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Broadway & Westminster

Councilman Bryan Principe set up a meeting some months ago between Transport Providence and a variety of city services, city council members, and community organizations to discuss the idea of protected bike lanes on the West Side. Principe deserves praise from the neighborhood for his efforts on this issue. I've been especially impressed to see Mr. Principe talking excitedly to other councilpersons about the examples from Streetfilms of successful biking in the Netherlands, New York City, and other places. You may recall Councilman Principe as the guy who goes around the West Side and helps people shovel out their sidewalks while RIDOT leaves the sidewalks in its care completely unshoveled.

The conversation between different community members and city services had a long way to go, and at the time I decided not to report on it because I wanted to see where the process would go on its own. There hasn't been any additional motion forward since February, so I'd like to start the discussion up again. 

There was some concern over the idea of changing parking arrangements on the W. Side by some participants, but thankfully there seemed to be some agreement that a compromise could be met eventually around protected bike lanes that would rearrange some parking but not all of it.

Our original proposal for Westminster Street was that it would lose both of its parking lanes due to extremely low parking occupancy. This proposal was met with strong opposition by the WBNA, although some of its members supported the idea and signed our petition, and one of its business members, Fertile Underground, was actually actively involved in the earliest planning and discussion around the idea. From what I've gathered, the plans for protected bike lanes are dead in the water unless we get the WBNA to go along, so if you're a member (like I am) then you should talk to them about how important this is.

Our new proposal is the creation of dual protected bike lanes on Broadway and Westminster which would remove only one parking lane from Westminster and keep parking completely the same on Broadway. Additionally, the proposal would add parking to the I-95 service roads in order to calm traffic there, re-making the three-lane one-ways into two-lane one-ways. 

Broadway would squeeze its existing bike lane space into a wider one-way bike lane, protected from traffic.

Westminster would lose one lane of parking for a protected bike lane. It's current parking occupancy hovers around 10% on the street, and many businesses have unfilled parking lots.
Service Road 7 would gain parking, which is especially helpful since one of the few areas of Westminster that gets higher parking occupancy is near I-95. This would also calm traffic. Note, I've put a grass median in place to imagine a separation from the gained width left over from changing a 12 or 13' travel lane into an 8' parking lane, but if funding is not available this could be done with temporary materials such as plastic bollards or paint.
Broadway and Westminster are already on the list to get repaving work done for the summer, according to a conversation I had with the city's parking department. The repaving makes temporary changes to parking difficult, said the city, but it also makes putting in changes to painted lines on the street extra easy. We should take this opportunity to re-think our streets.

If you bike on the West Side, please help push these plans forward!



  1. Man I hate Providence sometimes. Seriously, an incredibly compact city with essentially no bike infrastructure can't afford to lose two grossly underutilized parking lanes? I honestly don't know how we can overcome this embarrassing insularity.

    And I'm not sure I even really like the proposal. It seems like the two Broadway bike lanes (admittedly not great) are being lost in favor of keeping everything the way it is and having a one-way lane that's protected. Kind of a sad compromise, don't you think? If there are currently two bike lanes, two parking lanes, and two travel lanes, can't we just shift everything over and have a protected two-way cycle track? What am I missing?

    In any case, keep up the good work! It's desperately needed.

  2. Here's the deal Andy. FDR said to A Philip Randolph, "I agree with you [about civil rights, labor unions, etc.] but you'e got to make me do it." I don't know if the story is apocryphal or not, but I use it a lot. I think I've now graduated to the point where I'm kind of an in-between person, who's not even the most radical voice, because I'm trying to work with what we've got politically. So I agree with you 100%, and what you have to do is go out and find 100 people to show up to a meeting and say so.

    As it is, there are problems with having two one-way protected bike lanes, but I think it's a step forward from what we have now. I'm hoping that the intersection with the Westminster bridge and the northbound service road can also get a stop sign and other traffic calming in addition to the loss of the lane, and I think for that stretch it might make sense to have the lost lane be a protected bike lane out to Washington Street instead of parking. The way that this city allowed I-95 to cut itself in half, and the way that Cathedral Square has been cut off from the rest of Westminster makes no sense, but these are facts on the ground. I'm trying to find what we can do as tactical urbanism to make the city somewhat better immediately.

    GET OUT THERE AND ORGANIZE! :-) AND GET OFF MY LAWN! (I don't have one).

  3. I'm surprised any maintenance/repave on Broadway is planned, talk about a waste of money if its a full repave from the road bond. It's still largely in great shape from the repave it got 2 years ago, with relatively few utility cuts in it yet.

    I find this idea of 2 one way bike lanes less useful, I guess because I don't live in the neighborhood, though I do ride both streets once or twice a month to get too/from downtime from Olneyville. The biggest issue I have here is because Westminster is broken at the highway and Cathedral square, and these facts aren't likely to change anytime soon. There's no good transition from W. side to downtown in either the outbound or inbound case. Broadway at least is continuous without a series of turns to go straight into downtown. Washington is a better option at least as far as getting over the highway, but quickly degrades as a through route on the w. side.

    I'm very concerned about sheltered/protected bike lanes on any of these streets due to the frequency of intersections and driveways. The design at intersections has to be very good to allow riders to transition out of the bike lane before intersections and to make sure that turning drivers have the opportunity to see approaching riders before turning.

    I know it doesn't go as far towards encouraging people to actually try biking around the city who aren't already doing so, I think on these streets, painted stripe bike lane adjacent to the vehicle travel lane with buffer zones is a preferable treatment. (5' lane, 3' buffer/gore zone, no barrier/hump/etc.).

  4. Unfortunately Westminster isn't wide enough for painted lanes adjacent to parked cars.

    I think the point about driveways is legitimate. There's a set of houses by the West Side Diner in particular that have driveways into below-house garages. Those would be tough if the one-way on W'minster was westbound. Although... who knows... if the city allows it in zoning, those who choose to could use those driveways as gardens (there's a lot in back, and there'd be on-street spots).

    I envision the W'minster lane going east into the service road. I think the intersection should get a stop sign or signal, speed bumps/speed tables, and that instead of added spots right there a protected lane could go in to Washington.

    Another option which would work is to take one parking lane from Broadway, none from Westminster, press the existing bike lanes into the addition width of the lost parking. I really like this idea--far more than the others--but I focused on Westminster because of how little parking goes on there.

    Other advantages of a double-Broadway protected bikeway:

    *Pushing some parking to W'minster would actually produce some of the calming effect of parallel parked cars (this is one of the positives the WVNA cites against the idea of a protected bike lane, but there's so few parked cars that it makes no impact).

    *It activates side streets, and as Jane Jacobs would tell us, that leads to greater safety from crime.

    *It creates a continuous route through the W. Side/Downcity

    *Businesses like The Grange are already interested in parklets, showing growing understanding that parking isn't everything.

  5. Sorry for cell phone typos---WBNA obviously, not WVNA