Sunday, November 13, 2011

State Street Bikeway

A Few of the Problems:
  • There's no good way to ride a bike north-south across downtown Little Rock.
  • There are zero routes designed for cyclists that cross Wilbur's Wall, i.e. I-630, other than two scary pedestrian bridges at MacArthur Park and Johnson St. (and they're over 2.5 miles apart from each other!)
  • Most of the streets that do cross I-630 (1) are one-way, (2) are dangerously busy with cars, and/or (3) intersect very busy segments of freeway access road.

Partial Solution: A bikeway on State Street!

State Street Bikeway Map

Likely Results:
  • Residents of the inherently bike-friendly old neighborhoods south of the freeway will have a safe and convenient way to ride downtown or to the River Trail.
  • Residents of the condos and apartments along North Street will likewise have a connection across La Harpe. 
  • Property values of existing buildings go up on both sides of the freeway -> revenues go up for the city and county.
  • The seas of desolate parking lots along the route will be redeveloped thanks to their proximity to the top-notch alternative transportation facility.
Why State Street?
  • It's already a two-way street.
  • It doesn't receive a ton of car traffic.
  • No bus routes use it, so we don't have to design for bus-bike conflict
  • It crosses I-630 nowhere near any on- or off-ramps.
  • It traverses downtown with no interruptions and provides easy access to the River Trail.
Separated bike path in Assen, NL. From David Hembrow,
Extending bike infrastructure south of Daisy Bates is absolutely crucial, and ideally the bikeway would cross 17th and even all the way through Roosevelt. I've drawn the route partially on Gaines on the map above just because State is fenced off at Philander Smith College. (Maybe in the future we should think about making bike and pedestrian access a condition of allowing private institutions to close down public streets. Just a thought.) Negotiating through-access with them would be cool, but I don't think the street choice makes a huge difference south of I-630 in this case. State, Gaines, Arch... any one would probably work fine. North of the freeway though State is the best choice for this part of town for the reasons listed in the section above.

Of course, a bikeway on State Street would never function well in a vacuum. It will need to intersect other bikeways to be of any real use. Capitol Ave, 7th Street, 2nd Street, (3rd Street too?) are all prime candidates for well-designed, convenient cycling facilities where people feel safe and encouraged to ride as they go about their daily business. It's all about connections (see here, here, here, and here, e.g.) And when those connections are built, we really, really, REALLY should take a lesson from some folks who have spent the last few decades figuring out how to do it well. See a proper Dutch bike intersection design here with follow-up here. Why should we try to reinvent the wheel when they've already done the legwork?

OK, A tour...
See the full route above. Here's the zigzag at the north end of State. You could also zig to the east on Garland if that makes more sense. The zag at the north end of Gaines has to cross about 20 feet of dirt path right now to reach the River Trail, but paving a connection would be trivial.
State Street to River Trail

Currently there is no safe way to cross La Harpe on foot or bike at State Street. In fact, the sidewalks abruptly end at the intersection with no crosswalks and no pedestrian signals (other than the tacit one that says "You don't belong here!"). Getting the traffic light to change if you're on bike is darned-near impossible too unless there's a car there to trip the loop switch embedded in the pavement. A properly implemented bikeway would fix all of this.
La Harpe and State Sidewalk End

Looking back toward LaHarpe from Markham below. State Street is four travel lanes wide in this block as well as in the one behind the camera (between Markham and 2nd). Total street width is a little over 40 feet from curb to curb here. I'd shrink the cross section down to two 10-foot travel lanes with a dedicated left turn lane where necessary on these two blocks. Then split the remaining 10-12 feet between a bike lane/path/track on both sides of the street, roughly where the street surface is concrete on the left side of this pic:
Looking N on State From Markham 

The street narrows south of 2nd to about 35 feet and we start to see on-street car storage. Oh my! There's no way we can possibly fit bike lanes/paths/tracks into the street now! Where would we put all of those cars?!!!!
State Between 2nd and 3rd

Fist of all, what cars? Second, if there are cars that need to park on that block, what about putting them here for now? This lot at the corner on the same block had 62 out of 75 spots available when I took the pic on a Tuesday afternoon.
13 out of 75 Spaces Filled Today 

The next block has a couple of apartment buildings and the onstreet parking gets a little more pressure. Not too much though, because apparently we don't even put enough value on the limited spaces here to charge people to use them.
Cars Parked on State Between 3rd and 4th

And here's the scene around the corner on 4th. Only one out of 20 spaces was taken on this non-holiday Tuesday afternoon:
1 out of 20 Spaces Taken on 4th 

The next block of State borders the center of the U.S. Government's hub of operations for the state of Arkansas. Surely demand for these primo spaces is sky high given the parking crisis that everyone knows afflicts downtown Little Rock!
Nope. Doesn't look like it...
Cars Parked by the Federal Building

And there are plenty of open spots on Capitol too:
Capitol Ave. Spaces Less than Half Full 

Pedestrians all up in da house! Whoo whoo!

A sea of cars in the area... It's too bad that views of oceans of cars don't bring the same increase to property values that views of real oceans do. 
Sea of Cars

The view north on State from 10th Street (a.k.a. access road for Wilbur's Wall). Just imagine what could be...
State Street Bridge

10th Street / 630-frontage gets very little traffic here, not nearly enough to justify the over 30 feet of one-way travel lanes. We could easily shrink this down to one travel lane for cars, have room for separated bike facilities, and maybe even mark some onstreet parking for the church at Philander Smith college.
Excess Capacity Personified

The gross over-allocation of limited urban space to cars here is even harder to justify when you consider that the road narrows down to just one lane anyway in the next block before reaching Broadway:
W. 10th Narrowing to 1 Lane

And then here's Gaines Street between Mt. Holly Cemetery and Philander Smith College. It looks ripe for resurfacing soon, and I see no reason not to include bike facilities at the same time.
S. Gaines between Mt. Holly and Philander Smith 

Makes sense to me. Hopefully some of that new sales tax money coming to LR soon will be spent on investments like a State Street Bikeway. Stodola? Erma Fingers Hendrix? Anyone? Anyone? Let's think big!

1 comment:

  1. I really like this idea! I live at Cliffs Condos and La Harpe is a nightmare to cross every day. I usually bike over to Izard St., between State and Chester and wait for both of those street lights to turn red and hurry across. There's a pedestrian crosswalk a little further east for the police department folks to cross over from the parking lot on the other side but I don't think I have ever seen a car yield to a pedestrian on La Harpe. Why would they? The street design is made to move cars as quickly as possible!

    But State Street is so underused I think it would be an excellent route to get from the river trail to the neighborhood. And the bridge across 630 there doesn’t have an on or off ramp and it dead ends at Philander Smith so not many people use this drive this section. Little Rock has made some nice trails going east/west but has really struggled on making a north/south route. This may be an easy one to start with.