Originally Posted by kevrider
ArtKS, let's hear about little rock. it's on my list of places to go when i move away from memphis. is the city relatively safe for cycling? progressive, conservative? glad to hear it's hilly.
Boy, that's a wide open question. Hard to know where to start.
The core of Little Rock bicycling is the River Trail which goes along both sides of the river from downtown to about 7 miles west. The half through North Little Rock has been pronounced one of the nicest bike trails in the U.S. by Andy Clarke, League of American Bicyclists president. Little Rock being a bit more developed has had to work harder, but the trail on its side is just about completed with the refurbishing of the President Clinton bridge on the east end, and the building of the Two Rivers bridge across the Little Maumelle river, which connects the river trail with the Two Rivers Park trail and allows bicyclists to ride all the way to Pinnacle Mountain where they can pick up and do a great loop around Lake Maumelle.
I use the loop around Lake Maumelle as a training ride for Centuries as it is hilly, climbing up Wye Mountain and back down to the lake again and then has a series of rolling hills all along the southern edge for about a 35 mile ride.
The Little Rock Bicycle Friendly Communities Bike Plan subcommittee is finishing up its bike route recommendations so as it can bike lanes and sharrows will be implemented by the city. They are competing with North Little Rock which has already achieved a Bicycle Friendly Cities - Bronze status.
Also there is a movement afoot to combine some local parks in the west along with some abandoned golf courses to make the biggest park in Little Rock. They are actively working with bicycle advocates to ensure support. Due to the golf cart paths, this area is already rideable and they encourage you to ride.
And downtown, the bicycle polo enthusiasts have been working and established a polo court and gotten active participation and I believe they are even working to get some world class contests happening there. There are a number of big rides here including the Big Dam Bridge 100, Tour De Rock, and the Joe Weber Arky 100. There are quite a few mountain bike trails, many in North Little Rock in Burns Park as well as at Camp Robinson the local Air Force base. Statewide, there are nationally recoginzed trails like the Womble Trail. And if you are into gravity bikes, I can recommend the Talimena trail which has some downhill sections that go for miles, but it is near Mena on the western edge of the state.
There are very active clubs, Arkansas Bicycling Club being the biggest, and offering a busy riding schedule in Little Rock and the surrounding areas. Central Arkansas Recreational Pedalers is very active and focused on maintaining trails and riding at Camp Robinson.
There are a good number of bicycle stores in the area. All seem to be good, though each has its own nature. Most importantly, they realize that they must support the bicycling community, and they do. Orbea has an outlet store here, and Competitive Cyclist which advertises on Bike Forum is based here in Little Rock.
The utility biking scene has a tougher road. Due to terrain and the fact that most of Little Rock's major roads seem to have been built in the 1920s there are few through streets and they are not bicycle friendly. They are narrow, hilly, high-traffic and potholed. I was very intimidated when I first rode here, and Markham street in particular led me to join the Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas because something had to be done. To the west of the 430, things are better. It's the newer part of town, richer and the streets are wider.
The drivers are less used to sharing the streets with bicyclists and they complain more and often don't seem to know what to do, whether it's throwing things, nanny-driving where they hold up traffic to give you a right of way that you don't have, not observing a comfortable passing distance, or yelling rude remarks: I definitely get more of it than I did living in California.
But I have heard worse of Memphis, so I can say that it's relatively safe. But it's important to join in the bicycling community. They can tell you the safe areas and the dangerous ones.
My last bicycle commute took me through a neighborhood that I had previously perceived as dangerous. But one road through it, I discovered was a great cruising road, well paved with an 8 foot shoulder. I never had any problems and one time was even offered a $20.00 bill after a motorist saw me looking through the trash cans at a gas station. I was searching for a towel to wipe the chain oil off my hands when repairing a flat and the dispensers were empty, but I guess they thought I was looking for food.
Progressive, conservative? Hard to tell. We have been swept up by the great Republican tsunami. The Democrat senator was replaced by a Republican party liner, and the Democrat representative was replaced by a Republican closely allied with the Tea Party. We still have a widely popular Democrat Governor though. The roughest part is that both Democrats were supporters of bicycling, and the Republicans not. But historically, Republicans have not lasted long in office in Arkansas, so who can say what the future will hold. Arkansas avoided that last Real Estate bubble, so we are fairly settled that way, and the financial markets tend to overlook us, so we avoided the financial bubble. So our economy is fairly strong at the present moment.
And finally, I must mention the topography of Arkansas. There is an imaginary line going from the Southwest corner to the Northeast corner of the state. It roughly marks the division of the mountains and the Mississippi river delta. West of that line there is nothing but hills. East of that line it's flat as a pancake. Little Rock is right on that line, so the west is hilly and the east is flat.
It pays to look around a little before deciding where to live. I live in the Pleasant Valley area. For car-free living it is hard to beat. I have all the necessities close-by including post office, movie theaters, restaurants, two bicycle stores, a big box store and grocery stores. It's at the end of one of the bus lines so I can get to downtown or anywhere else in the city. It's also laced with a series of creeks that support a variety of wildlife including fish, snakes, muskrats, crawdads, rails, and herons. Others with cars prefer the Heights for it's ambiance, and downtown is developing a series of lofts for a more urban lifestyle. Like most southern cities, its a mixed population with the whites tending toward the north of the 630, the blacks to the south and hispanics toward the west and the south. The true white flight though was what powered the growth of cities like Jacksonville on the metro perimeter.
But Little Rock seems to be fairly cosmopolitan, and relations are pretty good. Pleasant Valley, where I live appears to be one of the most cosmopolitan areas with a good number of Indians and Asians as well as a hetrogeneous mix of the more traditional American populations. That just means more good restaurants if you ask me, and this area has a lot of variety, from BBQ and Catfish to Pho, Steaks to Felafals. The nearest pizzaria prepares their food to muslim Halal standards, but they don't make a big deal about it. There are even good places to get pie.
The weather here is good for bicycling. Just a few days of snow a year and it melts in a couple of days. There is rain, but that keeps Arkansas green.