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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

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...

The Difference Between a Street & a Road

Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns blog talks about the difference between a street and a road. The talk includes interesting historical facts about Spain that I didn't know, too.

I think this really helps to explain why we can't afford a car-oriented society anymore, in economic terms.


Widening I-95?

I just want the non-Twitter folks to know about this. Via Barry Schillar on the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition list I found out that RIDOT is planning some wondrous surprises for us along I-95:
FYI:  As we heard, there are no bike projects in the TIGER grant applications.  Last night we heard that RIDOT is applying for a $20 million grant to widen I-95 North from about the Broadway exit to Route 146 as part of the Providence Viaduct replacement ([total] extra cost about $46 million), 
These plans are not final as far as I know, and we can certainly rally to stop them.

The cost for the two bus hubs proposed was by contrast, $1.5 Million. 

[F]or a $1.5 million planning grant for the 2 new proposed RIPTA bus hubs (at the [RR] station and Garrahy Court House) though that will also require legislative and voter approval of bonds.
The best short-term solution I've heard to deal with traffic on I-95 came from Streetsblog writer and Newport native Stephen Miller, who tweeted that the best solution would be to have a congestion fee for the urban span of I-95, in order to encourage transit use among those who can. I also have long wanted to envision taking the center lane in each direction away from I-95 for Bus Rapid Transit with five stops at Cranston, the South Side, Downtown/West Side, North Main, and Pawtucket. I think a second lane from each side would have to be taken for ramps and staircases to enter the BRT. Setting up this new infrastructure would also cost a lot, but would provide a great deal more capacity.

There's also a counterintuitive trend with highways that finds that when highways are added, the new capacity only affects traffic congestion for a few years before things go back to their stasis. One way of thinking about this is to imagine the commuter to Boston on I-95 or on the T. I used to either carpool or take the train, and even though the train cost me money while the carpool was free, and even though there was no discernible environmental difference between taking one or the other, the traffic alone made me prefer the T. If you add lanes, people immediately feel the sense that there's more free capacity for them to use, and that would lead some of the people who hate traffic like I do to drive instead of take the train, until all the capacity was eaten. Because traffic congestion is not linear, it only takes a small difference in volume of cars (maybe 10%) to add huge differences in how slow everyone is going.

If you have ideas about this, tweet them to us at @transportpvd or email us at transportprovidence@gmail.com.


#MarchMadnessPVD: What's Providence's Worst Parking Crater?

With cities like Kansas City, Missouri in the running, we'll have to work
extra hard to get into next year's competition.
Streetsblog Network has started off this year's March Madness Parking Crater contest, a grueling competition between sixteen cities to see which will be king of the surface lot. Providence wasn't in last year's competition, and is again not in the running, but that should be no reason for us not to nominate our own local parking craters to see which is the winner (loser?) of the bunch.

By the way, Streetsblog, what are you thinking? I think the ref must have been paid off by the other teams. . .

GCPVD's Parking Crisis Illustrated

Providence is no slouch of a city, and its leaders have been working really hard in the last year to put us in the running (Hey! Kansas City may have stolen our TIGER grant for the streetcar, but they won't get our Parking Crater trophy!). 

For today's starters, which would you vote for? 

1. The Statehouse Lawn

The Providence Preservation Society nominated the Statehouse lawn as one of the ten most endangered historic properties in Providence. What a shame! 


2.  The Garrahy Parking Complex

Garrahy has been a particular dislike of mine. One of two parking garages planned for the already parking-dominated Jewelry District, the additional parking doesn't seem to have quashed the I-195 Commission's thirst for places to store cars, even leading them to oppose the use of loading zones for trucks to reduce double parking and allow protected bike lanes on S. Main Street. 

The Garrahy Garage is proposed for the surface lot towards the top of the picture. (Image changed to reflect this fact. I had the lot on the other side of Garrahy highlighted).
I think what makes these Providence examples of parking craters so uniquely Rhode Island is their commitment to mediocrity. Whereas the good people of Missouruhh may be better able to completely tear a city apart than we, Rhode Islanders are extremely adept at taking a good thing and not seeing it to its full potential. So, for instance, the Statehouse was also one of the best publicized sites of Providence's first Park(ing) Day before the new parking was built, suggesting that even when the public rallies for a clear goal--like less surface parking--the government of Rhode Island doesn't care to listen. And the I-195 Commission's proposed garages, at $30,000-$50,000 a space, represent to me the unfulfilled potential of a removed (well, relocated at least. . . ) highway. You would think the removal of a barreling urban freeway would awaken the senses of those in charge, and make them a little more motivated to re-urbanize our city. My favorite part of Garrahy is the greenwashing of the project with a transit hub under the garage.

Well, Rhode Island, which is your favorite parking crater? 

By the way, if you think I'm trying to be mean to Rhode Island for no reason, take heed: last year's parking crater winner, Tulsa, Oklahoma, was so embarrassed by the national attention that it passed a series of laws restricting surface lots in its downtown. I'd love to see some harsh love put Providence on a better track.

You can nominate other parking craters by tweeting @transportpvd with #MarchMadness as your hashtag. 


Time to #Educate195 Commission

Many of you may have read this recent post, which talked about the I-195 Commission's silly statement that double parking is more important than biking. We said the story would evolve, and we were hoping some simple nudging of the commission in the right direction would show them the error of their ways and get them behind protected bike lanes which have already gotten support from the business community on S. Main Street and the Brown and RISD campuses nearby.

Well, the story did evolve, but not exactly how we thought. In response to the article, the I-195 Commission tweeted the following:

Note the several tweets exhorting that the I-195 Commission likes bikes and all things bike-related, which to me comes off as the cycling version of "But I have black friends!"**

But note also, especially, tweets 5 and 6 of the series. "we see shared traffic lane on S. Main as the best model for PVDs dense urban core (5/7)" and "a designated bike lane is better in a suburban model, not a downtown model (6/7)."

Ridiculous, right?

So we've started a campaign on twitter, since that's the social media we use primarily. If you use another social media device, please spread it there as well. We're asking people to #educate195, and send them examples of urban dedicated bike lanes, especially protected infrastructure. Send a tweet with #educate195 as a hashtag at @transportpvd and @195commission telling them why bike lanes are important in downtowns. For further reach, include someone from the city you're tweeting about. We asked the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia what they thought of this statement, and they said:

David Hembrow of the blog The View from the Cycle Path had this to say:

PVD's own @papabybike vented his frustration:

We had other Providence reactions. Anne of Small Point Cafe, whose business certainly would benefit from a bike lane going up South Main towards her neck of the woods on Westminster, shared via the Rhode Island Bike Coalition her thoughts that this makes her so angry that "I could run my bike lights off of the steam coming out of my ears."

And deceptively named @Iowa_Jen, who is from the Iowa originally but lives in Providence, tweeted from Austin, Texas, where she's visiting for work:

What does your city have to offer as examples of great urban bike lanes? Share your pics, videos, and thoughts @195commission with #educate195.


*We've shared this in previous posts, but to be sure the word is out, the I-195 Commission is one of many alphabet soup commissions in the city and state, and the central agency in charge of bike lanes happening or not happening on S. Main is RIDOT. We may in fact be finding out this week what RIDOT's decision is. While I-195 Commission isn't the final authority on the matter, they do have huge sway over street design in the newly-available lands in downtown Providence from the moving of I-195 out of downtown. The commission is an important body to make sure understands appropriate urban design.

The other good thing to note is that if we don't get the bike lanes this week through RIDOT's decision, the changes to the street we're recommending consist of repainting parking lanes, so it's completely within our power to rebound and push again, and having the commission know what it's talking about in regards to urban biking would help a lot.

**A few people I respect have asked why I chose this metaphor. I don't plan on changing the wording, but I think it's fair to address their concern. I'm not saying that these are two equal struggles. The comparison I'm making is to the type of tokenization: "I like x type of people, but I don't support y policy clearly designed to support x group of people." Examples would be the guy who says he has a lesbian sister but won't support gay marriage, the "anti-racist" who won't support school funding equalization, etc. I understand this ruffles people's feathers. That's what the metaphor is meant to do. My feeling is that, as a society, we do a pretty good job of making sure everything that comes out of our mouths is polite, and a very poor job of making sure our institutions reflect that politeness. That's why you find that the corporations that treat their workers the worst have the best legalese to talk about how diverse they want to be, etc., etc. 

So, in keeping with this trend for politeness-over-action, the fact that the I-195 Commission enjoys riding bicycles doesn't really impress me, if they're not willing to back protected bike lanes. We (desperately) need to address racism, sexism, transphobia, etc., in our society, but we shouldn't do that by walling each of these problems off into its own hyper-sensitive area where we can tiptoe around them and avoid hurt feelings.


Culture and Biking

We have the perception that we're uniquely different than Europeans. As I've reported before, especially in the Northeast, we have many of the same needs as Europeans for cycling. Providence can be an excellent, world-class biking city, not some sniveling little brother to Boston (which sucks to ride a bike in, anyway. . .). 

David Hembrow tweeted today regarding the campaign in the 1990s to introduce strict liability in the Netherlands, and the backlash to try to stop it from some auto-oriented lobbyists there. I think it's a good example of how from afar, we can assume that places like Amsterdam, Portland, or San Francisco are unusual hippie magnets that have a completely different view of the way the world works, and can discount our own ability to make changes in Providence.

Strict liability means that a driver is always responsible for damage that they do, regardless of guilt. This contrasts with the law in the United States, or in the Netherlands before strict liability was passed, where one is responsible for a crash (or "accident", as we call them) only insofar as one has overtly broken a law. There's a long track record in the United States of drivers being held poorly accountable for the deaths of pedestrians or cyclists unless they leave the scene of a crime and/or are under the influence of alcohol. Even speeding, though illegal, very seldom results in prosecutions or convictions for the death of a pedestrian. Strict liability turns this idea on its head.

Here's the video, and I'll explain more. Pretty funny:

Now, this cyclist is clearly being an asshole.

But the idea behind strict liability is a good one. We already know that when we engineer streets to create a sense of safety from the wheel, for instance increasing signaling, widening lanes, removing obstacles to vision (i.e., trees), drivers take the sense of safety and speed more. This runs counter to what engineers originally thought, because the data they went off of at first was taken from rural roads and highways, where doing these things does improve safety. If giving a sense of teflon safety to drivers makes them speed when applied to the engineering of a road, it follows in some sense that the legal ramifications associated with liability will also have an effect. Drivers who know that their car is a dangerous and heavy device, and know that whatever harm their car does will have to be paid for won't rest on the hope that not being drunk and not leaving the scene will get them off scot-free.

The Netherlands has an extremely successful rate of driver safety, alongside other Scandinavian countries, with Sweden in the lead. But these changes were hard fought and hard gained--the Dutch had a very high rate of cyclist deaths in the 1970s when they began implementing reforms, in part because of a higher (but diminishing) biking population, and in part because their legal system was essentially the same as ours. Infrastructural and legal changes lie behind this success. We can't just hang a few green signs, give out lights and helmets, and paint sharrows for cycling success. It takes the vision to know that we can do what others have done, and the humility to admit that it has to be done using the same steps.


Jan Brodie: "No" on S. Main Bike Lanes--So Far

Members of the community, including many cyclists, the head of the S. Main Street Merchants' Association, the RI Bike Coalition, and staff members of Brown and RISD campuses came to last month's Bike & Ped Advisory Commission meeting in Providence to support protected bike lanes on the section of Main Street from Wickenden/Point Streets to College/Westminster Streets. This BPAC meeting had testimony from I-195 Commissioner Jan Brodie, and BPAC Commssioner Eric Weis took the chance to ask her if she supported protected bike lanes on the street.

Brodie said, “You don’t need to remove that second lane of travel. My biggest problem on S. Main is the double parking for delivery. If you take a lane of traffic out, you will just stop it. We don’t want that double parking thing to necessarily go away because that is how those activated first-floor uses stay activated.  I hate driving on Boylston, on Newbury Street in Boston. It’s all about the double, triple parking. They don’t do anything about it because every one of those first floor uses is activated [inaudible]. I understand it’s awkward.”

James Kennedy: “Do we have the opportunity to put loading zones in, because double parking is not something that they’re really supposed to do” [laughter from group}

Brodie: Of course not [i.e., that cars aren’t supposed to double park.].
James Kennedy: I understand, I definitely hear you, [double parking] is a very active use of [the street]. We need the loading, whatever is happening there needs to happen. But, isn’t there a way that we can manage the supply of parking that exists through metering and loading zones?
Brodie: Um, I don’t know the answer to that. I imagine that would have been the solution if there was that easy solution. I don’t think they’re doing it because they just don’t want to go around the corner. Um, some of these properties don’t have a back. It’s part and parcel of Northeastern, older cities that don’t have their current needs built into their development. I’ll try to think of some of the ones that utilize the double parking who are—um, it’s restaurants--
Jenn Steinfeld [another BPAC Commissioner]: The big truck deliveries.
Brodie: The big truck deliveries, and it’s usually early in the morning.
James Kennedy: What I mean though, is with the on-street parking that already exists, couldn’t we create loading zones within that on-street parking, so that there’s loading zones for the trucks.
Brodie: Parking is another option for people. I don’t want to take it away. There isn’t a ton. It’s probably in the right balance, because there are only so many streets, and the more dense we build, the tighter the ratio between street parking and a lot of square feet built. So, um, to take, to take the need for parking out of the street and put it in centralized parking garages leaves some on-street parking so that people can zip in and zip out.  All, I think all of these make for an interesting urban fabric.
James Kennedy: You wouldn’t want to remove all the parking, I mean, but obviously if we had both of the travel lanes we wouldn’t have a protected bike lane, so balancing the—having some of the parking used as loading zones for trucks, which is a use that is needed, and having metering so that the zip in and zip out can happen more effectively, alongside the fact that we’re adding garages, I mean, would you balance that and say that the parking is more important than the protected bike lane?
Brodie: My sense is that a shared bike lanes is—in the city—is an appropriate way to get bikes to go through the city.
Kennedy: What do you mean by a “shared bike lane” though?
Brodie: Uh, cars can go on it. A truck could pull over and do a delivery. It’s striped appropriately. And especially if it has some loading on it, it’s not going to be a through lane, people are not going to be going fast.

Brodie indicated that her views on the matter are up for evolution. I certainly hope she will check out Donald Shoup's work on parking management and change her stance to support metering of parking alongside the protected bike lanes, which have broad community support. It would also be helpful if she reviewed the quick success offered by protected bike lanes to cities like Chicago, where some streets have more bikes than cars on them after just a short period of having the infrastructure. It might also be good to review @carfreepvd's great piece highlighting the "P-Wiggle" which includes S. Main & Water Streets as a means of getting around the hills on the East Side.


Video of this part of the BPAC is available from me at request. Unfortunately the recorder died shortly afterwards.

12 Minute Spacing on Streetcar No Good

The peak frequency for the streetcar is expected to be every twelve minutes. That's not good enough.

12 minutes doesn't sound so bad when you first think about it. But frequency matters. If you miss the streetcar by 1 minute, you're going to be waiting another 11. I can walk a mile in that time. The whole streetcar route only covers 2.5 miles total. And when it picks you up, except in the small span of the trolley tunnel on the East Side, it will be in mixed traffic. The entire span of the streetcar should be car-free, from the East Side to at least where it crosses I-95 to Prairie.

I'm concerned that if we don't have at least 5 minute spacing, the streetcar is going to be competition for walking rather than competition for driving. And what that means is that people like me who are able-bodied will not pay a fair to ride, but will instead walk, people who are used to driving will still drive, and people who are without any option to walk will use the streetcar. I don't say this to beat up on the idea of a streetcar in total, but because I want to demand that it be excellent in quality, and this has a lot of problems.

If you add these problems to the fact that one of the major hubs still appears to be planned around a parking garage instead of a market, apartments, and workplaces, and you get really depressed at the prospect that this project might not work out as well as it could.

The other thing that concerns me is the idea of branching in different directions. If we develop other branches, they should be their own lines with interchanges, not branches like the prongs of a fork. Jarrett Walker discusses the idea of forked lines a lot, and I have personal experience with it from living on the trolley lines in West Philly. If you're near the hub where all those trolleys are coming through--in West Philly this would be anywhere on the underground part of the line as far as 40th and Baltimore Ave--you can get a trolley going either way every couple minutes at certain times of day. But the farther you get from where those branch lines separate, the less you have options to use them all. The very endpoint for even having two viable options of the five was Clark Park, at 43rd Street. If you were willing to stand in the middle of the block-long park and sprint towards either Chester Avenue or Baltimore depending on which trolley you saw coming first, you could have double the frequency and double the options. Beyond that point, you really have to get lucky, because there's no way of knowing which one is first, and you have to make a choice.

I've experienced this in the West Side of Providence. We have a lot of buses coming through, and on a map it looks like a lot of options. There's one on Atwells, there's several on Broadway, several on Westminster. But these routes require you to know a schedule, because they can't be run every couple minutes, even at peak hours. And the schedule may be off. So you have A) do the annoying memorization, B) hope that the schedule is right, and C) make a Sophie's choice about which street you'll walk to today. I think that on a fixed budget, RIPTA would do best to run one line up Broadway every couple minutes during peak hours, and eliminate the Atwells and Westminster lines (we had an interesting conversation in the comments section of GCPVD at one point where it was pointed out that Westminster has a lot of potential for transit oriented development, and I think that's true, so maybe the line should be put on Westminster instead. But I think that Broadway is the better option since it's more centralized). There may be a need to get people north or south, but the way to do that is to create another, completely separate line on Dean into Prairie (where the streetcar is going to end) and have frequent connections.

Jarrett Walker says that politicians who like transit often don't take it themselves, and though they're very sincerely for improving transit options, they often think that speed of the vehicle and the number of branch lines is the way to judge success. That's because they're looking at this like a car driver, where one autonomously moves the vehicle at whatever schedule one wants to whatever place one wants. But as a bus or streetcar that method doesn't work. I understand why having even a short spur up to the train station sounds like a great idea, but I think it's going to dilute service frequency. You're only going to have so many people who are even heading in the direction of the train station, and that's going to cut the ridership in two pieces. We need to start thinking of Providence's transit options as a connected grid with transfer points, instead of this zig-zag formation connecting to an otherwise hub-and-spoke bus system.

Margherita Pryor of the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition asked me to share this article on the changing landscape of transportation in California. If you have news articles that you'd like us to share, you can send them to us at twitter @transportpvd or by email at transportprovidence@gmail.com.



More Californians prefer climate-friendly transport 
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 
The percentage of California residents walking, biking or using public transportation on an average day has more than doubled since 2000, according to results from a survey by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). 
According to the "California Household Travel Survey," while only 11 percent of household trips were taken by walking, biking and public transportation in 2000, that figure has now increased to nearly 23 percent -- including a steep rise in walking trips, which almost doubled from 8.4 percent to 16.6 percent of trips. 
"This increasing interest in many transportation choices is another reason why we are on the path to more sustainability in California," State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly said in a statement. "Caltrans will continue improving the state's transportation system to help ensure Californians have many viable choices for how to travel."
The survey participants recorded where, when and how they traveled on one random day. The average number of trips per household was 9.2, and the average number of trips per person was 3.6. 
"Californians are increasingly choosing alternatives to driving a car for work and play. That's a shift with real benefits for public health that also cuts greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollution," said California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols. "California is committed to supporting this shift with better planning to support sustainable communities and healthier, low-carbon choices for travel" (Matt Brown, Santa Rosa [Calif.] Press Democrat, March 10). 

This trend is nationwide, and Providence had better get on board with it!


Thank you, Narragansett Wheelmen!

I apologize for it having taken me a couple of days to acknowledge it on the blog, but I want to send my public thanks out to the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen for their generous $1,000 grant for printing of materials related to our organizing. As I juggle my many paying and unpaid roles (hint: the ones that have to do with transportation are all unpaid) I'm really excited that NBW has been able to support our work in this way. We also won $100 additional money for development of our projects.

I'm looking into putting advertisements on the website, and to starting a sustainership program, because I'd like to spend more of my time working on this stuff and less time doing odd jobs and so on to pay the bills. Perhaps this is a bit more transparent than usual, but I think I see the steps as:

1. Figuring out a "fiscal sponsor" for 501(c)3 status (also, figuring out whether what we do is too political to be considered a 501(c)3, but as I understand it, I think it qualifies, since we don't endorse candidates, raised money for parties, etc.).

2. Coming up with a list of donors (maybe that's you! And if you're willing to donate before we've got official tax exemption, all the better! Email us at transportprovidence@gmail.com).

3. Figuring out a plan for ads that doesn't dilute content. The ads are also going to require a little boring training time on my part in the mechanisms of blogger, so that's probably the biggest thing slowing things down.

I'm happy to take feedback on this process from people either privately or in the comments section. And you can also tweet at us at @transportpvd.

Thanks again, NBW!


RI Future: Wake Up the Filibuster, Sheldon!

Some of even Robert Moses' dreams never came to pass.
Robert Caro wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Robert Moses, the architect of America's love affair--err, broken marriage--with cars. He also has written several of an ongoing series of multi-volume bios on President Lyndon Johnson, who Caro portrays as a conniving, manipulative, conservative force in the Senate before changing course wildly to become the father of the Great Society and Civil Rights Acts, among other things. So he's the perfect person to listen to when thinking about how the Senate can deal with the transportation mess we're in.

I wrote a piece working off of this clip, advocating yet again for Sheldon Whitehouse to up the ante on the tactics used to stop climate change. The all-nighter that he and several of his colleagues recently did, making speeches about the importance of the issue to me comes off as way short of the mark, and I think it only gets as much praise as it does because we're way behind on addressing this global existential problem. I think we need to look at the free-spending ways of Robert Moses and the obstructive ways of Lyndon Johnson to understand what can and should really be done about climate change in the Senate.

More at RI's Future.


East Providence in a Pretzel

I may (fingers crossed!) be helping to design an East Providence bike plan. I'd love comments on this post, as I have only biked in East Providence a handful of times. Rachel's dad grew up in some mixture of East Providence, Providence, and Central Falls, and her grandparents still live in Rumford, so I've been there a tad bit more often in a car too. And I've taken the bus a couple times.

Let's gather what I think I know.

1. This has got to go!

Google finds us an example of a clusterfuck. Oh, and is it one!
This is the intersection of Waterman Avenue, Taunton Avenue, and Broadway in East Providence. Waterman cuts southeasterly from the river, and used to connect directly to our Waterman by a no-longer-standing bridge.* Taunton Ave. is U.S. 44, but within this intersection Waterman & Taunton are both designated as 44 in a huge bow-tie/figure-eight shaped mess. Each of these streets is a very wide double one-way with a lot of weird sidewalk bumpouts to direct people to turn in the right directions. Broadway, which is already a very wide road north and south of this intersection, widens a lot more around it. A calmer part of Broadway passes on either side as the outer parts of a boulevard, while the major part of Broadway passes below-grade under the bowtie.

Fixing this is probably going to be expensive, but it has to go. This is bad on so many levels. The side portions of Broadway are nice because they're relatively slow, but the whole concept that people should be able to speed through underneath the ground means that crossing this street must be nightmare. It's also very confusing above-ground with the bowtie. I took a bus here once (for some reason? I'm not sure why anymore. Maybe just to check it out?) and got very confused at this intersection trying to walk around.

The craziest, and saddest thing about this type of mess is that it must have cost a pretty penny to do.

Some Solutions

The first thing is to acknowledge that at best, if we really hustle and work hard and get the right government grants, and don't get blocked by bad engineering from RIDOT, it would probably take ten years to get the below-grade part removed and brought level with the other parts of the street (probably anyone working in transportation stuff in the U.S. would tell me that I'm wildly optimistic to expect ten-year turnarounds on this stuff, but I refuse to lower my expectations in response to bad planning). So what can we do if the below-grade stays?

*On "normal" Broadway, before it starts to widen approaching the underpass, there should be protected bike lanes in the shoulders, with the normal two-lane configuration that already exists, but with a road diet to the lanes to reduce speeds to 25 mph.

*On Broadway as it starts to widen into four lanes, this would also be the configuration.

*The question arises whether it's better to have the bike lanes divert onto side streets to go around the square, or whether to continue through it. It's not possible to have bikes go underneath with the cars, because of the odd transition that would require (it's also not desirable because of the height change, the darkness, etc.). The side street portions of the Broadway exchange can't be made car-free though. I suggest sidewalk extensions and speed tables to make these side-streets unlikely throughways for cars.

*Alternatively, I think that using diagonal diverters on some of the side-streets to reduce car through-traffic could allow calmer mixed-traffic routes for cyclists (who could pass through diverters). They could go through streets like Grosvenor and go around the bowtie in a rectangle. More study should be put into the exact configuration for this.

*If we can get the below-grade Broadway section brought to street level at some point, we should use the space to create even more of a road diet. The two center lanes should be no wider than the maximum allowed in Vancouver, BC, which is 3 meters, or just under 10'. The square should not be a place for speeding cars. Wide planted buffers could keep the boulevard feeling for the street, with side lanes coming to 9' to slow traffic more.

*Another thought is to use a traffic circle or roundabout with the at-grade six-way crossing. These reduce speeds but also reduce traffic congestion and accidents, and don't require signalization. Since traffic circles are not great for bicyclists, the diagonal diverters would come into play here as well to get cyclists around the square if they were traveling through.

*In the short-term, Waterman & Taunton Avenues should get road diets to keep the same two-lane/two-parking lane configuration, but with much narrower lanes and protected bike lanes. The Double one-way should go. Signalization could help normal traffic flow, with "all green" signals for cyclists to pass from all directions at once every cycle.

The Henderson Bridge & Expressway

These gotta' go too! The bridge is old and in need of replacement, and when it reincarnates it should be in the form of a more multimodal bridge. The Henderson Expressway is a highway to nowhere, and should be removed to create development parcels and small neighborhood streets, with mixed-use and low-parking options allowed in zoning.

Warren Avenue & Pawtucket Avenue

Warren Avenue from Potters Street should get protected bike lanes, and those should continue until Pawtucket Avenue. Pawtucket Avenue should also get protected bike lanes. The intersection of Warren & Pawtucket should get a traffic circle to help calm traffic but allow throughput. Diagonal diverters on Bridgewater could push southbound traffic onto Bliss, and northbound traffic onto Fenmoor, creating a bike boulevard option to avoid the intersection entirely. The intersection of Pawtucket Ave. with Veterans' Memorial Highway should be reconfigured to keep protected bike lanes through the whole intersection, removing slipways and adding signals for bikes. Sharrows and signs could direct bicyclists from Pawtucket Ave. through the hospital, a major employer, and through to the bike path.

These are some of the ideas I have about East Providence's bike plan so far. Please share any thoughts you may have, especially if you're a cyclist and bike in East Providence.


*Isn't weird how we have streets in Providence that change names every couple blocks for no reason, but we have other streets that used to be contiguous that still share the same name even after they stop being contiguous? Wicked weihhhd.

Boston Wrong

Hopkinton, Mass.

I was thinking about this a bit more after my original post, and 26.2 miles isn’t even that far on a bike. I feel like I probably have ridden that in a day, just riding to work and back and doing errands before in some locations I’ve lived. And in a completely car-free environment, with other people around you? Probably the safest thing imaginable. 

Whereas a marathon, by its nature, is an event whose first participant died after completing it. Could we possibly be more ridiculous in our cultural fear of bicycles?



Says the Boston Globe:
Public safety officials said they would like to see an end to the Midnight Marathon, an annual unofficial bike ride from Hopkinton to Boston on the Boston Marathon route the night before the race, and have nixed a special commuter rail train to ferry cyclists to the starting line. 
But the turnabout is not a direct result of the Marathon bombings at the finish line last year, officials said.  
“Because this has grown to be such a big event, it’s something that basically we’re trying to discourage — not from a Marathon bombing security perspective, but from a safety perspective,” said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”  
“God forbid there is a major issue or accident — there are [responders] who will be dealing with all that through the night who were supposed to be somewhere at 5 in the morning,” Judge said.  
At the request of local police, MBTA officials said that they will not provide a train for the cyclists, as they did last year.
Organizers of the Midnight Marathon, which last year drew between 1,000-1,500 participants, said they would continue on without the T, and are already organizing group ride-shared to Hopkinton, Massachusetts, where the Boston Marathon traditionally begins.

The growing numbers led public safety officials to complain the bike riders were a noise disturbance and distracted police from focusing on preparation for the Marathon.

No Salt!


I took this on my phone during the last snow storm.

I thought it was interesting to see how having snow layered on the ground affected people's driving. Streetfilms already talks a good game about sneckdowns, but what about a street just not being plowed very well?

This is #40mphWestminster, a street I've documented a lot while living in Providence. These cars are going significantly more slowly and turning with more care than they usually do (article, see Westminster section). When the plows came through a second and third time later on the day of this video, the cars started going faster again, because the pavement had been brought to bare asphalt again.

A lot of safety ideas for highways don't work on local roads. For instance, wider lanes, straighter paths, and fewer visual obstructions are all things that have been shown to reduce harm on highways, but those same things have induced speeding on local roads.

There's a salt shortage, and Providence is out of salt. The next shipment won't be for a week. I predict that this is good news for safe driving, as far as local roads go. Of course, all bets are off on highways. Unfortunately I think this will be a bad thing for safety there.

As far as sidewalks go, I think this will also be bad. But there's not much worse it could be. . .

Thanks RIDOT: Westminster into Olneyville during last storm. (Let's see if it improves).