One of the nation’s leading cycling organizations included four Northwest Arkansas cities among the Top 25 in the U.S. in a recent ranking.
PlacesForBikes, a PeopleForBikes program that names the country’s best bike towns, placed Bentonville, Fayetteville, Springdale and Bella Vista in its Top 25.
The PlacesForBikes city ratings, published earlier this month, use a data-driven approach to quantify the impacts and benefits of bikes on communities. The ratings focus on five categories: Ridership, safety, the cycling network, the cycling network’s reach, and the acceleration of cycling programs and infrastructure.
Bentonville came in at No. 11 on the PlacesForBikes ranking. Fayetteville (No. 15), Springdale (No. 19) and Bella Vista (No. 22) also stood out nationally on the list.
Bentonville, Fayetteville and Bella Vista received higher rankings for their individual performances in the acceleration category, which is a measure of how quickly a community is improving its cycling infrastructure and getting more people riding. Springdale placed on the strength of its reach, a measure of how well the city’s cycling network serves the entire community.
Jenn Dice at PeopleForBikes, an organization which includes an industry coalition of bicycling suppliers and retailers as well as a charitable foundation, said the city rankings are intended to provide a full picture of a community’s cycling ecosystem and those cities’ effort to make biking better.
“Northwest Arkansas cities continue to benefit from the investments made by organizations committed to making cycling safe, accessible and convenient,” Dice said. “The investment in bike infrastructure, education, bike culture, volunteer and community capacity building is truly world class. All of this hard work, volunteer support, and investment manifests itself in a healthier and happier community that really benefits from and embraces all things bikes.”
The Walton Family Foundation has contributed $74 million to support the construction of cycling infrastructure in Northwest Arkansas over the past decade.
The investments by the Walton Family Foundation coupled with funding from Northwest Arkansas cities and a federal grant have gone a long way toward advancing the region as one of the nation’s premier cycling destinations. The 37-mile Razorback Regional Greenway stretches from Bella Vista to Fayetteville, and it connects schools, parks, community centers, downtown areas and other places. The paved paths that connect to the greenway plus the 250 miles of mountain bike trails have helped the region in gaining more attention for its excellence.
Brendan Quirk, a cycling industry veteran who serves as the cycling program director for Runway Group in Bentonville, said one of Runway Group’s missions is making cycling and trails a vital part of the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas.
“It’s exciting to see our regional commitment to cycling infrastructure and innovation be recognized for the progress we’ve made,” Quirk said. “It’s this momentum that will push us as we strive for Northwest Arkansas to be an amazing cycling region for local residents and a bucket-list destination for mountain bike tourism.”
Northwest Arkansas’ recognition as a region that’s already invested heavily in cycling and that continues to do more is fantastic when it comes to talking about what it’s like to live and work in Northwest Arkansas with people who are interested in relocating to the region, said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council.
“The PlacesForBikes rankings for Northwest Arkansas cities point to the community value of establishing cycling infrastructure,” Peacock said. “And that value manifests itself in the community through increased health, spending on cycling-related tourism, and even as a boost to help draw talent and retain talent in our region.”
The full city ratings report is available online, where it’s possible to compare top cites and learn more about what’s setting Northwest Arkansas apart.
Pictured at the top: The Frisco Trail, which is part of the 37-mile Razorback Regional Greenway that runs throughout the region, is popular with families and University of Arkansas students interested in pedaling across Fayetteville.