by Max Brantley
Blogger Tim McKuin's MoveArkansas blog is back on a favorite unpleasant topic today — the city's failure after lo these many years to provide a proper space for the part of the alleged River Trail that must use a narrow sidealk along Cantrell where it passes between the Episcopal Collegiate School and Dillard's. He came across another bike/car crash at the Episcopal entrance yesterday.
There's ample right of way to design a solution, McKuin argues, and it's not the $15 million or so cantilevered homeless hotel the city has envisioned for the cliffside behind the Dillard's building, particularly since the likelihood of spare federal dollars raining down on the ancient dream project seems unlikely.
McKuin doesn't blame bicyclist or motorist for this wreck, but the failure to properly design this stretch of transportation link for all users. He illustrates with a video done by others about the difficulty of negotiating that intersection on a bike or foot.
If we design and build for cars, then the result will be more cars. If we design and build for choice and balance in transportation mode, then people will make balanced choices. The second way is less expensive and pays off later with lower maintenance costs. Plus, traffic will still flow fine; there will be fewer injuries and death from crashes; we'll have less road rage; and maybe we can use some of that wasted surface parking in downtown LR for higher and better uses when more people are able to get there without driving. Heck, we might even improve our health. Simple. Easy. What're we waiting for?
UPDATE: A couple of bikers who've labored for years on this issue — and who know about the $1 million Sam Ledbetter won at the legislature about five years ago to solve the problem — suggest it's time for some civil dialogue and leadership, say from Mayor Stodola. Why not convene a meeting with Episcopal Collegiate about a plan to branch off from an existing railroad bridge under the Cantrell viaduct and take a course around the back of the school, outside its fence? This eliminates the Cantrell passage entirely. A significant sum is already on hand to start the work. The city is better fixed than it has been thanks to new sales tax money. This is a better alternative than a rumored alternate path, if the cantilevered covered corridor isn't built on Dillard's river bluff, being considered on the north side of Cantrell that would mean traversing about five driveways at Dillard's, the Packet House, the Dillard's computer building and other curb cuts.