How Arkansas Became Bike Country - CityLab

Kelsey Miller likes to play a game with herself to see how many days she can go without driving her car. On most days, she bikes to work and to run errands.

This car-lite lifestyle may be unremarkable for many coastal urbanites, but Miller lives in Bentonville, Arkansas, population 47,000 and home to Walmart’s headquarters.

Northwest Arkansas might not be the kind of place one expects to find a bike renaissance, but it’s having one anyway. Municipalities across the region, which encompasses the main cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale, as well as several smaller towns, have been steadily building up their biking infrastructure over the past several years. A mix of federal transportation grants and the Walton Family Foundation, the nonprofit led by the children and grandchildren of Walmart’s founders, helped fuel the bike boom: The organization has invested $74 million in the region’s trails, which now comprise a network of more than 160 miles of shared-use natural-surface and paved trials and more than 350 miles of mountain biking trails.

That’s a pretty big change for her small town, says Miller, who grew up cycling in Bentonville. Back then, there were few trails or bike lanes; she often had to ride on the sidewalk. Now, she really only gets her car out to drive to bike trails further away. “It’s been really cool to be someone who likes to ride my bike and the infrastructure be set in place for me,” she says. “The way Bentonville is set up, the bike infrastructure has been reaching further out from downtown, so it’s really conducive to ride your bike to and from places.”

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