With a People For Bikes office in town and an emphasis on both new business construction downtown and the construction of the new Walmart World Headquarters Campus, Bentonville is reinventing itself or possibly just moving into the next phase of its reinvention. This isn’t about bike friendliness, it’s about a change in how we commute to work, play, shop, and medical care. Bentonville is taking the opportunity that growth brings to become a model mobility city. This is a huge jump from the recent “Mountain Biking Capital of the World” moniker it adopted for itself. Will other Arkansas cities follow suit? Has Little Rock and North Little Rock been at all proactive in using the upheaval of I-30 construction to reinvent downtown mobility? Will Fort Smith adopt bike/pedestrian projects in the city and region? Will Jonesboro continue to hang its hat on sprawl?
I often hear about how the Walton Family, through various non-profits, is funding this smart growth. What they are actually doing is funding the experiment. They are trying things that many municipalities don’t have the money or fiscal ability to experiment with. Bentonville is willing and capable of experimenting with alternative mobility options right in the backyard of much larger Arkansas cities. City leadership of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Fort Smith, and Jonesboro would do well to take notice and bring what works back to their downtowns.
Northwest Arkansas boasts a world-class system of mountain bike trails, which residents love to take advantage of in their leisure time. But what about building cycling into the day-to-day? By the time the new campus opens, the goal is for 10% of Walmart associates based at the Home Office to choose alternative forms of transportation – such as bikes – for their commutes. Leading this work is Kourtney Barrett, Walmart’s Director of Workplace Mobility, with support from cycling advocates Tom Walton and Steuart Walton. Associate Merchant Maddy Johnson is also tasked with buying adult bikes for Walmart: “More people on more bikes. That’s what it’s all about.”