I spoke to Eric Weis, Chair of the Providence Bike and Pedestrian Commission (BPAC), during a bike ride he co-led to the new extension of the Washington Secondary Trail, and asked Weis to comment on the lackluster recommendations that came out in the Olneyville Road Safety Assessment authored by engineering firm VHB. The BPAC offers non-binding advisement to the mayor on issues related to pedestrian and bicycle safety, and the RSA touches on many of those issues.
|Original image from GCPVD.|
Weis said that several of the stakeholders who met with VHB to discuss pedestrian and bike safety improvements were clear to the firm that implementing automatic pedestrian phases into signaling loops was a top priority.
Not only local voices were at the meetings, said Weis.
"Two individuals from USDOT told VHB that it was standard practice to remove beg buttons."
Weis, in his role as Chair of the BPAC, also echoed the DOT officials' call at the meeting.
Other concerns that have been raised by community advocates include the reccomendation to increase the number of cars accomodated through Olneyville, a lack of clear vision around transit and biking in a community where nearly 50% of households own no car. While cities around the world have used filtered permeability systems to lower traffic volume, or even declared some central squares car-free, the VHB safety document recommended a move in the opposite direction.
Weis' tour Saturday of the new Trestle Trail in West Coventry was joined by approximately thirty people, along a completely car-free right-of-way opened by RIDOT and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The tour began in much less pleasant environs, through Downtown, the West End, and Silver Lake, through heavily trafficked streets.
Weis spoke to me for another 2014 article outlining the challenges to connecting to the bike path, in presenting many of the same concerns with Olneyville traffic safety. Weis said that an orifice at the end of his digestive tract tightened in response to the stress of Olneyville streets due to their proximity to the defunct urban highways, Rt. 6 & 10.
Weis hopes for a new future for Providence under Mayor Elorza, saying he knows the mayor is someone trying to do the right things.
"The mayor cares about communities" said Weis.
Asked if he had any recommendations for the mayor, in an email Weis said:
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission recently sent a letter to Mayor Elorza advising that our city phase out use of pedestrian crossing push buttons (aka beg buttons) citywide, with a special focus on school zones, commercial districts, and the areas around recreation centers. We hope that the Mayor will accept this recommendation, which would override the recommendation made in the Olneyville Road Safety Assessment to continue their use.
Weis was unequivocal. "Beg buttons got to go."