I was biking home this afternoon from a stress-filled day at work, when I encountered one of those odd things that could only give someone like me amusement. Surreptitiously, I rolled around on my bike, expecting to get "caught" being a transportation weirdo in public.
"It's not that photogenic," said a voice. I was suddenly aware that my weirdness was on display.
"Oh, err, sorry. I have a transportation blog, so this stuff is gold. Is this your doing?"
"Why yes. What's your blog called?"
This is how I met Stephano (or Stefano? Sorry, I didn't ask...). The thing I was looking at was the little flourescent creature Stephano put in the street to slow traffic.
It's truly amazing what you can do with a cell phone. I never had a computer growing up, nor even when I was in college, and sometimes I have to reflect on how far the technology can allow you to propel an idea--unplanned, without lighting or gadgets, caught totally unawares--it's absurd.
Here's what Stephano had to say about the sharrows on Pleasant Street, in Pawtucket, just off the Blackstone "bikeway" (if the video doesn't load, try here).
I've written about this stretch of road before. I also did another video interview with Hugo Bruggemann about the stretch of Blackstone Blvd. just south of here.
Video about Hugo Bruggemann's "Better Boulevard" idea.
You'll note in the map that Hope Street carries traffic past this area, so there isn't much traffic volume on this street--but every car on Pleasant comes by at 30 mph or faster. Because the neighboring streets are gridded to Hope, there's every reason to just close Pleasant St. to cars from Alfred Stone Road up to the Blackstone Academy Charter School. Hope Street (which becomes East Ave. in Pawtucket) should also get protected bike lanes on one side of the street, but preserve parking for businesses on the other side.
|Subjectively (and possibly objectively) dangerous curve. Despite the great width, just beyond here is where the bike lane ends and the sharrows begin.|
Closing this section of street is important. The stretch I videoed was relatively straight, but around the curve onto Alfred Stone Road, cars speed up around me everyday to pass on a blind curve. The do the very same thing going towards the school on the northern curve to the rest of Pleasant Street (which is a blinder curve that the map would reveal). This is, no doubt, because drivers are being considerate in their minds, but it makes biking uncomfortable, and could probably cause an objective danger of a head-on collision if two drivers decide to do the same thing at once.
In the Netherlands, this is called Autoluwe, or "car-lite". On the West Coast of the U.S. (though with somewhat diminished quality), it's called a "bike boulevard".
The span of Taft St. passing under the Grace St. and I-95 bridges should also be "car-lite", allowing cars to come into the street to park or visit houses or the Seekonk River for fishing, but not allowing through-traffic to downtown Pawtucket. Sometimes this section under the bridge is already closed for events, and making the area around the bridge nice for biking, sitting, or walking could be a great quality-of-life improvement for residents, who will no doubt love the new, safe place for their kids.
Let's make Stephano and Hugo's kids safer, and invite this area to thrive.