With money from a five-year, $3.2 million State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has hired Crafton Tull to do a feasibility study on creating a U.S. Bicycle Route from West Memphis to Little Rock.
The U.S. Bicycle Route System was conceived in 1978 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the same group that coordinates on numbering interstate highways. The routes use a mixture of low-traffic roads, off-road paths and bike lanes to get riders safely across long distances. Adventure Cycling, the same nonprofit that worked with the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation to develop the Arkansas High Country Route, is a lead advocate on further development of the system and the source for maps and GPS info. A little more than half of the states in the country have designated USBRS routes. Among states that neighbor Arkansas, only Missouri and Tennessee have approved routes and only Missouri’s route comes anywhere near Arkansas.
UAMS has been working on the route with the state Department of Parks and Tourism, Arkansas Department of Transportation and members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling.
Once the Department of Transportation signs off on the plan, it has to be approved by American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials. Danny Straessle, spokesman for the state transportation department, said there’s no timeline for the process, but said “hopefully sooner than later.”