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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.


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