LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Little Rock Planning Commission will vote Thursday on a redevelopment proposal for the area where Sears used to be, at the northwest corner of University Rd. and Interstate 630. A revitalization of the property could mean a lot to its neighbors in midtown, but it could also be an important spot for bicyclists.
Stacy Tierney said she and other cycling advocates will attend the meeting because the property could have an outsized impact on the ability of riders to navigate some of the busiest parts of the city.
“We are looking for ways to make it safer for people to not have to get in the car every time they want to go somewhere,” Tierney said.
She was one of dozens of cyclists who participated in the annual Ride of Silence on May 16th. It is a worldwide event to honor riders who have been injured or killed in crashes with cars. They pulled one ghost bike, a riderless bicycle painted completely white, in memory of Deniese McFall, a 25-year-old Mountain Home woman who was killed when an SUV crashed into the group she was riding with.
Tierney, the president of Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas, said she was grateful the Ride of Silence only had one rider to honor, because in 2016 they had 12.
“You know, we are on the road, and we are wanting to share the road with everybody,” she said. “We want to be safe, and we would hope that people would want to treat us safely, as well.”
University Rd. is not one where many cyclists ride. But according to Shop Companies, one of the developers of the Sears site, it is the busiest area in Arkansas because of CHI St. Vincent, Park Plaza, and other retail and office buildings. Tierney believes more cyclists would access University if it were safer.
“I think that there are more and more people trying to commute, and trying to make that passage to downtown,” she explained.
Aside from new stores, restaurants, and a hotel, the plans for the development, which would be called The District at Midtown, call for wide sidewalks that will connect to an existing trail that runs along I-630 to John Barrow. Tierney hopes that is Phase I of a larger project that would eventually include a pedestrian walkway connecting the site to War Memorial Park, which would provide access to UAMS and downtown.
“People say, ‘oh, nobody wants to ride their bike to go anywhere.’ Well, that’s because a lot of people want to, but they don’t feel safe enough to do that,” Tierney said.
Tierney said she and her fellow riders hope this project puts the wheels in motion to transform Little Rock into a safer city to ride in. “We are not trying to bark for what we want,” she stated. “We’re trying to just gently encourage that this is about the future. This is about planning our community around a livable community.”The Planning Commission will meet at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall.