Rolling Hills pilot project ends, changes coming to bike infrastructure

Rolling Hills Drive pilot project / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

A year-long experiment on Rolling Hills Drive is complete, and changes are coming to the corridor between College Avenue and Old Missouri Road.

City staff this week presented their recommendation on what should replace the large bumper blocks and flexible bollards that were installed in November 2018 as part of a pilot project organized by BikeNWA and funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

The bumper blocks and bollards were added to improve the safety for people who ride bikes along the stretch of road which helps connect Butterfield Trail Elementary to the Razorback Greenway. The idea was to evaluate usage and public opinion to decide whether permanent bike safety infrastructure should be included in an upcoming project that will completely overhaul Rolling Hills Drive.

It will be at least two or three more years before any permanent changes are made, but for now, two things are clear: people want added safety features on Rolling Hills, but nothing as obtrusive as what was installed with the pilot project.

While the bumper blocks were made of rubber, they were large enough that some drivers felt uncomfortable navigating the roadway and moving over for emergency vehicles. And even though the driving lanes are still 10 feet wide, the city received a barrage of complaints from motorists who felt like the road was too narrow. Many others said the bumpers were just ugly.

Dane Eifling, bicycle programs coordinator for the city and the University of Arkansas, said meetings with stakeholders throughout the year revealed a genuine interest in improving the sense of safety through the corridor, but an overall distaste for the bumper blocks.

Eifling said that’s understandable.

“While the cycling community enjoyed the pilot program, we have to be realistic,” Eifling said. “The cyclists enjoyed the added sense of safety the bumpers provided, but even they admitted it was unsightly.”

Rumble strips with reflectors / Courtesy Fayetteville Government Channel

Terry Gulley, the city’s transportation services director, said the temporary bumpers are wearing out and have become difficult to keep in place.

Gulley said with the expiration of the pilot program, Mayor Jordan has asked for a solution that would replace the current infrastructure, but still give some sense of safety for people riding bikes.

The plan is to soon remove the bumpers and bollards, and replace them with smaller, raised rumble strips. Gulley said while the rumble strips can be driven over, they’re quite loud and create a vibration that can’t be missed.

“If you drive over these you’ll know it,” Gulley said, comparing the sensation to driving along the edge of an interstate. “It catches your attention pretty quick.”

He said the rumble strips are easily seen during the day, but are not reflective at night, so reflectors similar to what the highway department uses will be added to the rumble strips to provide visibility during all hours.

Gulley said the width of the driving lanes won’t change, but the strips will be set back 12 inches from where the bumpers are currently installed in an effort to improve the perception some motorists have of being squeezed in.

Other work includes thickening the bike lane striping, and making some temporary changes to the westbound lanes to help alleviate traffic buildup near College Avenue. Staff are considering re-routing cyclists onto the sidewalk near College, and have negotiated with area property owners to remove two of the five redundant driveways that provide access to the businesses on the north side of the road near the intersection.

Eifling said people should find that the changes are visually unobtrusive, but that they still accomplish about 90% of the safety intention of the pilot project.