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Protected Bike Lanes Are Sprouting Up in Walmart Country

4:15 PM EST on November 22, 2016

This temporary protected bike lane is one of several in northwest Arkansas supported by the Walton Family Foundation. Photo: Walton Family Foundation

Can protected bike lanes get people biking for transportation in northwest Arkansas?

The Walton Family Foundation wanted to see. The foundation, which is supported by the Walmart family fortune, has been studying the way people get around in the Bentonville area, including the cities of Rogers and Bella Vista, which is world headquarters of the Walmart corporation.

The foundation counted people biking on local trails, and while usage was significant, the organization concluded based on the time of day people were biking that most were using the trails for recreation, not transportation.

So beginning last month, the foundation embarked on a month-long pilot project to quickly build out protected bike lanes connecting the three cities and their trail systems. The idea was inspired by foundation staffers' trip to Copenhagen.

"We decided to use tactical urbanism -- a way of implementing temporary, low-cost changes to the existing environment," the foundation's Karen Minkel writes.

The physical separation is provided by low-cost materials like curb stops or flexible bollards. In Rogers, for example, bollards were installed to protect a two-way bike lane connecting the local recreation center to a local bike park.

Workers install temporary protected bike infrasturcture in northwest Arkansas. Photo: Bike NWA
Workers install a high-visibility bike crossing at an intersection. Photo: Bike NWA

The bike lane pilot coincides with the International Mountain Biking Association World Summit, which is happening in the Bentonville region this month.

The new designs could be made permanent. The demonstration ends next month, after which the cities will evaluate public feedback to determine next steps.

Rogers, Arkansas. Photo: Walton Family Foundation
Rogers, Arkansas. Photo: Walton Family Foundation

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