The Local Bike Route

IMG_0477I had always seen signs for a bike route near my place of residence, so I decided to take my bicycle for a Saturday spin to see what this trail had to offer. Amazingly, this route actually connects to the Arkansas River Trail and downtown Little Rock. This discovery was definitely a pleasant surprise as the river trail is a network of several miles of designated walking and biking trails along the Arkansas River. My enthusiasm was dampens a little when I realized there is a little stretch of this local connecting route which passes through a rougher part of town. I think my first clue to this fact was the police car with sirens blaring accelerating towards the development of Section 8 housing. Nonetheless, I made it through this area unscathed and proceeded to enjoy my Saturday afternoon.

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One point of interest along the way was Dickey Stevens Park, home to the Arkansas Travelers. This minor league baseball team is a farm club for the Anaheim Angels. I think the stadium is undergoing some repairs as several sink holes had developed in the outfield recently… Probably can’t play ball with small craters scattered throughout the diamond.

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I then proceeded to the downtown area. Now downtown Little Rock is not a major metropolitan area, but it does have its charms. The trolley system could probably be counted as one of these charming features as it hearkens back to the days of electric transportation.

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I also discovered a bust of Count Pulaski; he is the man for whom Pulaski County is named. Born in Poland, he served in the army there and then came to the American colonies to serve in the Revolutionary War. Believe it or not, this man actually saved George Washington’s life and helped strengthen the Continental Army’s Calvary divisions. Despite these facts, I still think the county sales tax is too high.

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I then proceeded to leave the downtown area for the scenic ride along the River Trail. I passed some construction along the way. I’m not sure what is being built in the middle of the river, but my guess would be a bridge.

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I then proceeded to ride on the trails, over the bridges, and through the various parks of the river trail. The temperature was really mild and made for good cycling weather. The four hours on my bike passed really quickly. I rode a total of forty-eight miles, which was probably a little excessive as my right Achilles tendon started hurting, and I discovered why cyclists wear shorts with extra padding in certain areas. Nonetheless, definitely an enjoyable Saturday afternoon.

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To Bike or Not to Bike

Early one morning a few weeks ago I had the grand idea that I was going to attempt to bike to work. Granted, I was unsure of the route and do not actually currently own a bicycle, but these seemed to be minor issues compared to the benefits this activity would surely provide. After a bit of research, I discovered there is a fairly safe route to my workplace, and the total distance would be about thirteen miles each way.

Online bicycle advocacy websites cite many benefits of bicycle commuting to include saving money on gas and car costs, cardiovascular exercise, and fresh air. There was even a line that a bad day at the office could be changed by the rush of endorphins experienced while riding a bike home on a beautiful day. I think this idealistic picture nearly persuaded me to buy a bicycle immediately. After all, endogenous morphine sounds like a winner to me. To my dismay, it sounds like endorphins may only be release after a certain exertional threshold is reached such as 60% or 70% of a person’s VO2 max. Hmmm, I’m not sure how fast I would need to be pedaling to reach these numbers, but I’m sure I could make it work.

The next part of my master plan would be the purchase of a bike. After looking in a few local bike stores, it seemed like a decent hybrid commuting bicycle would cost about $500. As it stands currently, I am considering a Trek 7.2 FX and a Marin Fairfax SC2. I think both would be reasonable options, but the Trek brand seems to have a longer history with hybrid bicycles.

As for the route itself, the majority of the distance has either a sidewalk or paved path available. Technically, I do not think bicycles are allowed to be ridden on sidewalks, but I doubt it would be a problem in this area. There are a couple areas where I would need to ride along the shoulder, so I hope bright clothing and reflective gear will alert drivers of my presence. I have driven the route many times and am pretty confident this plan is possible.

According to statistics, Arkansas is not the most bicycle-friendly state; in fact, most of the top cities for cycling seemed to be college towns. I’m not sure if cost or environmental activism are the main reasons for these statistics, but aspects of both are probably responsible. It also seems like other countries view cycling as more of a mode of transportation than the average American. Our highways and transportation network are probably the cause for this difference.

Also, I believe commuting by bicycle might be a small step towards ending dependence on foreign oil. Granted, saving five gallons per week is probably not going to significantly alter America’s total gasoline use, but it would be a start. The principles of supply and demand would no doubt apply to this situation.

So, with these thoughts in mind, I will continue to consider purchasing the bike. There seem to be many benefits, but initial cost and the time commitment are also factors to consider.