Three Arkansas cities are among the nation's 20 best cities for bicycling, according to People for Bikes, an organization that promotes cycling.
Rogers ranks No. 6, Fayetteville is No. 10 and Bella Vista is No. 14 on this year's list.
Arkansas is the only state with three cities in the Top 20.
"We're absolutely floored that we're No. 6 in the nation," said Kara King, the trails coordinator in Rogers.
King said Rogers finished at No. 72 in last year's list -- behind Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale and Bella Vista -- so efforts were made to raise the city's ranking among its Northwest Arkansas peers.
"It just didn't seem accurate that we were lower than the others," she said. "We tend to have about the same mileage of trails. Similar situations. So it was important for us to get more in line with those around us."
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King said data for Rogers' trails was updated on openstreetmap.org, and that helped the city's rating considerably.
Rogers has about 71 miles of trails, King said, including 50 miles of paved trails that are separated from streets. She said trail use was up 85% in April compared with the same month last year. Cooped up because of the coronavirus, many people took to Arkansas' bike and walking trails this spring.
People for Bikes scored 567 U.S. cities this year, which is the third year for the rankings. They are based on a community survey as well as information provided by city staffers, open-source maps and publicly available data from government sources.
Last fall, People for Bikes asked cyclists about riding in their cities. Topics included how safe you feel when you ride, where you like to go and how easy it is to access those places by bike.
Each city was given an overall score out of a possible five. Also, each city received a score in these categories: ridership, safety, reach, network and acceleration, which refers to "how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure and how successful its encouragement programs are at getting people to ride," according to the list's methodology.
With an overall score of 3.5, San Luis Obispo, Calif., is rated No. 1. It's followed by Madison, Wis., and Santa Barbara, Calif.
Other Arkansas cities that made the Top 100 are Bentonville at No. 39 and Springdale at No. 74.
Bentonville was No. 11 on the list last year.
David Wright, Bentonville's director of parks and recreation, said he figured the city would drop this year.
"Our overall score went from a 3.1 to a 2.8," he said. "I expected our 'acceleration' score to decline. We didn't build as many trails last year. We spent much of the year in a planning period, and it continues this year as well."
Wright said he was surprised, however, that Bentonville was rated 1.3 in the category of "reach," which measures "how well the bike network serves everyone equally." Bentonville's score in that category is down from 3.3 in last year's list.
Bentonville's scorecard indicated some information regarding demographics was unavailable, affecting its score in the reach category.
Kyle Wagenschutz, director of local innovation for People for Bikes, said census data is used to "identify geographic concentrations of traditionally underserved communities ... to assess whether these populations are provided better, equal, or worse bicycle connectivity/access compared to the city as a whole."
"When the data is unavailable, that means there is no substantial concentration of people that meet the age, race/ethnicity and income benchmarks within the city to be able to measure a difference," Wagenschutz said in an email. "This can occur because a city is demographically homogeneous, because demographic groups are spatially dispersed across the city, or because the city is small and thus any sample of those demographic groups is hard to measure. The fact that Bentonville registered this information in 2019 and not 2020 is a facet of U.S. Census reporting."
Arkansas' top-ranked city, Rogers, got an overall score of 3.2, followed by 3.1 for Fayetteville and Bella Vista.
Little Rock got an overall score of 1.3, followed by North Little Rock at 1.2. Both got a score of 0.5 in "acceleration," receiving a 2.7 for "perceptions of progress," but data was missing for both cities regarding "growth in bike facilities and events."
John Landosky, Little Rock's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said he personally took the People for Bikes survey, but the organization didn't contact him requesting information about the city's cycling initiatives.
"It is possible People for Bikes reached out to someone else at the city; I would have no way to know that," he said.
Landosky emailed People for Bikes on Thursday to let them know he is Little Rock's point person.
"I'm writing because your rankings included a missing snapshot for which the city's ranking may have been penalized," he wrote in the email. "While we have work left to do, the city is working hard to become more bike friendly and I would love the opportunity to discuss our efforts ahead of future rankings."
"City snapshots," which were to be completed by city officials, were missing for several Arkansas cities, hurting their score in the acceleration category as well as their overall score.
"The city snapshot gathers data on a city's existing bike network and planned improvements to provide a full picture of bicycling in the community," according to People for Bikes, which is based in Boulder, Colo.
Wagenschutz said emails requesting participation in the survey and a city snapshot are sent to people in their database.
"Our database is certainly not comprehensive, so other communities participate based on word-of-mouth or in reaction to promotion that we perform throughout the year," he said.
Besides Little Rock, other Arkansas cities that didn't supply a snapshot this year were North Little Rock, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Conway, Pine Bluff and Mountain Home.
Several Arkansas cities larger than Mountain Home, population 12,448, weren't on the list.
Wagenschutz said cities can be asked to be included next year.
"We're able to add any city to the program but require participation from the city on some data collection efforts," he said.
Landosky said Little Rock usually looks to the League of American Bicyclists for feedback about its cycling initiatives. The league has designated Little Rock a "Bicycle Friendly Community," along with North Little Rock, Conway, Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and the Northwest Arkansas region comprising Benton and Washington counties.