BikeNWA receives input on protected bicycle lanes in Springdale; residents worry about safety, traffic impacts

The Bike Alliance of Northwest Arkansas (BikeNWA) hosted the second of two public meetings Tuesday (Sept. 18) on a proposed protected bicycle lane for Meadow and Maple avenues and Holcomb Street in Springdale, and some residents were concerned about safety issues and ambulance traffic along the planned route.

Ryan Hale, founder of Bentonville consulting and planning company Laneshift, explained bicycle lanes are good for the economy and increase the attractiveness for individuals who might be looking to move to the area from larger urban areas.

Springdale, with a population of 79,599, is one of three Northwest Arkansas cities involved in a one-year pilot project that is supported by a $150,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The plan is to install temporary protected bicycle lanes in Springdale and Fayetteville and a temporary neighborhood greenway in Siloam Springs.

Neighborhood greenways are installed on streets too narrow for protected bicycle lanes and include features that are expected to “calm traffic,” such as curb extensions and chicanes, said Paxton Roberts, executive director of BikeNWA. The protected bicycle lanes would include small barriers and bollards dividing the four- to six-foot-wide lanes from the street, and the temporary lanes would be installed on existing roads without the need for new asphalt.

Some property owners in downtown Springdale were against the project as they believed it would narrow the streets and make them less safe. Downtown resident Sam Mason said the narrower streets will make it more difficult to drive downtown. He also said he doesn’t see much bicycle traffic on the streets that are planned for the new bicycle lanes and sees more on Johnson Avenue, which is north of Meadow Avenue.

Resident Margarita Solorzano was concerned for the safety of the cyclists and that the roads wouldn’t be wide enough for emergency traffic. Glenda Hollis, who owns property on Maple Avenue, said she wanted the area to remain residential and not become a thoroughfare. Her husband, Tim, also was concerned about safety with the nearby Northwest Medical Center on Maple Avenue and the frequent ambulance traffic going to and from the hospital.

Bicycle lanes will be included on either side of the streets for the majority of the project, and 700 reinforced plastic barriers with reflective strips, or Zebra Cycle Lane Separators, will provide protection for cyclists from vehicle traffic.

Work to install the lanes and greenway is expected to start in October and should be completed by Nov. 30. They will run along more than one mile of streets in each city. In Fayetteville, the lanes will be installed on Rolling Hills Drive and Appleby Road. Dennis Blind, of Active Planning and Design in Bentonville, is leading the project for Fayetteville. It will largely run along existing bicycle trails on the streets. Reinforced plastic wheel stops with reflective strips will be installed as barriers between the street and bicycle lanes.

In Siloam Springs, the neighborhood greenway will be installed on Harvard Street. The grant, which BikeNWA received in August, is paying for a consultant and the installation materials. The cost for permanent lanes and greenway would cost about the same price as all three temporary projects.

A second public meeting for the lanes in Fayetteville is set for Sept. 25, and another meeting on the greenway in Siloam Springs is expected to take place Sept. 27.

Samuel Slaton