Cycling is an industry in itself, said Pea Ridge Mayor Nathan See as he asked and answered questions from more than 300 cyclists who stopped in Pea Ridge Sunday, Jan. 7, as part of the Pea Ridge Ramble.
Riders began at the hub in Bentonville, rode gravel roads to Pea Ridge, stopped at the hub at the Baker-Hayes Park, then gathered at City Hall.
"There's a big team of people who made this work," said Andy Chasteen with the Runway Group. "This is great. Nathan's (See) been great -- working with us, trying to build community and just bridge that divide between people who don't ride bikes and people who do, just be friends."
"This is a phenomenal outcome of people -- you guys are definitely avid riders," said See. "It's 32 degrees and you guys took off for something like that. That's amazing.
"The initiative for cycling is missed in a lot of communities because cycling is its own industry. It's an economic driver for local communities and that's where we kind of switched a little bit in the last couple of years of creating that initiative to where cycling is something we want to have in Pea Ridge.
"We want you guys to come to town and to see you guys on the road and know the community and the owners get to know you by name whenever you're in their businesses.
"One thing you probably did see if you came from the hub, there's a bike station right there whenever you're exiting the hub. That's actually the entrance to the hub.... we're going to put one at the other end of the hub next year. We've got water fountains we're going to put throughout our trail systems," See said. "That's just for cyclers, for pedestrians to give them a little more information about we're are trying our best for the initiative for cycling to come to Pea Ridge."
"I think that's important," See said, adding that Gravette is also doing something similar. "We've have to be a little different from them or what's the purpose. What are we going to have that's going to drive you guys here."
Saying he realized that many cyclists travel the areas around the town, he wants to encourage them to come into the heart of the city.
"I know you guys go Sugar Creek ... I'm sure there are not very many that come down the heart of the city, down Hazelton," See said.
"I do know Hazelton (Road) used to be gravel. We paved it. I apologize," he said eliciting laughter from the group.
"We are trying to create those safe routes for everybody to get from one point to another," he said. "The bike lane we put on Sugar Creek this past year was for the safety of the cyclists and the vehicles that travel down that road."
"As more and more growth happens to that area, we hope that vehicles are respectful to cycling and not see cycling as a hindrance. Because it's not," See said.
He mentioned Coopers, a "bar and grill," at Sugar Creek Golf Course.
"Stop in there and check it out. There are some things we can do to drive a little more interest," See said.
"I'm excite about some good things," See said explaining about a six-acre park and trail planned in town that would be easily accessed for cyclists.
"A lot of this stuff that you see isn't so much the city, it's the partnerships we create. It's the partnership with Runway... having the right people in place to get the right product for our community."
See said Brannon Pack was instrumental in getting the Baker-Hayes Park and cycling hub.
"The hub is used, not only for cyclists, but pedestrians who walk and hike and make a day of it and let their kids ride their Strider bikes on the little track out there," he said. "It connects the community. It's not on the outskirts, but it's in the community right there where the subdivisions are."
"What can we do from a local standpoint to better the initiative for cycling?" See asked the group.
Questions included what are the top five restaurants, coffee shops and bars;
"There's a crew that does rides out in Garfield for breakfast," Chasteen said, noting that Pea Ridge would be a good option.
Chasteen said the QR code on the sign at the Pea Ridge hub, opens up to the Pea Ridge route page and will include the dining options and points of interest.
"How do we educate drivers?" Chasteen queried.
"Not with a finger!" one cyclist said.
Chasteen made the point that for a cyclist to use that signal hurts the reputation of cyclists.
"The thing we can control is educating ourselves," he said, adding "Waving is the best universal sign of 'I'm friendly.'"
What can we do in a local jurisdiction to help catapult that initiative," See asked the riders. "What are you guys looking for?"
"Now we have the Ryan Road connector off Blue Jay," he said, explaining that he is looking at what else can be created in different avenues.
"We're trying to do the catalyst project that will connect us with a side path that will get us all the way to Andy Buck (road) which will take you to Bella Vista," See said.
"Educate a motorist to wave at a cyclist, they're must less likely to act aggressively," Chasteen said.
Chasteen said cyclists should report issues they have when riding on Rural Recreational Roads website (https://www.arkansasr3.com).
"We have a huge advocate here with Nathan, but he's just one person. He also runs a city," Chasteen said. "How can we help you help us?"
"It's going to grow," See said. "The city's going to grow. The initiative's going to grow so we as a city in general have to grow with that initiative."
Asked whether there are plans for bike paths in town, See said Ryan Road at the intersection with Slack Street was widened to make accommodations for that. He said a side path would be created on Hazelton Road and Carr Street as well.
"We're trying. As everybody knows, it takes a lot of money to do things. We're trying to keep up with it," he said.
One rider asked about how decisions are made to pave a gravel road. See said the city requires developers to pave roads next to their developments.
"Preservation of this is something I brought up a long time ago. Eventually, growth is going to take away from gravel riding. How can we preserve that with partnerships?" he queried.
He said the city would probably pave Hickman Road, now gravel, within the next five years because of growth in the area. "You have to have those alternative routes for people to get out.
"Whenever we do our pavement sections, we have a 10-foot path that goes on there for cycling," See said. "It takes away from gravel, I understand, but you still have your path you can take from trail from one corridor to the next."
"Sometimes that's the best we can do," Chasteen said.
"What is the heaviest traveled road in Pea Ridge?" See asked, saying he would put up "Share the Road" signs if needed.
Editor's note: This is the third and final article in a three-part series on cycling in and around Pea Ridge.