The City of Little Rock plans to create an off-street bicycle and pedestrian corridor in the heart of the city! The Arkansas River Trail is an incredible asset, but not all residents can get themselves (or their bikes) to it for active recreation. It is only useful for transportation if it is between someone's origin (e.g. home) and destination (work, grocery store, restaurant, etc.) and they feel safe/comfortable completing the trip on-street. This means the Arkansas River Trail serves some Little Rock residents better than others.
The City of Little Rock has a long-range plan to create a network of paved trails throughout Little Rock that, together with on-street connections, will address active transportation and recreation equity. Part of that plan is the Tri-Creek Greenway, a 6+ mile long, 12 ft. wide transportation/recreation corridor (Fig. 1). The Tri-Creek Greenway will take advantage of existing paved trails in Boyle Park and along I-630. This is an effort spearheaded by CLR Parks and Recreation.
Figure 1. The Tri-Creek Greenway would provide a low-stress bicycle and pedestrian corridor for transportation and recreation in underserved portions of Little Rock (Brodie Creek Park is directly west of Hindman and part of the Tri-Creek Greenway).
Tri-Creek Greenway Benefits
Safe Routes to Parks: The Tri-Creek Greenway will connect seven parks (Fig. 1). Each of these parks offers different services, including ball fields (baseball/softball/kickball), basketball courts, disc golf (Hindman, Fig. 2), golf (First Tee), Jim Dailey Fitness Center (War Memorial), fishing, meeting spaces (Hindman), mountain bike trails (Boyle), nature viewing, pavilions, picnic areas, playgrounds, restrooms, a splash pad (War Memorial, Fig. 3), a skate park (Kanis), tennis courts, paved and natural surface trails (for biking, running, and walking), volleyball courts, and Little Rock Zoo (War Memorial). The 6-mile corridor will also link to paved park trail systems in Brodie, Western Hills, and Boyle Parks, creating 20+ miles of recreational paved trail network. War Memorial and Hindman Parks have recently closed their golf courses and will likely expand their programing with the newly available space; these Tri-Creek Greenway anchor parks will become even more important destinations for equitable access. The Tri-Creek Greenway will provide safe access to all of these services and an active/recreational way to get to them.
Figure 2. Equitable access to Hindman Park's new disc golf facilities is important for equal opportunities to health, wellness, and fun.
Figure 3. Kids and adults cooling off in the War Memorial splash pad. Photo by CLR Parks and Recreation.
Transportation Equity (Income): Transportation costs are unaffordable throughout Little Rock, but the Tri-Creek Greenway connects to some of the highest poverty areas and highest zero car household areas in the entire city (Figs. 3-4). The City is committed to increasing Accessible Alternative Transportation. The Tri-Creek Greenway makes bicycling a safer and more viable transportation solution. It does so directly by providing a bicycle off-street transportation corridor and indirectly by providing access to Rock Region Metro's #3, #5, #14, #17, #22, and #23 lines by connecting low-stress residential streets. In this way, the Tri-Creek Greenway makes transit more viable to more households by addressing the last mile problem.
Increase BikePed Safety: Risk of being struck by a car while walking or biking is unusually high in the Little Rock metro area; the City is invested in increasing pedestrian safety. Principal Arterials (pg. 12) may deter bicycle and pedestrian activity (Table 1), but they remain the street type with the highest bicycle and pedestrian crash rates (Fig. 4). Perhaps the single greatest intervention to increase safety and encourage activity is to build separation between cars and people walking and biking (Key Outcome #2). The Tri-Creek Greenway creates this separation.
Figure 4. The Tri-Creek Greenway would increase BikePed safety by better separating people walking and biking from vehicular traffic. This is especially true by creating a safe crossing at the third most dangerous corridor in Central Arkansas (Colonel Glenn between University and W. 36th). Metroplan 2015 Crash Analysis, Figure 5 and Table 2.
Safe Routes to Schools: The Tri-Creek Greenway, coupled with only low-stress residential streets/sidewalks, would contribute to Safe Routes to Schools for Western Hills, Meadowcliff, Bale, and Romine Elementary Schools and Henderson Middle School, creating safe crossings at dangerous Arterial streets, including Colonel Glenn at 36th St (Fig. 4).
Risk Equity (Race): Risk is unequally distributed in the Little Rock metro area; black residents are 3.3 times as likely to be hit by a car as a pedestrian, 3.0x as likely to be hit by a car as a cyclist, and 2.4x as likely to be killed by a car as a pedestrian vs. white residents (Fig 5, Figs. 8-9). Mayor Scott's administration is focused on increasing equity. The Tri-Creek Greenway runs through disproportionately Black census blocks, increasing the safety of Black people walking and biking.
Figure 5. Bar graph of bicycle and pedestrian vs. car crash risk by race in Central Arkansas (Fig. 8).
Recreation and Health Equity: The Arkansas River Trail's location makes it serve some residents better than others. Race and income affect health outcomes in part through differences in opportunities for active recreation and transportation, The Tri-Creek Greenway will create accessibility to these opportunities for children and adults in parts of Little Rock with high proportions of low income and Black residents, increasing quality of life in Southwest Little Rock (pg. 42).
Unite Little Rock: Mayor Scott has a vision to Unite Little Rock (pg. 7). The Tri-Creek Greenway does this metaphorically (see above) and literally, by allowing safe bicycle and pedestrian crossings of Principal Arterials and an Interstate Highway that often demarcate socioeconomic divisions (pg. 34).
Getting it Done
National Park Service
A recently awarded National Park Service grant will construct portions of the Tri-Creek Greenway in Western Hills and First Tee Parks.
Transportation Alternatives Program
In July 2020, the City applied for additional Transportation Alternatives Program grant funds to construct more of the Tri-Creek Greenway.
This segment or phase of trail will construct ~7,000 lin. ft. of 12 ft. wide, paved bicycle and pedestrian trail connecting three city parks (Brodie Creek, Hindman, Western Hills). Starting from Brodie Creek Park, it will run south of Brodie Creek for ~2,700 lin. ft., connecting to an existing bridge over Brodie Creek in Hindman Park (Fig. 6). Crossing the bridge, it will continue ~4,300 lin. ft. along Brodie then Fourche Creek. There it will connect to a 12 ft. wide trail in Western Hills Park to be constructed with the National Park Service grant funding. The National Service Park trail will connect to existing Western Hills trails and continue to First Tee Golf facility.
Figure 6. Map of the portion of the Tri-Creek Greenway the 2020 TAP grant would construct.
The TAP-funded trail ("Trail") would connect to existing paved trail networks of Brodie Creek (0.65 mi.), Hindman (6.7 mi.), and Western Hills (4.3 mi.) Parks and nearly 2 mi. National Park Service trail (Fig. 6). Trail networks in Hindman and Western Hills are 6-10 ft. wide former golf course trails; Western Hills and Hindman closed for golf in 2007 and 2019 respectfully. Together with the ~1.3 mi. of TAP-funded Trail, the Trail will link ~15 miles of interconnected paved trail network. Soft surface mountain bike trails will be developed by the National Park Service grant in Western Hills and eventually in Hindman as well.
Trail will be constructed in an area bordered by AR 5, US 70B, I-30, AR 338, and I-430 (Fig. 7 Focal Area). These borders are challenging to walk or bike along or across, isolating residents in the Focal Area. Fourche and Brodie Creeks separate the residential street network within the Focal Area even further, isolating residents into three pockets, Yellow, Blue, and Green. (Fig. 8). The Trail will connect ~1991 residents in 790 households (Fig. 8 Yellow) to >3896 residents in >1571 households (Fig. 8 Green) to ~1546 residents in 766 households (Fig. 8 Blue). The TAP-funded Trail, existing park trails, National Park Services trail, and residential street network together will connect Figure 8 Green to Western Hills Elementary and Figure 8 Yellow to Meadowcliff Elementary (Fig. 9).
Figure 7. Map of the focal area affected by the City's 2020 TAP grant.
Figure 8. Brodie Creek, Fourche Creek, and the street grid separate the Figure 5 focal area into three pockets. The TAP-funded trail would literally unite this portion of Little Rock (pg. 7).
Figure 9. TAP 2020 Trail would create Safe Routes to Schools for Western Hills and Meadowcliff Elementary Schools.
ArDOT TAP awards will likely be announced in late 2020 or early 2021.