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THE BUS BLOG – MORE BIKES AND BUSSES

07 Oct
 Wednesday morning I took my backpack with me and rode my bike to work. The goal for the afternoon was to go grocery shopping via the bus and my bike. I also decided that this would be a good day to finally get a rear bike light since I would probably be biking back from the grocery store as it was getting dark. As far as riding on the streets go, I pretty much only do it downtown, where traffic is slower and drivers are more alert. I know it’s actually illegal to bike on the sidewalks, but there is no way I am biking up hill on Markham, especially at the pace I go! But at night, even biking on sidewalks can be a little scary and it’s nice to know that drivers whizzing by you at least know you are there.A few weeks ago, I went to a lunch discussion about biking in Little Rock put on my the USGBC Residential Green Discussion Group and Ed Levy, the speaker of the discussion, invited us all to sign up to be part of the Bicycle Friendly Community Committee (BFCC), a group put together by Mayor Stodala, consisting of city representatives, planning specialist and prominent active members of the biking community. So Wednesday afternoon, I attended their monthly meeting at the Rivermarket.

To the Rivermarket and back.

The main discussion of the meeting was about the final section of the River Trail bike trail that remains to be completed. If you have ridden the loop, you probably know they were referring to the section between Cajun’s Wharf and the Broadway Bridge. Here the trail rides alongside a sidewalk on Cantrell Road, crosses the railroad tracks on a narrow path flanking busy traffic on a blind curve and cuts over to Markham where riders pass the Salvation Army before turning back onto the bike trail 6 blocks away. The city of Little Rock is currently going after funding that will help to build a trail that cuts into the steep hillside that banks the river behind Dillard’s headquarters and terminates safely behind Cajun’s Wharf, where it will join back up with the bike lanes on Riverfront Rd. And if the trail turns out to be anything like what the city is purposing, it will be one of the most breathtaking sections of the loop. We also discussed developing Two Rivers Park with playgrounds and other amenities now that so many people travel there via the new bridge, designing a Little Rock biking logo for shirts and jerseys, and also the Mayor’s Challenge. The Mayor’s Challenge is a program dedicated to getting people out of their cars and off of the streets. The Mayor will even take the challenge himself, but the goal is to go a whole week without driving a car. Participates will be encouraged to walk, bike, bus or carpool everywhere they need to go for an entire week. Sounds like a piece of cake compared to a whole month! I will post some more info about this as it develops.

 

Waiting for the Bus

After the meeting adjourned and I headed back to work and started to think about my tasks later that afternoon. So near the end of the day, I looked up the bus route that goes up to Kavanaugh and Markham and saw it passed somewhere down 2nd st, near my office. The map was pretty basic. It marks the route fairly well all though it is up to the rider to figure out exactly where the stops are. So after work, I biked down to 2nd street and looked for the CAT Bus sign. Luckily it was just between Izard and Chester, almost directly across the block from the office. The time table said the bus left from the Travel Center at 5:45 and stopped at the Markham and Kavanaugh intersection at 5:56. I was trying to make it to Spokes before they closed at 6:00.

 

Here it comes

The bus came over the hill at 5:56. I was surprised to see there was already a bike mounted in the rack on the front of the bus. When it stopped a man got out and removed his bike and I loaded up mine in its place. The busses all have bike racks that can fold down and hold two bikes on the front. So after I loaded my bike up, banged my head on the side view mirror, and validated my bus pass, we were off. The bus ride up to Spokes took about 5 minutes and we only had to make one other stop to let one of the three other people on the buss, off. I got to the door of Spokes right at 6:02, thinking I was too late. Sure enough the door was locked and I saw a couple of the employees exiting out the side entrance.

 
 
But as I biked by, Regina, one of the owners of the shop and an old friend of one of my dad’s, walked out. I said hi and told her I had come to buy a light for my bike and sorry I came too late but I would try to stop by tomorrow a little earlier. But she wouldn’t hear it and I ended up following her back into the shop where I picked out a new light and even a new bike rack. The mechanic was working late that evening and he even installed them both for me. If you ever have a question about a bike, or need something fixed or just aren’t sure about the whole biking thing and feel a little out of the loop, go to Spokes. They have some of the most helpful and friendliest people I have ever dealt with and they have some of the coolest bikes!
 

Spokes

 

 

 

 

My Baby Got Back! (A new light and bike rack anyway)

 

So with my new bike rack and new rear light, I headed up the Kavanaugh, towards Kroger’s (I know it’s actually called Kroger, without the ‘s, but who in the South says it that way?) To my surprise there was no bike rack in sight. If any grocery store in the city would have a bike rack, this one, nestled in the dense neighborhood fabric of Hillcrest, would. But, as usual, I made due and chained my bike to a stop sign and headed in. Nicole had texted me a shopping list earlier that day. I think she was a little concerned on what I would be able to carry back, but so was I. We needed milk but I grabbed a half gallon instead of the usual gallon to save room in my backpack. I also got a box of cereal, 6 chicken breasts and four pork chops, along with some lettuce, a zucchini,  ranch dressing, croutons, muffin mix, shake n bake (because sometimes I have to make dinner) and a half dozen eggs. Which I am proud to say, all fit snug and safely into my backpack. The only problem was when I went through the self checkout and set my backpack in the bagging area and packed my groceries into it instead of the plastic bags, the machine kept giving me warnings after scanning every item. I’m sure the lady in charge of the self checkout section was ready to kill me. After I finished checking out, I walked out of Kroger’s into the night with a heavy backpack full of groceries and proceeded to coast down Kavanaugh to Markham in the dark. Once I hit Markham though, I hopped the curb onto the sidewalk, or what little sidewalk there was, and rode the rest of the way home.

Not even an egg cracked!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This was my first journey outside of the downtown area during this month. And though I still have issues with the extremely un- interactive sense that the CAT system has to the average visitor or new rider, once you learn its methods, it is a fairly effective transportation system. And I am very appreciative of CAT’s effort to include bike racks on their busses to extend the ability of riders to travel past the bus stop. And as far as the biking section of my trip goes, MAKE BIKING SAFER ON MARKHAM! This is a huge gap between the biking communities of Hillcrest and Stifft Station, and Downtown. I will have more on this later. But overall it was a pretty fun experience. I have to say though, one of the things that I noticed, and have noticed over the years, is that when you leave the car behind, simple mundane everyday tasks turn into something more meaningful. I know it sounds ridiculous and is easy to dismiss as mere enthusiasm for the project, but there really is another layer of everyday life that most people miss out on because so much of our culture is structured around the quickest and most efficient way only and no emphasis is given to the experience. But with that, I will yield my soap box for the night!
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3 Comments

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Bus Blog

 

3 responses to “THE BUS BLOG – MORE BIKES AND BUSSES

  1. Anncha

    October 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Good observations! Keep them coming.

     
  2. Susanne

    October 10, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I’m loving your project! And how well you’re updating your blog about it. I did not realize biking on sidewalks was illegal. Very interesting! Keep up the good work.

     
  3. Katie Kummer

    October 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Every May, Springfield has something similar to the Mayor’s Challenge you mentioned: Bike to Work Week. Ozark Greenways offers small awards to different size businesses who have the most people participate; the awards aren’t much, but they seemed to motivate a lot of people. Little Rock did have a Bike to Work Day in May; I wonder if there’s any information on how many people participated.

     

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