Bike Lanes on Arterial and Major Collector Streets

In a Silver community, an average of 45% of their arterial and major collector streets (think streets with speed limits from 30-45 mph) have bike lanes (Fig. 1). These are the most important street types on which to have bike lanes because:

1) They are the streets designed in space and operationally (e.g. number of stop signs, timing of traffic lights) to move people efficiently (see also pgs. 5-6 of Little Rock’s Master Street Plan).

2) They are often the only means of access to destinations along their routes.

3) Traffic is moving slowly enough to accommodate bicycles (i.e. not an Interstate Freeway) but fast enough to warrant protection for bicycles (pg. 12).

In 2016, 2% of our community’s arterial and major collector streets had bike lanes.

Figure 1.
 A protected bikeway on Dearborn St. in Chicago, IL (a Bike Friendly Community - Silver).  The width for this was created by reducing vehicular traffic lanes to by 9.5 feet wide.  Photo by LAB's Steve Clark.

Progress from 2016-2018

Bikes Belong on Arterial Streets
When LAB first issued our report card, there was a question about whether bicycles belong on arterial streets.  Should we encourage bikes on streets like University and Rodney Parham?  Would this make our community more or less safe for bicyclists?  I posed these questions to the League of American Bicyclists' Steve Clark, who had visited Little Rock in 2016 and was involved in our evaluation for a Bicycle Friendly Community.  This is what he had to say:

"[Safe design for bikes on arterial streets is] something that is both challenging and essential.

The reason we look at this as a metric [percentage of arterial and collector streets with bicycle lanes] is because in most cities, the most crashes (especially when controlling for exposure) happen on major streets. Typically they involve people using bikes for transportation but because the street does not have any dedicated space for bicycling, people are using the sidewalk where sight lines are poor and motorists aren't expecting cyclists as they pull out from side streets and driveways.
"It does not work for a city simply to determine that these streets are inherently unsafe for bicycling [...]. Cyclists will continue to use these streets for the same reason motorists choose such streets: they get you where you need to go, and often times faster than any other alternative. Just from an equity standpoint it is essential to make the arterials safer for everybody; people live and work on these streets. Sometimes even schools and important community centers are located on these streets; and of course major retail outlets are found on these roadways. And in most cities (Little Rock included) the only roads that cross rivers, limited access highways, railroad tracks, and other barriers are major roadways."
- Steve Clark, League of American Bicyclists

This LAB metric resulted in an important conversation in our community, informed by experts outside our community.  There is now a consensus that all streets, except for Interstate Freeways, should have design options for bicycles, consistent with our Complete Streets Ordinance

Conventional Bike Lanes on North Rodney Parham
In 2017, the City installed 6' bike lanes on North Rodney Parham, a 40mph 5 lane arterial street.

Conventional Bike Lanes on Pinnacle Valley
In 2017, the City widened Pinnacle Valley Rd. to create bike lanes.  Pinnacle Valley Rd. is a 35mph major collector.

Conventional Bike Lanes on LaMarche Drive
In 2017, the City created bike lanes on LaMarche Drive, a 35mph major collector, building a new segment of road as part of the Taylor Loop Connection.

Conventional Bike Lanes on Chenal Valley Lane
In 2017, the City created bike lanes on Chenal Valley Ln., a 35mph major collector, building a new segment of road as part of the Taylor Loop Connection.

Goals from 2018-2020

Install More Bike Lanes on Arterial and Major Collector 2019-2021 Resurfacing Projects
High quality (i.e. high separation from cars) bike lanes on major collector and arterial streets have a high value in a bike network.  The streets that will be resurfaced in the 2019-2021 cohort are still being considered. Other financial means of installing bike lanes on arterial and major collector streets should be considered to increase the pace of installation and target key network connections.

Amend the Master Bike Plan to Include More Arterial and Major Collector Streets
While technically an "Evaluation and Planning" goal, it would address this "Engineering" outcome.  To underscore the need, 45% of an average silver-certified city's arterial and major collector streets have bike lanes; 45% of our major collector and arterial streets are proposed to have bike lanes in our Master Bike Plan.  This amendment could be part of the partially funded revisions to the Master Street Plan.

Amend the Master Street Plan to Allow Protected Bike Lanes
Another "Evaluation and Planning" goal that will address an "Engineering" outcome.  The Master Street Plan street typologies do not always reflect the intentions of the Complete Streets Ordinance, which is a primary reason the City is revising it.  Bike lanes on arterial streets, not currently allowed as a typology on the Master Street Plan, should have a design preference for a protected bike lane over a conventional bike lane, on a street that typically has high vehicular speeds and volumes.  This will encourage much greater use (Fig. 2) and is consistent with the most recent NACTO recommendations (pg. 12).  This amendment could be part of the partially funded revisions to the Master Street Plan.

Figure 2.  A protected (or separated) bike lane will encourage much greater ridership than a conventional bike lane, especially on major collector and arterial streets.