Mayor Elorza very graciously came to this month's bike & pedestrian advisory commission (BPAC), spoke briefly, and then listened to community members speak. The room was packed.
Highlights from the Mayor:
*The city is going to put extra effort and onus on keeping sidewalks clear during snow storms.
*The mayor has not started biking to work, but as soon as snow is clear, will do so every Friday, saying that Bike-to-Work Day is not just one day in May, but everyday.
Highlights from the community:
*Many people spoke at length of the need to keep snow clear from sidewalks.
*There was an interesting proposal about legislating immunity from shovelers/property owners for injuries accrued during paid shoveling as a way of addressing the alleged lack of people out in the streets shoveling for money.
*People spoke for the need for protected bike lanes throughout the city, on streets like Smith, Douglas, Broad, Elmwood, Hope, and Broadway.
*Signal timings/walk signs were a big topic--the Mayor has already committed in his campaign to make all walk signals in the city automatic instead of having 'beg buttons".
*An interesting proposal came from the RIPTA Riders' Alliance to set aside $1 Million to clear the top one thousand most-frequented bus shelters during storms.
*Bike parking was a big concern: one speaker asked that the city lower the ratio of bike parking needed to offset a car parking spot (perhaps as a way of discouraging excess car parking?). Many, many people talked of the need for secure bike parking at the train station.
*I thought it was a highlight that the VHB representative who wrote the bike plan suggested that it was time to update it.
*I brought my proposal for a parking lot tax, which drew quiet applause and a "Hear! Hear!" from the audience. The parking lot tax would, of course, be used to lower property taxes, and be revenue neutral.
*I also brought a proposal to meter more parking on the street, and return the funding in lowered property taxes in the same way.
*I asked that the city remove all parking minimums. Providence has dialed them back and used offsets like allowing bike parking in place of car parking in some places, but it still has them. It should just get rid of them.
*Several members of the audience brought proposals to allow one side of a street's parking to be used as protected bike lanes, as a way of balancing the needs of parked cars and bikes.
*Dean Street (and its various pseudonyms) came up as a particularly important north-south connector that is impassable to pedestrians and bikers.
*There was a call to connect the Cranston bike path (officially called the Washington Secondary Path), to which I will add that there is a real need to tear out Route 10/Huntingdon Expressway since it is the oldest highway in the state, and replace it with a multimodal road. Rt. 10 blocks access from Providence to the bike path and visa versa, and largely redundantly serves as another north-south route just a mile and change west of I-95.
Commissioner Jen Steinfeld brought a very important point, which is that as a community, biking et. al. continues to be a topic voiced by mostly white people, even though a sizable number of Latino and black people in the city bike, take transit and walk. Although there were a lot of people, myself included, who certainly came to biking as an economic decision, giving leadership and voice to people-of-color would be more likely to hit people from that background, and in any case would bring a whole lot of neighborhood issues to the surface that may not be readily apparent to people based on where they live.
That list almost certainly missed some important points, but please comment below to bring up things I forgot, or things you'd like to add!