Saturday, October 29, 2011

4th & Louisiana

Take note of how the white car is blocking the lane forcing south bound traffic to turn left into the middle lane. This is a common occurance in the afternoon.

It's great to have a school downtown. eStem has made great use of some wonderful historic buildings, adding to the daytime vibrancy and diversity of downtown. It's also changed traffic patterns from about 7:20am - 7:50am and about 4:00pm to 4:50pm. Turns have been disallowed in two spots at various times. No left hand turn signs were added on 3rd & Louisiana at two different spots. Currently, no eastbound turns are allowed though at one point no southbound turns were allowed. If there was publicity about the changing turning options, I didn't see it. It resulted in a few tickets for regular travelers who just 'didn't see' the new signs. Traffic is a manageable thing with the right plan, signage and education.

The left hand land of 4th Street going east becomes a feeder lane onto Louisiana during the drop-off and pick-up periods. Adults driving their children to school turn a partial lane, littered half with parking meters (half are shutdown via 'not in use/no parking' bags). This creates a scenario where drivers, some of whom are surely not parents waiting to pick-up their children, will not turn left due to the backlog of cars in line for the pick-up spot. In an effort to 'beat the light' you'll see cars half-way on 4th & half on Louisiana. For a while, there were cars lined-up on the left hand side of 4th waiting to turn into the alley near the school. This, despite the sign clearly stating: "No parking, stopping or standing anytime". Thankfully, that issue seems to have taken care of itself.

The concern here is safety. Children are crossing between cars on Louisiana, near the school in the morning, often not using the crosswalks. It's not just children, I've seen parents and staff (they wear name badges, so you know they're staff) cross between cars during the drop-off periods.

Credit to the three police officers directing traffic (does every school have three traffic cops?), they're quick to reprimand and point out the danger. The crossing guards are mindful, as well. It appears as it's often the parents directing the children to what they must think is the quickest way to the door. Quickest doesn't always mean safest, however. I fear the safety of the pedestrian. Parents & teachers, do your children a favor, teach them about crosswalks.

I took a few photos during the 4:30ish period to note the dangers.
This car created its own lane in an effort to get in the pick-up line/lane. It was at a stop due to the line of cars in front of it. You will see this every school day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Details on Sunday's Learning Fair

1:00-3:00 on Sunday, Oct. 30, at the River Market Pavilion. Amongst other fun things, Central Arkie Transit is going to have a bus there so you can see the inside and practice using the bike rack if you want. They're also giving away some bus passes as prizes. Check out the flier below...

Click to embiggen.

The Pavilions are just west of the A, but this'll get you to the general vicinity.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Little Rock Mayor's Car-Free Challenge

Let's go ride a bike!
Mayor Stodola is going car-free from November 5-11 and challenges everyone else in Little Rock to do the same. Basic rules: you can walk, bike, ride pubic transit, skateboard, wheelchair, etc., but just can't use a car. He's kicking things off with a "learning fair" at the River Market pavilion on Sunday, October 30, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.

The press release and facebook page are up.

This is a great idea! It'll go a long way toward easing people's aversion to riding CAT, will get more folks thinking about bikes as actual transportation instead of just recreation, and most importantly will show everyone who participates just how incredibly far we have to go here in Central Arkansas before our infrastructure even begins to support car-free or car-lite living. Maybe this will spark some meaningful debate about how to spend some of that extra $500 million in sales tax revenue coming our way over the next 10 years so that we don't repeat the mistakes of the last 20. Complete streets anyone? Maybe some form based codes or Smart Codes instead of old-fashioned, outdated Euclidean zoning? Can we work toward making Little Rock a Strong Town? We're great at building wide roads that people can drive fast on, but what about building world class bike infrastructure?

Or maybe it'll just be a fun thing for people to try to do for a week. I know it will be for me.

I also have to add, in my humble opinion, that Little Rock has by far the coolest bike logo if anyone anywhere. It just makes you want to ride, no?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walkable & Livable Communities Institute

The Walkable & Livable Communities Institute will 'report out' their walk-audit of Levy tomorrow morning, Thursday, October 13 at 9 a.m. in the North Little Rock City Hall Council Chambers.

Dan Burden, executive director of the Institute will share his suggestions for Levy, but the principles should be applicable to many communities. He was just in El Dorado and will also visit Harrison & Siloam Springs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

This Gets A Little Meta

But we want to thank for the shout out. You can see we've linked to them several times. Part of the Atlantic Magazine family, this site focuses on explores innovative ideas and pressing issues facing cities and neighborhoods.

On an note unrelated to cities or neighborhoods, if you haven't read Taylor Branch's article for The Atlantic, The Shame of College Sports, do yourself a favor & check it out.

Musings on the Broadway Bridge

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sprawl Works Like a Ponzi Scheme

I saw this post on how sprawl is just a ponzi scheme and it reminded me of the recent Arkansas Times commentary saying something not dissimilar.

Home-Based Bike Repair in LR

E2 has been a fixture of the bike and shop scene in central Arkansas for over 10 years now, most recently as a mechanic and customer support rep at Competitive Cyclist. He's not making the move to Utah when the rest of the company packs up later this month and is instead going to stay here to perform bike repair/maintenance on his own out of his garage.

Check out his shop page on the Facebook by clicking here.

This guy is good.

From his fb page:
"Local bicycle repair done FAST, 2 time STU grad (SRAM Technical University) with over a decade of experience repairing all makes and models of bicycles. No job is too big or too small. Local pick up and drop off available for repairs in North Little Rock, Little Rock and Maumelle. No messing around with "store hours" so you can also drop off or pick up your bike at YOUR convenience. Why pay more for less convenience and a less experienced mechanic?" 
Give him a shout at 501-515-4190 the next time you need some work done.


Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas's monthly meeting is tonight at 7:00 at the Oyster Bar on Markham. The Mayors Stodola and Hays along with Judge Villines have been invited to discuss all things River Trail.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fast Food Midtown - UPDATE

Well, it looks like we'll be getting a Mickey D's in midtown. Add this to the Chick-a-Fil-A, Food Court at the mall and the Starbucks & Pei Wei across the street (with their backs to the traffic -that's weird, right?) and you're in everywhere. I mean nowhere. I mean you're in midtown. If you didn't know it just check out the banners that now line part of University Avenue. This, of course, is where we just added sidewalks and took the exit ramp down from two to one lanes. It's the newly hip area with a promised mixed-use development. Above a Target. Which is soon to have a Staples next door. Oh, and have you seen the new Cheddars that's about to open?

Can we now stop talking about the Park Avenue (seriously, Park Avenue?) as a great new-urbanist development that's going to be the first of many mixed-used developments to come.

All of this on the same same day the board of directors finalized the vote to turn Ray Winder Field into a parking lot. Cities need places for people, not cars. Parking lots are not a redevelopment strategy.

But, there is an opportunity. Develop the Mickey D's in a worthwhile manne
r. I haven't seen the plans for what is surely another boring, cookie-cutter fast-food restaurant that isn't exactly development which considers the overall public health picture of the city. Actually, newly constructed McDonalds (sometimes replacing the McDs that that once existed on the same lot) are often the best architecture in a community. The 'retro' Mickey Ds that, while extremely bright from the florescent light that abounds, are better than the box that once stood in Generica. Now that's a sad commentary on American architecture. But I digress.

We could look to Saratoga Springs, NY where a
recently opened McDonalds is brick construction, built to the street and actually enhances the streetscape when compared with the strip mall or convenience store.

But I wouldn't count on it.

A City for Cars or for People?

Cars only. People Use Side Door.
Speaking of the Broadway Bridge, have you ever noticed the signs barring people from using the crosswalk across Broadway north of Markham? Apparently facilitating the rapid movement of automobiles out of Little Rock is more important than promoting walkability. Well, at least this isn't a major urban civic crossroads with City Hall on one corner, the main city auditorium and oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi on another, and the County Courthouse on a third, right? Wrong!

Argument 1 for the signs: "There's already so much car traffic on Markham in the afternoons waiting to make that left turn onto Broadway that if you put a walk phase into the signal cycle the congestion would back up even more."
A response: There's a ton of traffic on Markham precisely because the engineers have sacrificed the walk signal and designated two lanes with a protected left turn. Make that left turn from Markham onto Broadway less appealing and drivers will find another way. Guaranteed. Right now we don't even allow a left turn from 3rd Street onto Broadway despite there being two east-bound travel lanes. We have a connected street grid downtown with many options for drivers, but the traffic engineers have altered it to funnel cars into certain patterns. Heck, a few drivers might even decide to ride the bus or a bike if we didn't bend over backwards to make driving so easy.

Argument 2 for the signs: "It's just too dangerous for pedestrians to cross there. The signs protect them."
A response: Then make the intersection safer. Construct a raised crosswalk; lower car speeds by changing the pavement material; get bigger walk/don't walk signs; shrink Broadway down from 5 lanes to 3 or 4 and construct sidewalk bump-outs to shorten the distance across. There are countless ways of making streets safer and more inviting for pedestrians if we decide to do so.

Argument 3 for the signs: "No one walks there anyway, so there's no harm done."
A response: No one walks there because it is an unfriendly space for pedestrians. Make it more inviting and people will use their feet.

Just because things are a certain way does not mean they should be.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let's Build a Landmark

Yeah, I stole the Arkansas Times headline that shows up everytime they sponsor Arkansas Week (yeah, I watch Arkansas Week. Actually I usually listen to the podcast).

Rarely do I agree with the editorial board of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette but they get it (mostly) right this morning (ridiculous but profitable paywall enforced). I tend to think small can sometimes be better and I'm not convinced about the need for additional ve
hicular lanes but I agree that we must build a better Broadway Bridge. Not better in the sense that there's something horribly wrong with the style & type we have now (minus the impending safety issues & the horrid truss added in the 70s) but better than a workman like structure than we have tended to build around these parts.

We have a great trail system that's been developed over the last few years. We have even better pedestrian bridges. Why would we want to slow down that developing
legacy? It seems the mayors and the county judge agree, as does Metroplan. But, of course, the question is the money. The DG proposes a bond. OK by me. Whatever it takes.

A couple of heretical ideas -

* Sell naming rights to the bridge. I don't care what you call it so long as it's amazing.

* Paint the damn thing red. When I was in Pittsburgh a few years ago I noticed they'd painted one of their bridges in the Three Rivers area yellow with some black. Asking
around, someone told me they did this (obviously) in an effort to correlate with the nearby sports stadiums for the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. Lets have a Razorback red bridge. Sorry Trojans & Bears. Hey, we could say the red is also for the Red Wolves. Whatever it takes.

* Build it high enough where there's an opportunity for a secondary bridge, perhaps for pedestrians and/or bikers below. I'm not an engineer. I have no idea how this could work but if we don't give it some elevation, we've missed our 100 year window.

* Build it with the idea that one day the trolley will also go over the bridge. Spend whatever money up-front that will cut down the inevitable costs in the future.

Finally, and I think this goes without saying, but provide plenty of access to non-motorized traffic. The bridge is for transportation and that doesn't just mean cars. Bikes, skates, feet. These are all good ways to get around.

We're on the StreetsBlog Network Now

MoveArkansas has been added to the StreetsBlog Network of like-minded blogs from around the country. Arkansas is no longer a blank on their map!

Click me to go to the StreetsBlog site.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Braess Paradox

More lanes on I40 North & South will not decrease travel times from Conway to Little Rock during the morning & afternoon commute for this reason. Revist this post in three years for confirmation.

Thanks, AT. We Still Think Tearing Down 630 Would Make a Better City

Thanks to the Arkansas Times for the shout out yesterday. In honor of Max's hat tip, I thought I'd reprint & link to the piece that started our conversation about transportation in Arkansas & Pulaski County. I still believe it'd make for a better capital city.

Tear down I-630

Like all long-lasting revitalizations, Central Arkansas's traditional commercial core is amidst a slow renewal. But the process is disconnected. We have separate groups working in the South Main neighborhood and downtown and in the River Market. Because we're divided. I-630 separates our city.

So tear it up and start over. Expensive? Sure. But necessary for long-term holistic revitalization? Absolutely. It's not without precedent either. All over the country — in Oklahoma City, Portland and San Francisco — cities are in the process of destroying poorly planned highways. (Really, name another interstate that ends in a traffic light.)

Build a boulevard in place of 630. It could accommodate similar traffic flow, but at lower speeds; reconnect our neighborhoods, and spark new revitalization. Every once in a while, smart growth means starting over.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces - William H. Whyte

(a little) Rain on the Parade

The whole Clinton fam is in town this weekend partly to open the long-awaited bike and pedestrian bridge that crosses the Arkansas River next to Bill's library and partly to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of his presidential campaign announcement. There're beaucoups of dignitaries and celebrities being dignified and celebratory in conjunction with the events, and the weather has been absolutely, positively sublime. If that's not enough to light your fire, the Downtown Partnership also organized a Food Truck Festival on Main Street today complete with big screen tv's to show the Razorback-Aggies game from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The Clinton Bridge is Open!
However, despite all of this wonderful-ness permeating everything this weekend, someone decided to turn the River Rail Trolley tracks into a PARKING LOT from Friday through Sunday:
Drivers Only. Transit Riders Use Side Door.
So here's the situation as I see it: we have tons of out-of-staters staying downtown (including a former President, the current Secretary of State, Chicago!, etc, etc.) to dedicate the newest piece of the growing active transportation network in Central Arkansas during the most perfect time of year for people to walk and be active, and what do we do? Shut down the main link between the downtown hotels and the Clinton Library... to make room for a few extra CARS! Call me cynical, but how in the world does that make any sense? Come on people. This was an ideal opportunity to showcase the usefulness of of a balanced transportation system that allows choice, and we turned it off for CARS. Oh well. Maybe next time.

(In the interest of full disclosure though I must say that there appears to be a number of extra shuttle buses operating throughout downtown LR this weekend, but still, if we're going to invest in rail-based transit infrastructure and then criticize it for low ridership, why would we shut it down on one of the few weekends during the year when it might be able to post some real numbers?)