UPDATE: Motorists react angrily to 'road diet' for Riverfront Drive | Arkansas Blog

UPDATE: Motorists react angrily to 'road diet' for Riverfront Drive

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RIVERFRONT DIET: A city plan to slow traffic and provide more room for bicycles on the four-lane road through Riverdale.
  • RIVERFRONT DIET: A city plan to slow traffic and provide more room for bicycles on the four-lane road through Riverdale.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning on the generally ugly reaction by residential neighbors to the city's idea to reduce Riverfront Drive from four lanes for cars to two lanes for cars and two lanes for bicycles.

I suspect this is more about traffic calming than about bicycles.

The facts are that car traffic through Riverdale is relatively light and the four-lane divided roadway encourages speeding well in excess of the posted speed limit. Selective traffic enforcement has no long-term benefit and diverts officers from crime fighting. At two lanes, the road could still accommodate the traffic without congestion, engineers say. Neighbors say, "Over our dead bodies." Or words to that effect.

The idea of reducing traffic lanes is known in the business as a "road diet." The website arkansasoutside.com writes about it here, more approvingly than the neighbors in Riverdale. The website provides some history on how this speedway developed. It's a reminder of the debt we owe the citizens who rose up to stop a misguided city from turning this into yet another expressway to move people far from the inner city to suburban reaches at Pinnacle Mountain and beyond.

So why was Riverfront Drive built as a four-lane road? Some may remember that at one point the city was going to put in a four-lane road along the riverfront through Rebsaman Park and eventually on to River Mountain Road to relieve traffic on Highway 10. Due to folks with the Audubon Society and local advocates, this plan was eventually scrapped opened up the area to beautiful river-side parks, the Arkansas River Trail and of course, the nationally recognized, Big Dam Bridge. More recently it has allowed space for the Two Rivers Bridge and access to Two Rivers Park by local families and recreational enthusiasts. It has also created a non-automotive transportation corridor that gets bike commuters from West Little Rock and Maumelle to downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. But the four-lanes on Riverfront Drive had already been built and never got the traffic it was designed for. But it does make a nice dragstrip.

An encouragement of slower traffic, more bikes, more pedestrians and calmer traffic produces a more livable city, no matter how mad it might make those folks in Canal Pointe or Overlook who might have to take a minute or three longer to get home.

The city already put W. 12th Street on a "road diet" with bike lanes — to City Director Erma Hendrix' immense displeasure.

So will this work? [Bike/pedestrian coordinator Jeremy] Lewno said this about the recent road diet on 12th Street, “Our own traffic and engineering found that the average rate of speed along 12th Street corridor was 43mph before the road diet, then went to 35 mph, the posted speed limit, after the road diet.”

Arkansas Outdoors encourages support for the traffic plan on Riverfront. I'm inclined to think Joe Jacobs, the author of this alternative view, is right.

UPDATE: A comment here migrated to Facebook where it joined other advocacy for this project and reports there are that the grant application for a reconfiguration of the roadway will continue. That doesn't signal a final decision, I don't believe, but it is good news that a couple of overheated blowhards who tried to dominate a public hearing last night didn't speak for the entire city or solid urban planning.

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