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Trails and Cycling in Northwest Arkansas

March 29, 2018
  • Cycling and the Local Economy
  • Cycling and the Local Economy
  • Cycling and Tourism
  • Trails and Quality of Life
  • Who Rides Bikes in Northwest Arkansas?
  • Cycling Is on the Rise
  • Northwest Arkansas Is a Cycling Destination
  • More Pedestrians Are Using Trails
  • Sources
    Cycling and the Local Economy

    Northwest Arkansas has experienced phenomenal growth as a region in the last 25 years. To continue to attract talent and increase the livability of the area, the Walton Family Foundation has supported the development of an expansive trail network.

    Northwest Arkansas has experienced phenomenal growth as a region in the last 25 years. To continue to attract talent and increase the livability of the area, the Walton Family Foundation has supported the development of an expansive trail network. Over the last 10 years, the foundation has contributed $74 million toward the construction of 163 miles of trails. The centerpiece is the $38 million Razorback Regional Greenway, a 37-mile shared-use paved trail that links the major cities in the region. As a result of this and the development of soft-surface trails, cycling is helping boost the local economy.

    Bicycling produced an estimated $51 million business benefit to the Northwest Arkansas economy in 2017, including $21 million in reported household and resident spending on bicycles, bicycle goods, equipment and events, $3 million in bicycle retail sales and retail sales taxes paid by local customers, and approximately $27 million in tourism spending by out-of-state visitors.

    Bicycling in Northwest Arkansas keeps children and adults active and decreases the prevalence of adverse health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions – contributing an estimated $86 million in total health benefits to the local economy, including $79 million in reduced mortality benefits and $7 million in avoided health care costs.

    Cycling and Tourism

    Comprising approximately 52% of total bicycle business benefits, bicycle tourism is an important contributor to the local economy. More than 90,000 bicycle tourists visited the region in the last year to mountain bike.

    Comprising approximately 52% of total bicycle business benefits, bicycle tourism is an important contributor to the local economy. More than 90,000 bicycle tourists visited the region in the last year to mountain bike. According to data collected from Strava, about 57% of all mountain bike rides on the region’s natural-surface trails were completed by individuals from outside the region.

    The share of non-local riders on mountain bike trails in Northwest Arkansas is also comparable to some of the most notable mountain biking destinations such as Bend and Oakridge, Oregon (65%), the North Shore in British Columbia (55%), and Squamish, British Columbia (49%).

    Trails and Quality of Life

    A portion of Northwest Arkansas residents identified the availability of bicycle infrastructure as a key factor they consider when deciding where to live. Approximately 30% of Northwest Arkansas residents and 28% of skilled workers consider the availability of paved bicycle infrastructure (e.g., bike lanes and shared-use paved trails) important in deciding where to live. Similarly, 27% of Northwest Arkansas residents and 24% of skilled workers consider the availability of natural-surface trails important in deciding where to live.

    The ability to bicycle commute was also an important consideration when deciding where to work for a smaller portion of Northwest Arkansas residents and skilled workers. About 17% of Northwest Arkansas residents and skilled workers consider the ability to commute to work via bicycle important to deciding where to work.

    Who Rides Bikes in Northwest Arkansas?

    About 58% of Northwest Arkansas bicyclists are men, and approximately 41% are women. A slightly higher percentage of Northwest Arkansas bicycle riders are women (41%) compared to the national rate (37%).

    The bicycle riding population in Northwest Arkansas is less diverse than nationwide, and the majority of riders are white. Approximately 64% of bicycle riders nationwide are white, compared to 78% in Northwest Arkansas. This percentage is similar to the region’s population, which is 74% white.

    Cycling Is on the Rise

    In a study of Northwest Arkansas trail usage, average daily weekday bicycle trail usage per study site increased by about 32% between 2015 and 2017. Average daily weekend bicycle trail usage per study site increased by about 14% between 2015 and 2017.

    About 27% of Northwest Arkansas residents rode a bike six or more days in the last year. The bicycling participation rate in Northwest Arkansas is 11 percentage points higher than the comparable national average of 16%.

    Northwest Arkansas Is a Cycling Destination

    Northwest Arkansas has high cyclist user counts per capita relative to other more densely populated areas. For example, the sum of the top three sites studied with the highest daily cyclist use in Northwest Arkansas was greater than the top three sites with the highest daily cyclist use in San Francisco.

    Comparing cycling levels (for the three highest activity sites for each location) per capita (users per 1,000 population), Northwest Arkansas (5.45) is higher than both San Francisco (3.2) and San Diego County (0.67), and shows lower levels than Minneapolis (25.48), Vancouver (24.07) and Portland (9.34).

    More Pedestrians Are Using Trails

    Pedestrian activity levels on Northwest Arkansas trails are also on the rise. Average daily weekday pedestrian volumes per study site increased by about 5% between 2015 and 2017 and by about 19% on weekends. The estimated average annual pedestrian volumes per study site grew between 2015 and 2017 by 10%, from about 58,900 to 65,000 pedestrians per year per site.

    Results relative to other more densely populated areas of the U.S. remain positive. For example, comparing pedestrians (for the three highest pedestrian sites for each location) per capita (users per 1,000 population), Northwest Arkansas (5.78) is higher than San Diego County (5.51) and Calgary (3.95).

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