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Benton implements bike dismount zones downtown

Newly painted signs on sidewalks in Benton tell cyclists when to start walking instead of riding.

BENTON, Ark. — Recent clear weather has many of us eager to get out for a walk or a bike ride, but sometimes walkers and cyclists don't mix so well.

City leaders in Benton implemented dismount zones for cyclists, skateboarders, and other riders on sidewalks to keep everyone safer. 

"We want to be as proactive as possible, and make sure that people are safe," Benton's City Communications Director, Matt Thibault said.

According to Thibault, city leaders decided to implement this dismount zone ordinance after some close calls.

"We haven't had any major accidents, but we've had some near misses with bicyclists on the sidewalks and people coming in and out of businesses," he said.

Thibault said that he hopes the dismount zones will help prevent that, especially as more people come downtown. 

"All of our storefronts are full downtown. So we're seeing an increase in foot traffic as everybody branches out and then comes down and enjoys shopping, enjoys downtown," he said.

Folks in the area said that they think it's a good idea. 

"For older people like me, for mothers with little kids, that can't get out of the way as fast so somebody could get really hurt," said Debbie Hobbs, a local resident.

"What I like as a new business owner here on this street, which is much more busy, is that you know, my customers can come in and out without having the worry of, you know, checking both ways for bikes and stuff. And especially because a lot of people bring their children down here," Gena Bunker added.

Local cyclist Mike Wilson agreed with those sentiments.

"Most of the younger riders that the whole catalyst for why this has happened, are just thinking of riding their bikes, they're doing their tricks are doing their wheelies," Wilson said. "And that's all good and fine. You know, but you're doing it in a busy part of downtown, and that doesn't really go well."

Thibault added that the City of Benton wants to be bike friendly.

"And we want to encourage everybody to come out and enjoy downtown. And we think there's enough room for everybody to get along," he said.

According to the ordinance, if you don't hop off your bike in the marked dismount areas, you could be fined.

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