Bicycle believer Ken Gould has written Mayor Mark Stodola and other city officials about improving a stretch of road for bicyclists in the missing-link portion of the riverfront bike trail from Riverdale east. He specifically targets Gill Street, which runs beneath the Cantrell Road viaduct just west of Episcopal Collegiate School (shown in Google street view).
Last night while riding home on my bicycle commute, I noticed that Gill Street under the Cantrell Road Viaduct was blocked off & that the street surface was being removed apparently in anticipation of repaving & other work. In this morning's paper I read that Gill Street is closed for rebuilding. The work on Gill Street presents a wonderful opportunity for the City to enhance the safety of City streets for bicycling & running & to demonstrate the City's commitment to making Little Rock a bicycle friendly community. Let me explain.
For those not familiar with Gill Street (it is only one or two blocks in length), the street begins under the Cantrell Road Viaduct just after the Episcopal Collegiate School (going west). To access the Arkansas River Trail, many bicyclists &, I am told, runners follow a route from Markham (at the eastern side of the School for the Death property) to North Park Street to Garland Street to Gill Street. From Gill Street it is only one block to the Titus Trail section of the Arkansas River Trail in front of Jr. Deputy Park.
Though heavily used by bicyclists & runners, Gill Street has been far from ideal as a biking & running route because of the narrow width of the street & the lack of bicycle lanes. That leads to the following request/plea. If at all possible, bicycle lanes should be added to Gill Street as part of the rebuilding project, &, if necessary, Gill Street should be upgraded to a Class II Bikeway. Doing that will significantly enhance the safety of a street that effectively is already a bikeway based on usage & will help to send a signal that the City of Little Rock is serious about becoming a bicycle friendly city. Although Gill Street may not be a formally designated Class II Bikeway on the City's Bike Plan, the first paragraph of the Bicycle Plan begins with a statement that, "[i]t is the City's intention to provide bicycle accessibility throughout Little Rock." The same paragraph goes on to say that on a regular basis the City will "review the need for additional routes. Under the Bike Plan, the decision to add routes is to be based on usage, safety and speed and volume of motorized vehicular traffic. Gill Street certainly satisfies the criteria for upgrading to a Class II Bikeway.
Upgrading Gill Street to a Class II Bikeway with bike lanes will also help carry into effect the March 15, 2010 announcement by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood of "the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized." In that announcement Secretary LaHood also stated that, "[w]e are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities." To do that Secretary LaHood made the following key recommendations pertinent to the Gill Street project:
Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
Go beyond minimum design standards.
Go to http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/policy_accom.htm for the official version of the Department of Transportation's March 15 "Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation."
I am aware of a least one serious accident in which two bicyclists were severely injured when struck by a car on Gill Street. That accident could fairly be attributed to the dangerous condition of Gill Street for bicyclist. Please help make Gill Street a safer & more attractive amenity for our community by adding bike lanes to the street.
Thanks much for your consideration.
Chair, City of Little Rock Bicycle Friendly Community Committee"