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Why South Main Should Be Top on Your List Feb. 19th

Current RIDOT plan for South Main Street: Two 12' (Highway width) double-northbound lanes & two parking lanes. Mega-fail.
(Thank you to Jonathan Harris for these Streetmix designs)

RIDOT is doing a redesign of S. Main Street. The current plans are a slight improvement on what currently exists, adding some pedestrian crossings, bump-outs, and taking 1' away from each lane. But the design that is left is nothing to be happy about. The two travel lanes will be 12' each instead of their current 13'. They'll continue to be in a multilane one-way formation. There will be a door-zone bike lane, but it will go only as far as James Street, and then stop. 

The Bike & Ped Advisory Commission in taking feedback on other designs, to help advocate for more in the RIDOT redesign. Please send your vote to eric@greenway.org and plan to attend the meeting on Wednesday, February 19th, 4:45 PM at 444 Westminster Street.

The Gold Plated Model: A two-way buffered or protected bikeway, two 8' parking lanes, and one 11' travel lane.
This model reduces the 12' lanes to 10' each, makes them two-way, and puts a 4' bike lane between one of the parking lanes and the travel lane (a 5' lane is typical, but Jonathan Harris did some research, and AASHTO allows 4'). I give this a C- but it would be better than nothing.
This is an interesting one: one lane of parallel parking, one lane of slanted parking to take away width, one 10' travel lane, a buffer, and a bike lane. B+ in my mind.

The most basic improvement: Making the street two-way, with sharrows. Two directional streets do slow cars down as compared to double lane one-way streets. I don't like this design because sharrows on an 11' lane beckon a cyclist to take the lane, while telling a motorist they control the road at whatever speed they'd like. This would be an improvement for pedestrians though. D+.

This is the last option, except the lanes haven't been narrowed at all. They're 12'. D-.



  1. Im not a fan of any of it. Make it two ways with single lanes and double center green strips. Much nicer and perhaps bikes could ride in the greenest or share amicably with auto traffic like we did when I was young.

  2. Hi Jaque,

    Thanks for commenting. It's certainly a sign of success when the blog starts to get comments from people who don't want bike lanes. That must mean the general public is reading!

    I'd be happy to hear more about your experience of S. Main in the past. Do you have photos to share? You can send those to transportprovidence@gmail.com. Also, are you a resident or business abutter to S. Main?

    I think "sharing amicably with auto traffic" works very well for a small share of the potential biking community. I already bike on S. Main, and that's with it's 13' lanes, and people speeding off of I-195, and so on. But if we want to greatly increase the share of the population that feels comfortable biking on S. Main, shared space is not going to work.

    Right now, as a kind of ballsy bike rider who is willing to "command the lane", I find that most drivers are willing to switch lanes into the left lane and go around me. That never seems to cause any actual traffic problems. There's enough capacity for people to go around using just that one lane. So I think that's a good sign that on all occasions except maybe Waterfire, there's enough capacity on the road for the cars that drive there with just one lane of traffic.

    On Waterfire, I think traffic would actually greatly improve if we had only one lane, because of the number of people who would be able to bike. Probably some people who currently drive out of discomfort with dealing with so many cars would instead walk or bike. Some from around the state could take the bus, which would reduce car-loads too. With the traffic on Waterfire nights, if we don't keep 10' of the street open for emergency vehicles (as would be the case with a protected contra-flow bike lane) then if there's ever any emergency need to get into the area, the fire trucks/police/ambulances will have to sit behind non-moving cars. I think the contra-flow model is the one that respects the safety of the community the most, for that reason.

    I look forward to more discussion.

  3. Has anyone noticed that every single one of these concepts shows a THREE foot sidewalk? I don't care how bike- and ped-friendly the roadway and crosswalks are, it's going to discourage walking if everyone has to squeeze by one another on the sidewalk. Never mind that ADA dictates a minimum of 5 feet.

    Also, AASHTO only allows 4 foot bike lanes if there is no parking or curb. Minimum is 5.

  4. Thanks for noticing, but that's because the sidewalks just weren't paid attention to in the setup for the concepts. Jonathan just took the width of the existing roadway and worked with it, not including sidewalks.