As it happened, I made a last-minute trip to Bentonville for the launch a new mountain bike. Which happened to coincide with Outerbike and the Big Sugar gravel race. And since I don’t like having any downtime whatsoever, I squeezed in an interview with Gary Vernon, who is basically the orchestrator of all things bike advocacy and infrastructure in Bentonville, Arkansas.

If you haven’t been to Bentonville to ride, all I can say is this: When you finally do go, and I do mean WHEN, not IF, your mind will absolutely be blown.

Talking about bike lanes and infrastructure and access and trails is one thing. But seeing how they’ve made it an integral part of their entire community and city planning is honestly beyond words. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try, so if you’re at all involved in your city’s planning, or your local bike advocacy group, or you just want to hear what’s possible and get inspired to make cycling better in your own community, this episode will absolutely open your eyes to what’s possible.

mountain biker riding in bentonville arkansas

Feature image and this photo by Carl Zoch, courtesy of Bentonville.

I’ve been to Bentonville about 5 or 6 times over the past 8 years, and every time I’m floored by their progress.

As a cyclist, especially if you’re a mountain biker, it has to be on your bucket list of places to go. We’ve written a steller Where to Ride story on the area and one about all the other fun stuff to do there. But the most important takeaway here is to see what’s possible when the whole community gets behind a vision.

What can I do to improve cycling in my city?

rendering of co-working office space in bentonville arkansas with bike ramps so you can ride to every floor of the building

A rendering of the upcoming co-working space being built in downtown Bentonville…with a bike ramp so you can ride all the way to the top floor!

It might seem like this is impossible anywhere else. After all, they have massive private funding (courtesy, Waltons) and a nearly blank slate to start with. But the most important thing is that they started. And we can all start somewhere.

Here are a few of the resources and things mentioned in this episode:

Share this (and this post/podcast) with your city and county council members. Send them to your local advocacy group and trail builders. Share them with your fellow cyclists. The more people who see what’s possible and want it, the more we can start getting bikes near the top of the planning priorities everywhere.

THIS EPISODE BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

10 Barrel Brewing beers lined up in a row

If you’re looking for a tasty post-ride beverage, check out 10 barrel brewing’s awesome assortment of beers and support them for supporting us! They’re only available on the west coast of the US for now, but absolutely worth checking out if you can find it…or one of their breweries!

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schmamps
5 months ago

I’m pretty sure the important thing really is that first thing: Walton money and power. A company town in all but name, while other cities can’t fill potholes or even govern themselves.

And thanks, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to visit Arkansas until that state changes some of its very reactionary social policy.

Cyclekrieg
Cyclekrieg
5 months ago

Yeah, Bentonville/NW Arkansas is impressive. But its also the result of a lot of money being thrown at it be a few people who can literally blackball any politician’s career who argues against it (i.e. the Walton family). Its not “whole community gets behind a vision”, its a family with cash imposing a vision (regardless of how awesome it is) on a region. Its unrealistic to consider it organic growth as its an amount or money few places could manage and, even they could, would have different incentives being brought forth by decision makers. I would argue there are other locations that are doing some impressive stuff in the MTB world & with their towns with a lot less money and messy politics that are actually better examples. Duluth, Knoxville, Cable, Copper Harbor, Marquette, Cuyuna, Chisohlm, etc.

Dirt McGirt
Dirt McGirt
5 months ago

The trails in Bentonville look phenomenal! And they should be. B-Ville has a lot of atoning to do for unleashing WalMart on the universe….

Glenn Hibben
Glenn Hibben
5 months ago

If you don’t like Walmart don’t shop there or perhaps start your own company to compete with Walmart.

Bubbrubb
Bubbrubb
5 months ago

Sorry, zero interest in touching anything Walmart has had it’s hands in. As if a drop of investment from that family could atone for their destruction of America.

nooner
nooner
5 months ago

Those berms look awesome! Reminds me of Morzine.

Meh...
Meh...
5 months ago

Well, they’re asphalt now. So now they’d remind you more of a sidewalk.

whatever
whatever
5 months ago

Wal Mart and the Walton’s certainly have allot of influence, but all of you hating/jealous just to hate know little. You can debate business practices etc all you like. Not interested in the politics. That is not for here.

“Trails” both paved and dirt began in the area well away from Bentonville, well before the Walton’s got involved. Paved trails began in the 90’s in Fayettevile where the University of Arkansas resides, about 30 miles south of Bentonville. MTB trails began at Devil’s Den State Park before that, which is located south of Fayetteville. Wal Mart does not run the show as some of you believe, as there are other fortune 500 companies headquartered in the area as well, that are growing rapidly. While these other companies have contributed less than the Walton’s to bicycle infrastructure, they have in fact contributed, and contributed to other things happening in the area, but not publicly. To be sure, the Walton’s have done a great deal, and continue to do so. Reality is, it’s good for business for them and others. Much easier to keep talented people when they live in a great place, and everyone that lives in the area benefits.

I don’t “love” Wal Mart/Walton’s. They are what they are, and have allot of influence, but they are not the Gods of Arkansas as so many of you seem to think. They have nurtured,a dn continue to nurture something that was founded before their interest.