In honor of Transportation Month, we at the OFS want to highlight the alternative transportation movement happening not just at the University of Arkansas, but everywhere in NWA.
More than half-a-million people now call Benton and Washington counties home. As the population and the economy of Northwest Arkansas continue to expand, so do our options. Whether it’s choosing where to live, where to eat, shop, work or play, in life, it’s always good to have choices.
We have plenty choices of where to go and now we can also choose how we get there.
If you’ve lived in Northwest Arkansas for very long at all you can remember a time before we had so many alternatives to get around. The Razorback Regional Greenway, regional public transit, high-tech rideshare services Uber and Lyft and VeoRide dockless bike share all make it easier to get around without a car.
Today, Northwest Arkansas boasts a remarkable 154 miles of shared use paved trails with 10 to 20 new miles being added every year. Communities across our region are investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to bring greater transportation options to their residents.
Fayetteville is well on its way to achieving its goal of building a connected shared-use paved trail to within a 10-minute walk of virtually every residence in its city limits. The City of Rogers, as a matter of policy, is including bicycle and walking paths with all new road projects. Bentonville now has more than 40 miles of paved trails. Investments in trails and public spaces have led to a revival of Downtown Springdale.
The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission has lead the effort for more rural communities to expand their respective walking and biking networks through adopting community walk/bike action plans. Our local transit agencies Razorback Transit and Ozark Regional Transit are expanding service and are totally fare-free for all passengers.
All this new infrastructure and planning is also being paired with a surge in private development. New housing and commercial construction is seemingly everywhere. Cities can and do require developers to construct sidewalks, bike parking, public spaces and in some cases trails. As a result, many neighborhoods that were once cut off from nearby amenities now have easy walking access to parks, retail, schools and jobs.
Northwest Arkansas is not just in a boom; rather, it’s undergoing a transformation.
We are transforming the way we live by changing the way we move through our communities. And the way we move matters. It matters to our health, to our environment and it matters to the future of our community.
As we imagine what our region will look like by the time the next 500,000 new residents arrive, there’s cause for great hope. The trails, sidewalks and bike lanes being built today will provide safe passage for generations of people without adding another car to the roads. Rather than building for a future of endless traffic jams and smog, we’re paving a different path toward a healthy, sustainable, resilient transportation system to serve us all.
Read more on how to bike safely during COVID-19
Content by Dane Eifling
Edited for Blog by Linden Cheek