By RACHEL PLAYE & JAMES KENNEDY
In Eco Rhode Island today, David Everett of Bike Providence--which includes the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. engineering (VHB)--outlined their approach to forming a more ambitious Bicycle Master Plan. The letter to the editor is worth reading in whole, but we want to focus on one aspect of it, since we recently published criticisms of the BPAC/VHB engineering plan on our site and at Eco RI. The passage from Bike Providence's letter we want to focus on reads:
Bike Providence has far greater aspirations — the plan will include short-, mid-range and long-term recommendations for appropriate routes to connect all city neighborhoods. The city, BPAC and the hired consultant are currently identifying and evaluating numerous roadways as candidates for bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks and extensions of existing off-road paths. Some projects could require elimination of some on-street parking, curb relocation, utility modifications and/or right-of-way acquisitions. (our emphasis) These proposed improvements will be included in the plan as either medium-term improvements or longer-term improvements, creating the infrastructure that we’ll need to be a truly bikeable, walkable city.
This is a welcome change, because the past meetings have expressed a lot of reticence about even considering the removal of parking from streets, or the realignment/elimination of traffic lanes, both of which are going to be necessary in order to solve Providence's bike situation. Any bike plan should address not what will make young, risk-blind people like ourselves bike, but what will get elder women with arthritis to bike, what will make parents feel safe with small children in tow on the way to school or work, and what will get Providence's biking rates up to Portland, Oregon levels. Anything short of that isn't good enough.
One of the important criticisms of BPAC from the Transport Providence article also needs restatement. The more serious changes to our streets don't always have to immediately be done in a permanent and expensive way, so BPAC should make it part of its mission to move some of those middle- and long-term goals up to the short-term, by using traffic cones and other removable obstacles to experiment with traffic calming and bike lanes. We would like to hear concrete things about this type of immediate experimentation.
We take the commitments in the BPAC letter as sincere because we know they are coming from a very ernest group of people. We would emphasize that citizens who are concerned about making Providence bike-friendly should continue to bracket that admiration for the time being, and push the committee hard to hold it to what this letter says.
We hope and expect that the committee views any criticism as helpful to its cause. The old adage about A. Philip Randolph and FDR applies here. The leader of the Sleeping Car Porters met with the president during the Depression to talk about the serious problems that faced his union. The president listened, and then said, more or less, "I agree with everything you said. Now organize people, and make me do it".
We should keep up the pressure, and make them do it.