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A Pawtucket Parent on Sharrows

Providence/Pawtucket line.
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".

Beautiful--and, as the picture shows--desolate. The cars that come through here are few compared to other streets, but fast.
This street has painted bike lanes now, which isn't shown in the picture, but Autoluwe/bike-boulevard design would be better for this type of street.
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.



  1. There is obviously far more traffic there than I'd expect to see on residential roads in the Netherlands. Certainly nothing autoluwe about it at the moment.

    Why is there so much through traffic here, either on one side of he grass or the other ? It's not clear why so many people use this as a route by car.

    1. I think your question is about the second video, on Blackstone Blvd. I'm going to blow your mind, David: this is *the very best* bikeway in the city (we have actual bike paths outside the city). This street was originally for trolleys, hence its width. But in the mid-20th C., the trolleys were removed and it became four lanes of car traffic. It's now a lane each way, with a bike lane on each side, and very sparsely used parking.

      I'd like to either see protected bike lanes on either side, or one side become two-way traffic and the other side Autoluwe like Hugo suggests (with driveways, unfortunately, the one side probably can't--politically speaking--go totally car-free, although that'd be nicer still).

      The Councilman for this neighborhood, Sam Zurier, told me if anything that he'd like the four lanes back, even though there is zero congestion with two (there's actually still a lot of speeding).

    2. The trolleys ran down the wide median, which was created as the park element of a grand boulevard that turned Butler Ave. into the southbound leg. The terminus is the lovely stone shelter opposite the entrance to the Swan Point Cemetery. The boulevard with its trolley line was built in a grand style during the city beautiful movement to befit the grand houses along its length and to provide transit to the cemetery.

  2. Next to the two arches on that bridge in the picture I see a third arch. If the cars zoom through those two narrow spots, perhaps the bike lane needs to go under the third arch.

    --Paul Klinkman

    1. I don't think it's set up that way. Third arch goes over the water (?).

      There really is very little traffic here, but it's all very fast. This bridge underpass should be for bikes and pedestrians, with only local car access.

  3. I was part of a public meeting held by RIDOT with the neighborhood just prior to when the bike lane was installed on Alfred Stone and Pleasant. The implementation that RIDOT put in, with only a bike lane on one side, and a ridiculously wide travel lane with sharrow on the other for Alfred Stone along with the no-parking signs and bike lanes on pleasant was the result of that neighborhood meeting. Prior to that, alfred stone had no lane markings at all, and probably had an average speed of 40 mph for its 1000 foot length. Pleasant is of course much narrower, but people all complained about where their guests would park, so they really needed the parking next to the cemetery. Other complaints at the time:
    1) The paint used to mark the road with "glare" into people's windows (overruled)
    2) Putting paint on the road would make it look like a highway (overruled)
    3) People were afraid that with a bike lane on the north side of alfred stone, they might back over someone using the bike lane. (hence a sharrow and 16foot wide lane, all it changes was the removal of a bike lane stripe)
    4) Where would people going to the farmer's market park, since the south side of alfred stone along the cemetery was always full of those visitors. (seems to not be an issue)
    5) Desire to have a 2 way bike lane on the south side of alfred stone

    After it was implemented, there is one house on the east side of pleasant just after then end of the cemetery that consistently had a vehicle parked on the roadway, despite the no-parking signs that were installed as part of the project. My guess is this person kept complaining and eventually got the town councilor for the district to get Pawtucket DPW out to redo the striping.

    1. People still go pretty fast. I'm amazed at how fast people take that turn, even when they're on the left side of the street. Even with my full 360 degree openness on my bike, I can't see around the corner until I'm right on it, but people swerve around me and cross their fingers, I guess, that no one is on the other side.

      For major thoroughfares, as you know, I favor removing some parking in order to provide bike lanes. But for this route, I would favor adding all of the parking back, but making through-traffic impossible. This would allow overflow of guests for anyone who might want to come visit a residence, would allow residents to park close to unload groceries, etc., but would also keep speeds to 15 mph, and keep traffic volumes low.

      Streetfilms did a good video recently about how low speeds have helped Philadelphia, but neglected to talk about a major shortcoming of Philly's design--which is that many of those low-speed streets still have a high volume of cars. Volume of traffic is as important to consider as speed--think, for example of how uncomfortable it is to ride a bike in a traffic jam on Atwells Avenue, even though cars may not objectively be going very fast.

      So let's implement "Autoluwe" bike boulevard design here, to fix everyone's complaints.