fic from main ar­ter­ies, but in re­al­ity, it’s a thor­ough­fare, he said.

Traf­fic on each end snarls be­cause cars don’t have enough room to ma­neu­ver, Tay­lor said. He said he didn’t mind the nar­rower lane widths, but any car that strays while go­ing the speed limit risks hit­ting one of the tem­po­rary bar­ri­ers.

Tay­lor said he’s lived in the neigh­bor­hood for about seven years and hasn’t seen much bi­cy­cle traf­fic along the painted bike lanes that used to be there.

“It’s a so­lu­tion to a prob­lem that doesn’t re­ally ex­ist,” he said. “They could’ve just left it as it was with the stripes.”

Most of the pos­i­tive feed­back from neigh­bors, some with chil­dren at­tend­ing But­ter­field Trail El­e­men­tary School, say they ap­pre­ci­ate the traf­fic-calm­ing ef­fect of the project and im­proved safety for pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­clists, Nor­ton said.

Chris Clanton, who lives on Rolling Hills Drive, said he’s very happy with the project. Cars have vis­i­bly slowed down, and with the re­duc­tion in lane widths, ve­hi­cles no longer try to go around each other when some­one tries to turn, he said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Clanton said he feels safer get­ting around the neigh­bor­hood. He typ­i­cally walks his dogs and pushes his baby in a stroller three times a day and would wait sev­eral min­utes to cross the nearly 40-foot-wide street be­fore the in­stal­la­tion was put in, he said.

“Now I can ac­tu­ally walk on the bike lane to get to the south side of the neigh­bor­hood and walk around those streets,” he said.

Clanton said a lot of the crit­i­cism might be com­ing from peo­ple who don’t live in the neigh­bor­hood and are pass­ing through.

WHAT IS IT?

Fayet­teville started im­ple­ment­ing what it refers to as tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism projects two years ago. The con­cept in­volves us­ing in­ex­pen­sive, tem­po­rary ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate new road fea­tures such as cross­walks, bar­ri­ers and mark­ings.

The city has a for­mal process for putting a tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism project in a neigh­bor­hood. There’s an ap­pli­ca­tion on­line, and depart­ment heads in plan­ning, en­gi­neer­ing and pub­lic safety re­view each project be­fore it’s ap­proved.

The project on Rolling Hills went through the same process, but city of­fi­cials say the re­sponse to it has been di­vided. Part of the idea be­hind these projects is to gauge pub­lic re­ac­tion be­fore in­stalling any­thing per­ma­nent, City En­gi­neer Chris Brown said.

“I think this process is go­ing to help us as we re­ally go through the de­sign and devel­op­ment and fig­ure out ex­actly what the cross-sec­tion should look like,” he said.

BikeNWA has posted a FAQ sheet on its web­site to ad­dress sev­eral of the con­cerns from res­i­dents. The in­stal­la­tion is set to stay there un­til De­cem­ber, and all the while city of­fi­cials and the group’s vol­un­teers will col­lect traf­fic data, in­clud­ing changes in car speeds and fre­quency of bi­cy­cles on the stretch, said Pax­ton Roberts, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of BikeNWA.

Car lanes were re­duced from 11 feet to 10 feet wide. A 3-foot buf­fer was painted in be­tween the car and bike lanes, with 4-inch-tall curb stops that look like lit­tle bumps along the road serv­ing as a bar­rier. The bike lanes of a lit­tle more than 6 feet wide are slightly big­ger than the painted lanes that were there be­fore. Tall, thin plas­tic sticks called bol­lards are set where cars typ­i­cally turn, and green paint marks higher-risk ar­eas such as in­ter­sec­tions.

Roberts said part of the chal­lenge is ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic about the project. For in­stance, a lot of driv­ers don’t know cars can roll over the curb stops. They’re bolted to the ground, and as long as a car doesn’t go over them at full speed, they should stay in place with­out dam­ag­ing a ve­hi­cle, he said. There’s also space in be­tween the curb stops for cars to get through.

The pre­vi­ous bi­cy­cle lanes weren’t work­ing, Roberts said. BikeNWA and the city col­lected data and ob­served traf­fic be­fore the in­stal­la­tion, and saw sev­eral cars us­ing the bike lane to get around other ve­hi­cles.

THE STORY SO FAR

Aside from im­prov­ing travel for bi­cy­cles, the project is in­tended to slow down cars. Sev­eral neigh­bors ex­pressed a de­sire for traf­fic-calm­ing mea­sures on the street dur­ing heated pub­lic meet­ings last spring over a pro­posed re­zon­ing and planned street ex­ten­sion.

“We saw peo­ple say, ‘We want to keep our street small, we have a speed­ing prob­lem, we want peo­ple to slow down and we don’t feel safe bik­ing or walk­ing,’” Roberts said. “We saw that, and we ac­tu­ally had neigh­bors, peo­ple who live in that com­mu­nity, reach out to us.”

Pre­lim­i­nary data over an 11-day pe­riod be­fore and af­ter the bike lanes were in­stalled showed the num­ber of cars driv­ing 31 mph or slower went up from 23 per­cent to 52 per­cent, Roberts said. About 10,000 cars travel on the street per day, with about 100,000 in to­tal over the 11 days. That means about 25,000 more cars drove within the 30-mph speed limit than be­fore, he said.

“That is a huge suc­cess,” Roberts said.

The in­stal­la­tion will stay up for a full year in or­der to col­lect data dur­ing dif­fer­ent sea­sons, Roberts said. Changes could be made through­out, such as mov­ing the curb stops over a few inches, he said.

Pub­lic safety per­son­nel are also col­lect­ing feed­back from emer­gency-ve­hi­cle driv­ers to see how cars re­act, ac­cord­ing to the Fayet­teville fire mar­shal’s of­fice.

Pre­lim­i­nary data over an 11-day pe­riod be­fore and af­ter the bike lanes were in­stalled showed the num­ber of cars driv­ing 31 mph or slower went up from 23 per­cent to 52 per­cent, Roberts said.

FU­TURE OP­TIONS

About $3.5 mil­lion for Rolling Hills im­prove­ments is listed among the trans­porta­tion projects vot­ers will con­sider April 9 dur­ing a spe­cial elec­tion to ex­tend the city’s ex­ist­ing 1 per­cent sales tax. The en­tire $226 mil­lion bond ref­er­en­dum in­cludes about $70 mil­lion for road projects.

The pre­lim­i­nary plan would have a street built through Fi­esta Square to con­nect Rolling Hills Drive to Ap­pleby Road, as well as some type of per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion for bi­cy­cles and pedes­tri­ans on Rolling Hills, Brown said.

How­ever, based on the feed­back the city re­ceives, it’s pos­si­ble Rolling Hills could go back to the way it was. The op­tions are var­ied, and the city could use some or all of the $3.5 mil­lion set for Rolling Hills on other trans­porta­tion projects, Brown said.

Coun­cil mem­ber Sloan Scrog­gin, who be­gan his term rep­re­sent­ing Ward 3 on Jan. 1, said he has re­ceived nu­mer­ous emails and phone calls from con­stituents about the project. Re­sponses have ranged from bi­cy­clists who love it to those who want the street widened to be able to go faster, but feed­back has been about even, he said.

Scrog­gin said he un­der­stands why some res­i­dents might be ap­pre­hen­sive about the project. Rolling Hills has looked the same for a long time, and most driv­ers aren’t go­ing to take a chance to find out if they can drive over the curb stops, he said.

How­ever, it’s clear the fea­tures are caus­ing cars to slow down, Scrog­gin said. A for­mal city project us­ing bond money that takes into ac­count res­i­dent feed­back and data could work, he said.

“We are well aware of all the sides of the is­sue and are def­i­nitely look­ing at data,” Scrog­gin said. “We’ll make it through the pi­lot pro­gram, and some of those is­sues will be fixed if it’s a per­ma­nent de­sign.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

The tem­po­rary bike lanes are vis­i­ble on Rolling Hills Drive Wed­nes­day as traf­fic passes by in Fayet­teville. BikeNWA, a re­gional bi­cy­cling ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­stalled the tem­po­rary pro­tected bike lanes at Rolling Hills Drive in Novem­ber as part of a larger pi­lot project in­clud­ing Spring­dale and Eureka Springs paid for through a grant from the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

The tem­po­rary bike lanes are vis­i­ble on Rolling Hills Drive on Wed­nes­day as traf­fic passes by in Fayet­teville. BikeNWA, a re­gional bi­cy­cling ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­stalled the tem­po­rary pro­tected bike lanes at Rolling Hills Drive in Novem­ber as part of a larger pi­lot project in­clud­ing Spring­dale and Eureka Springs paid for through a grant from the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

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