The City of Providence proposes using the extra width of Fountain Street to create bike facilities protected by parking. However this is done, this is an improvement, and should be applauded.
I have tweaks.
I propose parallel parking on both sides, because angled parking tends to slow traffic. You say, "But don't you love slow traffic, James?" Not necessarily. Fountain St. in my experience is not too fast for comfortable crossing, but it is uncomfortable to bike on. We're solving that with separated facilities. Letting traffic flow for cars is a fair compromise in return.
I also don't want people to assume that slower traffic is caused by the bike lane (which it's not). The angled parking will have that effect, but people will never blame the parking. They'll blame the cyclists.
Fountain Street is a core area of the city, and it's going to have slow cyclists, fast cyclists, and people in wheelchairs or rascals, all of whom have different needs. Having the capacity to pass one another is important. The bike lane I propose above looks monstrously huge by American standards but is pretty close to average for the Netherlands (they push for 4 meters, which is 12 feet; I did 15).*
The other advantage to a wider bike lane is this:
There was discussion of needing to fundraise for the flexposts (the plastic poles that keep the parked cars from parking in the bike lane), and despite that, there's still a need to remove those posts each fall in preparation for snow plowing. This is an unnecessary maintenance cost that would be obviated if we just made the bike lane wide enough for a vehicle.
Why else should we make the bike lane wider?
I would hope there'd be no need for it, but if there should be need for a fire or ambulance crew to come through, having wider bike lanes gives them a priority lane that they can circumnavigate traffic congestion through. This is a real thing that is done in the Netherlands, and as I explored, cities in the Netherlands save a lot of money by having fewer fire stations for the same number of people. Getting better response times to fires or medical emergencies also means that there will be more success with those incidents.
So please help us get the word out: Providence Planning's Fountain Street plan is a real step forward, but we need to improve it more still.
* In fact, as an addendum, another part of the conversation about disabled people was the fact that Providence is required to fix wheelchair ramps whenever it repaves a street. As a means of getting around this, the Planning Dept. intends to only pave certain sections of the street where there are no ramp issues. This isn't out of malice to people in wheelchairs, and in fact the Planning Dept. is looking for funding for ramp fixes in the future. It also partly stems, as I'm told, from the fact that certain streets and sidewalks are imminently going to be torn up again, so redoing the ramps doesn't make financial sense. But if we focused on wide protected bike lanes that had room for rascals, we could do fewer curb cuts, because there would be less urgency to get rascals or wheelchairs up ramps at certain locations (e.g., It's a real harm to a person in a wheelchair if they can't get to a ramp that's right on the corner, faced the right way to cross a particular crosswalk. But if the protected bike lane could scoot them along safely to the next curb cut, then that would be less of an issue).