On Wednesday at the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, Providence Department of Public Works brought a proposal for a short painted bike lane between Eaton Street and Orms Street. A recent executive order by the mayor requires all projects to get viewed by the BPAC before they proceed through other city bodies, so that the public can comment on changes that might improve the plans. I commented that 1/3 of a mile was a fairly paltry distance (basically walking distance rather than biking distance), and that the proposal didn't do much to meaningfully address bike access to much of anything (the proposal was that this 1/3 of a mile of bike lanes would help Providence College students access downtown, but of course Orms Street is a frightening nightmare, so nix that!).
Instead I proposed that the full length of Douglas be looked at for a protected bike lane on one side of the street, which could be put where parking currently is. Much of Douglas has parking on both sides of the street, but the parking is very empty in my experience. Today I ventured out and took a count, and there were 47 cars between Orms Street and the city line with North Providence. That's about 16 cars per mile, between both sides of the street. Many of the houses have driveways, and many businesses have small parking lots. I did not do a careful count, but anecdotally observed that most of the parking lots we passed (at driving speed) were a good bit of the way towards empty. So I think a protected bike lane here is very feasible.
The BPAC voted yes on my proposal (that never used to happen!). So the city must now consider this as an option, discuss it with neighbors, and do all the planning work to think through whether this makes sense.
In order for Douglas to get heavy bike traffic, Orms Street needs to be addressed, because a significant number of trips are downtown trips. I recall talking to a young, car-free person who worked near the Statehouse saying that she took Uber (!) to work because "biking is scary, and RIPTA is infrequent". Luckily, I think fixing Orms would be relatively doable. This is the intersection of Orms and Douglas:
|Douglas as it reaches Orms Street.|
The slipways actually could be an opportunity in disguise. If the city repurposed one lane of the street as a two-way protected bike lane, that would still leave three lanes on the Orms Street bridge (perhaps two lanes with a turn lane? Or perhaps two in one direction, one in the other, paired with another bridge, that could get the reverse?). The slipway lines up with the parking lane of Douglas, so it would be a natural connection. No paving needed here to change anything.
In order to keep people from parking in the bike lane, some bollards are needed. Luckily, these are cheap. I found a quote from the Traffic Safety Store which puts them at $3.50 per bollard.
I think Park Street (adjacent to I-95) makes the most sense beyond that. I would like to see Charles Street get some kind of infrastructure at some point in the future, but a lot more attention would have to be put there to figure out interactions with big box stores and highway on- and off-ramps. The Park Street cut-through was closed for some time for construction back when I first lived here, and there seemed to be no difficulty. I would propose that this street be made local access only (so one side would be closed with bollards to cars, creating a cul-de-sac that only bicyclists and pedestrians could come through two-way). That would allow drivers to access things that they need, but would cut down on the speed and volume of traffic.
The Wanskuck neighborhood is a beautiful one, adjacent to Providence College, and full of the kind
|Park Street used to be closed, and there were no problems. How|
about making it a cul-de-sac for cars, and a throughway for bikes?
of dense triple-decker housing that could truly support strong biking. It's amazing to me how unlikely I am to travel to this neighborhood. According to Google Maps, the lower end of this neighborhood is just a mile from my apartment. I really enjoyed the things I saw and would like to visit more often, but quite frankly I am unlikely to do so until the city makes it more comfortable to bike and walk here (having a bus system that isn't totally hub-and-spoke would also make it more likely). Considering that this is a university neighborhood, it's odd to let the businesses languish without easy student access, and bike infrastructure is just the way to fix that.