Arkansas Celebrates National Bike Month
May marks National Bike Month and Arkansas has a variety of prime terrain to ride, from the scenic mountain roads of the Ozarks and Ouachitas, to the backroads of the Delta flatlands, to the many urban routes found in cities across the state.
“Arkansas has the advantage of all kinds of terrain from mountainous to flat to appeal to casual riders, longer distance road riders, and mountain bikers,” said Jim Britt, president of the Arkansas Bicycle Club. “Our national forests have many world class singletrack trails that appeal to riders from all over the country. Road riders can choose if they want to ride in hilly areas that tend to have more lakes and forests, or in more flat areas that have scenic farm land and forests. We are fortunate to have weather that allows us to ride all year, with just a few breaks some years for wintery days. We have beautiful scenery throughout the state.”
Arkansas is known as the Cycling Hub of the South and a Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling has recently been created to spread the word about the benefits of biking and help promote the sport’s positive impact on the state economy.
“The more people on bicycles that are visible, the safer they will all be since cars will be expecting to see them,” said Britt. “The new Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling can be a big asset to hopefully get the road users to talk with the road builders.”
Events to celebrate National Bike Month are taking place in communities across the nation to highlight the sport and the many reasons people ride, be it for commuting or recreation. To highlight the various outlets of biking, Bike to Work Day has been set for May 19 this year.
“It’s very important to support recreational cycling but then also look at how the bike can be used as a means of transportation,” said Steve Taylor, Communications Manager at the League of American Bicyclists. ”Some people bike to work every day, some people may just want to try it for one time or occasionally…it’s a great opportunity for people to really get together with their other bike friends and encourage people who if they have’t tried it before to try it once and see if it might be something they want to do on a regular basis or even just every now and then.”
National Bike Month was first created by the League of American Bicyclists in the 1950s. So far, the organization has designated six Bicycle Friendly Communities in the state including Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, Bentonville, Benton and Washington Counties and Fayetteville.
“These communities help Arkansas get a better statewide rating,” said Britt. “By committing to being bicycle friendly, towns become more aware of how they can improve their roads and trails for bicycle commuters as well as for healthy recreation. Many capital improvements on roads now require thought on how bicycle use can be incorporated into plans. When people look at where to live, some of the top things they consider are the schools and access to walking and bicycling trails.”
Along with road biking, the sport of mountain biking has been gaining momentum in Arkansas. The state is currently home to five International Mountain Bicycling Association, IMBA, epic routes. These include the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, the Upper Buffalo Trail, the Womble Trail, the Syllamo Trails and the 108 miles of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, a long-distance hiking trail through the Ouachita National Forest.
There are many riding options to tackle across the state and print and online resources are available to the public for free that highlight the varied routes and events that can be found in Arkansas. Details on both cycling and mountain biking trails can be found online at arkansas.com/bicycling/. A print Road Cycling Guide and Mountain Biking Guide are also available and these free guides can be found at arkansas.com/bicycling/road-cycling/free-guides/.