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Open Letter to Peter Garino of RIDOT

We may be Back to the Future, but Rhode Island's roads are still in the past. 
Will new RIDOT leadership change that?

Hi Mr. Garino*,

It was a pleasure to hear some of your thoughts about future bike and transit oriented planning in Rhode Island tonight at the Providence Bike & Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

I wanted to challenge you to take on a pilot project now that DOT can use to show the success of bike-oriented streets.

A year or two ago, the community got together to ask that S. Main Street be given a protected bike lane. The proposal would have limited traffic to one lane, with the same parking (parking was a higher concern for merchants than travel lanes). Merchants indicated that the two lane, one-way approach gave S. Main St. fast traffic during much of the day, and was detrimental to business.

At the time, the head of the merchants' association, the RI Sierra Club, the Providence Bike & Ped Commission, and others came together to say that this was a high priority project. It was rejected by RIDOT contractors because it didn't meet "level of service" specifications for the street.

Your comments during the BPAC were encouraging because they indicated:

1. That streets should get infrastructure even if RIDOT isn't currently working on them actively at the moment.
2. That level of service should not be a guide for design, and that priority should be given to bikes, transit, and walking in urban areas.
3. That RIDOT should focus on high-priority corridors, especially those corridors which can be connected cheaply and with little extra planning.

This picture has the bike lane directions in UK style, but that is
just an error. 
As you might imagine, the corridor along S. Water and S. Main into Wickenden St. is high priority because it is one of the best ways for non-athletic citizens to get up College Hill. While some of us are able to go right up College St. or Waterman directly, having a "P-Wiggle" way to get around the hills is vital to small children, older people, or disabled people. We hope that you and Peter Alviti** will discuss this, and announce a reversal of the previous RIDOT position. This is a high priority corridor because it connects downtown and several commercial areas to student-heavy areas of the city, where the easiest transition to biking can happen. It is also low-hanging fruit, because the major changes involve paint and a few bollards, do not change parking, and are already approved by local businesses.

As your statements indicated, we hope you will make money available to Providence Planning as soon as RhodeWorks is passed.

For perspective, here is an example of a similar street conversion from Burlington, VT, that was put together this September.

Thank you,

James Kennedy
Transport Providence


*Peter Garino is Deputy Director of RIDOT and previously worked for New Jersey Transit. 
**Peter Alviti is the Director of RIDOT, and previously worked in Cranston DPW.

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