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Tying Things Up in a Pretzel


Dear Readers,

We've been away for a while--in part because getting the electricity bill switched from our last landlord's name into our name involved sitting in the dark for three or four days (this made for some especially ironic musings since I work for an electricity company). But we wanted to put something up about the great fun we had on the first PVD Pretzel Ride.

Pandas love pretzels and bikes By RACHEL PLAYE
The Pretzel Ride idea came from Philly, where every Tuesday night there's a critical mass-style ride to Center City Pretzel Company near the Rocky-famed Italian Market. When we met Ian Cappelano of Foremost Bakery, it was the first thing that popped into my mind--we've gotta' bring that here!

A whole bunch of costuming fun ensued at GRIN Gallery (60 Valley Street) where the bike ride began.

After drinking some cider from the GRIN gallery, riders gathering outside on Valley St in Providence
At the intermission of the Pretzel Ride, the participants jumped off their bikes at Prospect Park for a photo.

Team photo!

Ian treated everyone who arrived at Foremost Bakery (25 Eagle Street) to free soft pretzels and Oktoberfest beer. 

One of Foremost Bakery's owners, Ian Cappelano, outside the bakery By RACHEL PLAYE
Participants' bikes outside Foremost Bakery By RACHEL PLAYE
Foremost Bakery team's jack-o-lantern display By RACHEL PLAYE
Inside the Foremost Bakery riders gather for food and drink.  Blue Bicycle's Molly Hagan even showed up!
Delicious delicious pretzels By RACHEL PLAYE

Anyone visiting Eagle Street right now can't help but notice that its connection to Valley Street is currently blocked. This created an unusually welcoming biking situation in what is normally not a very pleasant place to bike. We talked to Cappelano and to another baker, Peter Kobulnicky, both of whom are commuter cyclists, and asked what they thought of having some cement bollards there to permanently block the crossing to cars, and they said they thought the idea was superb (so much for businesses fighting substantial biking improvements out of attachment to cars). Local business-1. Cars-0.

Traffic seems to be functioning fine with the blockage.  Cars have plenty of other options to get across if they choose (and they'd have even more options if Providence ever took our advice to tear out Route 6 & 10 and continue Memorial Boulevard as a multimodal road with normal, at-grade crossings all the way to the zoo). The Olneyville/Valley area has an especially low car ownership rate, so this also seems eminently fair to the people who live there.

Some of you may remember our post about highways that have disappeared from cities--and not disappeared like I-195, to pop up somewhere else--disappeared disappeared. Gone. 

When the West Side Highway fell in NYC, people from the NYDOT had to come out to count where the cars had detoured to, and how those detours would affect traffic. Well, it turned out that the NYDOT couldn't find any extra cars on the remaining north-south streets at all. People had decided to use transit, had changed the time of their trips, carpooled, or otherwise found a way to adapt--almost immediately. 

Eagle Street is built like a Robert Moses creation, but it's certainly no highway. And yet it's sudden blockage seems to have met with the same result--it's causing no problems at all for the people of Providence. It's actually created an unexpected opportunity for fun.

Foremost Bakery enjoys a gorgeous placement along the Woonasquatucket River, and Ian says he's close to getting the official certificate of occupancy for the deck that will allow spontaneous gatherings (that's a legal term, believe it or not) to happen on it. We look forward to the next time we're able to bring a bunch of cyclists up to his bakery. We hope that RIDOT and the City of Providence pitch in their share by making the area more bikeable.



  1. I ride past that closed street on Eagle every day, and I must say, I think that it could be closed permanently and not impact overall traffic. Other tenants of butcher block mill might disagree, since their access is limited to only the eagle square/Kinsley ave side of the street grid.

    However, an unintended side effect of the work is that more drivers are cutting through Eagle Square on Ericson Place and frequently don't stop at or look for people using the multi-use pathway through the square. (stop signs are on ericson, not the path)

  2. It's a pretty good point.

    I'm not sure that on its own, Eagle Street would have been my choice for closing a street. It just sort of presented itself. Maybe under the circumstances some other street would make more sense. I'm less committed to the specific idea than to the general premise that it shows.