LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A new plan is in motion to get people around Little Rock and North Little Rock. The two cities are teaming up on a bike share program.
The board of Metroplan approved a contract with a pair of companies to launch a bike share program on both sides of the Arkansas River.
“Businesses want to go where employees, high-quality employees, want to go. High-quality employees want to go in a place that’s nice to live. This is going to increase the attractiveness of our community,” said John Landosky, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Little Rock.
The plan calls for 200 rentable bicycles to be placed at dozens of docking stations in the downtown areas of both cities.
“It is going to bring a healthier population to Little Rock,” said Tristan Irving, a shop coordinator at Bobby’s Bike Hike. “Better air quality. So, once people start to recognize that and see that, then hopefully the residents of Little Rock will eventually take advantage of it.”
Bobby’s Bike Hike rents bicycles and leads tours out of the River Market district. Most of its customers are tourists, while the bike share program is aimed at central Arkansas residents.
“Having less cars makes this city more open for other modes of transportation, makes it safer, increases the health of our community,” Landosky said. “There are myriad benefits.”
There is already a big cycling community in the two cities, notably along the Arkansas River Trail and during events like the Big Dam Bridge 100. Irving said there are also some people who are used to the idea of renting a pair of wheels.
“We get some people who come and just rent a bike for an hour on their lunch break or something like that,” he mentioned. “Just to get out of the office and just hit the market or something like that. Get a little fresh air, a nice break from the day!”
While the bike share program could be attractive to downtown workers who want an adventure, Landosky said it is more likely to benefit people who cannot afford cars, people who hate driving in downtown traffic, and people who take the bus.
“Getting off, and not having to wait for another bus to get around downtown. You’ll have a nice bike share station there,” he explained. “You can hop on a bike immediately, no wait, go anywhere within our downtown areas.”
Little Rock has a “complete streets” policy to incorporate cyclists and pedestrians in its growth. Landosky described a “chicken and egg” problem regarding how to get more people walking and riding around the city. He said a bike share program would not solve the dilemma all at once, but could start a trend.
“The more ridership you get, the more that is recognized as a transportation alternative by drivers, the more drivers develop a search image for bicycles, the more both those modes of transportation share the road,” he stated.
Irving hoped that seeing more bicycles and more cyclists would encourage city leaders to provide additional accommodations for them.
“The bike share program is going to bring better cycling laws for people,” he predicted, “which hopefully they’ll start making more bike lanes, and stuff like that.”
Landosky agreed, in part because the program will rely in large part on corporate sponsorships.
“Now that--all of a sudden--private sponsors who may have never thought about bikes, now all of a sudden, they have an investment in making our city more bike-friendly,” he noted. “Now--all of a sudden--we have advocates coming from where we never had advocates before.”
The bike share program is scheduled to begin next spring. Landosky previously hoped to debut it this summer, but said the delay will help the program manager, Bantam Strategy Group, network with local businesses and insure a proper rollout. Bantam is a company, Landosky said, that, “knew bike share best practices, that knew how to get it done, and not have us fall on our faces, honestly.”
Locations for docking stations have not been determined yet. Landosky said they would likely be within the area bounded by I-630 to the south, the state Capitol to the west, the Argenta district to the north, and the Clinton Presidential Center to the east. Users would be able to rent the bicycles by the hour, or sign up for monthly or yearly memberships. The program will include a website and a mobile app to allow users to unlock the bicycles from the docking station. The bicycles will have GPS technology to help riders navigate the city, and to prevent theft.