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A street car named trouble

Mayor Mark Stodola, making rounds last week to talk up what the city is doing to combat a perception of crime problems (a 10 percent increase in residential burglaries is not merely a problem of perception), revealed an interesting fact about a recent carjacking in the River Market. In that crime, which sparked a flurry of e-mails that prompted new lighting and other security measures in the entertainment district, two North Little Rock youths carjacked a businessman, shot him and left him for dead on a rural road.

And how did the young criminals get to Little Rock from their homes on the north shore? Why they rode the trolley, proving that, despite what some critics of the River Rail say, some people other than tourists DO ride for practical reasons.

The Christian way

Here's a tip on the National Park Service's new visitors center at the Central High School Historic Site, which opens next week. Don't miss the stations where you can listen to excerpts from the ongoing oral history project. (Contributions can be added at any time and the Park Service is still hopeful that reluctant white students of the era will end a boycott of the project and contribute their memories.)

Be sure to listen to the interview with Jefferson Thomas, one of the nine students who desegregated Central High. He describes being befriended particularly by one white student who treated him “like a buddy. You couldn't even tell he was white, he was so friendly,” Thomas said jokingly. It was a rare occurrence where most whites avoided the Nine and a few harassed them at every opportunity.

Thomas, appreciative of the friendship and the abuse the white student endured as a result, asked him to an early-morning Bible-reading and prayer session before school.

“I asked him why he never came in. And he said, ‘Well, I don't believe in that.' I said, well, it's not just all Baptist. We have Catholics there and we got everybody.

“He said, ‘No, I don't believe in God.' … It was a learning experience because I'm thinking if you don't believe in God, you're a mean, cruel, evil person. And the best, the kindest, the best Christian-behaving kid in school said he was an atheist.”

Now, a Big Dam stripe

The Big Dam Bridge now has white tape running down the middle of its 4,226-foot length to remind people on foot to keep to the right and out of the way of people on wheels (the bridge still has no lanes delineated for bikers or pedestrians only). The Pulaski County Public Works department installed the stripe at the request of runners and bikers who've had to throw on the brakes to avoid hitting pedestrians meandering across the bridge, director Sherman Smith said. The span is 14 feet wide.

The stripe doesn't mean you can't cross to the other side for the view, Smith said. It's mainly to “keep people conscious that it's a bicycle-pedestrian bridge.” It cost $10,165 to lay the stripe, money that came from the county road budget.

Bikers and runners will get the bridge to themselves for a few hours when the Big Dam Bridge 100 rolls at 7 a.m. Sept. 29; the start is near the Broadway Bridge. Later in the day will be the Big Dam Bridge 110: Ruth Lincoln of Little Rock will celebrate her 110th birthday (Sept. 30) by getting a lift to the top of the bridge. She'll get out at the overlook with members of her family, including granddaughter-in-law Sen. Blanche Lincoln, and enjoy the experience of being 65 feet above the Arkansas River.

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