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This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

A'ight! It's Down! (The Gauntlet, We Mean).


Park(ing) Day's political moment shouldn't be lost. Here are a few items to keep in mind as we figure out what its legacy is in the coming year:

1. Parking at the Statehouse needs reform.

In partnership with Greater City Providence, we highlighted the need to reform parking at the Statehouse earlier in the year.

Rep. Art B. Handy's (D, Cranston) parklet at the Statehouse removed ten (TEN!) parking spots, and the lane to get into those parking spots, from the Statehouse parking lot, to no ill effect. In fact, throughout the day, employees came out to buy coffee from Presto-Strange-O and eat ice cream from Like No Udder, complimenting Handy on what an improvement the parklet was.

The current plan is to expand parking for the Statehouse, a project which the state has already invested $3.1 million into (about $30,000 a spot). A better plan for the Biggest Little would be to put that money into bike lanes and bus service serving the capital, to reduce the number of employees who have to drive. This will leave enough parking for those who still do need to drive. And our state capital is lucky enough to have its site directly across the street from a train station. There are better solutions than more parking.

Handy's experiment shows that employees are willing to have their parking reduced if it means the convenience of on-site coffee, seating, and gardens. The Statehouse should put out competitive bids for companies like Presto-Strange-O to apply to become the businesses that take up those spaces.

Reduced parking can be treated as an employee benefit too. If it costs $30,000 to buy the land for a parking spot around the Statehouse, even before paving and other considerations come into play, then what might an annuity of that spending look like for an employee? I could see someone arguing, fairly, that employees deserve an affordable way to get to work. Great! Then give people the option of taking the money in the form of parking, as money for bike equipment, as bus fare, and so on. Employees who choose to carpool should also receive money in return for the parking they are not using.

2. Let's add parklets permanently, especially where it would be easy to do.

One of my favorite parklets was Analog Underground's, at the end of my block on Tobey Street & Broadway. The spot that they used turned into a bench, a picnic table, a huge garden with trees and potted plants, and a music listening area. Analog Underground currently has no legal on-street parking, because the area at the end of that block has been marked a no parking zone. Why not allow them to turn that into a parklet then? Seems like low-hanging fruit.

3. Add more bike parking.

The Grange did a great job on their parklet, providing bike corrals in the street. Not only does this serve as a convenient place to park for people on bikes, but it also reduces the risk of dooring, at least in that area of the street. Plus, adding bike corrals provides even more space for customers, but at less expense. Bike Newport led a ride out to the city's parklets, and look at all the people they brought, many of them from all over the state.

4. Add bike lanes where parking isn't being used.

Westminster Street has a very low usage of its on-street parking on the West Side, but has many bikers. It would benefit businesses to put eight-foot bike lanes in those lanes instead of low-use parking lanes.

Currently the bike plan does not talk about doing this. When I last spoke to Bill DiSantis, the engineer from VHB in charge of the bike and pedestrian plan for the city, he downplayed the idea, saying that it would "take years". Look, I can't blame people for the feelings of skepticism. Parking makes people act like territorial animals, and proposals to remove parking can sometimes get a lot of flack. But our blog has already started conversations with businesses like Fertile Underground about the need for bike lanes, and the idea has been popular with them. The Bike Master Plan needs to ambitiously put out proposals for parking lane bike lanes, especially on streets like Westminster.

In case this sounds a little out there, consider that Seattle Department of Transportation created a parking lane bike lane for Park(ing) Day this year. Not a bunch of activists. Nothing "guerrilla" about it. The city itself sponsored the plan.

And for all youse out there that say Seattle is a namby pamby liberal elitist shack of Al Queda-loving queers, let's remember that the private sector is doing the same in that city, with Amazon spending on a protected bike lane to save its company money on parking capacity. And hey, by the way, watch yer mouth.

5. Pom-poms.

'Nuff said.

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