FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Trails across Northwest Arkansas get a lot of use. In fact, according to the Walton Family Foundation, the use of trails here rival that of well known bike-friendly cities like San Francisco, but we're using ours a little differently.
On any given day in Northwest Arkansas you'll see someone bike riding on the Razorback Greenway. As much as trails are ridden for fun, a recent trip to Copenhagen, Denmark looks to make them a regular mode of transportation.
The Walton Family Foundation sent a group of 16 delegates from Northwest Arkansas to Copenhagen last summer to learn about how the city's on-street cycling programs allow people to use their bikes rather than cars. The group mainly explored how Copenhagen's infrastructure effectively accomodates cars, bikes, mass transit, and pedestrians all together in hopes of bringing some of that back to Northwest Arkansas.
Transportation Programs Manager for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission Tim Conklin went along on the trip to Denmark. He says roadways there are user friendly for bike riders of all levels. Conklin says, "When you get on a bike you know where to be on the street, or if it's an off street path or trail, you know how the trails connect from on street to off street - from train to bike - from bus to bike."
According to Conklin, clearly marked protected bicycle lanes tell people exactly where they need to be. Conklin says here in Northwest Arkansas the work improving trails has only begun. He says, "The Greenway that we're standing on today, we collect data on with trail usage and how people are utilizing the trail for what purpose and what improvements they would like to see, so I think moving forward, we'll continue to use data to inform the decision."
Conklin says within the last month low cost projects in Bella Vista, Rogers, and Bentonville altering roads incorporating a protected bike lane are only the first changes we'll see. The Walton Family Foundation says the data from that project should be available in the next few weeks. Conklin hopes using data from those projects continues influencing future road planning decisions - making it safer for cyclists to use bikes as an every day way to get around town.
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