When we announced our latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities last week, we focused on major U.S. cities — like Los Angeles, Nashville and Miami — making the ranks. But those population centers are just the start of an impressive list of new and renewing BFCs across the country.
For instance, Bentonville earned a Bronze designation. The Northwest Arkansas city may have fewer than 40,000 residents, but I bet the name rings a bell. After all, it’s the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. And the international corporation has played a key role in the local cycling scene.
Perhaps the most impressive example of Walmart’s commitment to bicycling on its own campus AND the wider community is the recent launch of its BikeShare program.
As Barbara O’Connor, Director of Walmart’s Walton Life Fitness Center, explains:
The Walmart BikeShare program launched on May 14, 2012 with 80 bikes placed at eight locations within the Walmart campus. Our BikeShare Program which is at no cost to our associates, is a result of a grassroots effort by 20 associates that came together two years ago to develop a plan to help reduce the carbon foot print within our local community. We worked closely with the city of Bentonville and Bike Bentonville to design routes that would incorporate our superior trail system and allow our associates safe passage throughout the community. The program has been well received by our associates. We had over 200 participants sign up during our first week and now have over 500 registered participants and bikes at 14 locations! Considering our heavy usage we have not had any accidents or theft of our bikes. Our associates have found that riding a bike not only saves them time as they have front row parking when traveling to meetings or downtown to grab a bite to eat, but that this alternative mode of transportation is good for their health. I’ve had numerous associates tell me that once they started riding the BikeShare bikes, they got hooked on cycling and have taken the next step a bought a bike!
That’s not all. Walmart has worked with the city on initiatives that address education and encouragement — which are two of the other key criteria in becoming a BFC.
“In addition to our BikeShare program,” O’Connor says, “Walmart embraces cycling by promoting the annual Bike to Work Day. In fact, many of our executives participate on this ride. We also have a number of departments that get together on a regular basis for group rides after work either on their road bikes or to take advantage of the trails on their mountain bikes… The Walton Life Fitness Center partnered with the City of Bentonville on a mountain bike camp that teaches basic mountain biking skills to local youth and adults. We also partnered with the Bentonville School District for the first bike train on Bike to School Day, as well supporting the Bentonville High School Bike Business and Entrepreneurship program.”
Of course, the dedication to bicycling in Bentonville goes far beyond Walmart.
“Bentonville really is a great example of a community embracing our Bicycle Friendly America programs — using the BFC and BFB programs in particular as a blueprint for action,” says League President, Andy Clarke. “There are world-class mountain bikes trails within a couple of miles of downtown. In fact, you can rent a bike from a local bike store on the town square, ride right past the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on a paved trail — itself part of the 40-mile, Razorback Greenway — and within a few minutes be on great singletrack or quiet country roads. Bentonville also hosts one of the biggest single bike rodeos in the country; has an active Safe Routes to School program; is installing signed routes, shared lane arrows and bike parking throughout the community; and is inspiring regional action on bicycling infrastructure. They’ve hosted an LCI seminar, started a local advocacy group, and are working side-by-side with their biggest local employers to create the kind of quality of life that will attract the best talent in the world to Northwest Arkansas!”
Thanks to Walmart for their leadership in promoting bicycling — and congratulations to Bentonville for becoming one of the newest Bronze BFCs.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.