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The Elorza Challenge

Photo credit, ABC 6
Mayor Jorge Elorza bikes to work everyday, and takes part in frequent night rides with community members. By all accounts the mayor is supportive of bicycling. However, Providence has made next to no progress on bike infrastructure during the two years the mayor has been in office. This needs to change.

I want to be really clear about what I’m saying. I can’t fully diagnose what the internal politics of why Providence hasn’t gotten infrastructure are. It’s very possible that an intransigent Providence City Council, inter-agency struggles with state-level institutions like RIDOT, or some other cause is to blame. When I say that the mayor needs to step up, I’m not trying to insult the difficulty of being mayor, or saying that the mayor is a bad person.

But Providence has seen the mayor step up on some issues, and his vocal leadership has had an effect. Just recently, Mayor Elorza spoke eloquently to the harm of liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plants, a move which put him in direct contradiction with Governor Raimondo. This move came after the Sierra Club of Rhode Island challenged the mayor to speak up clearly on the issue. I am making the same request.

Where is the bike infrastructure, Mayor Elorza? We cannot expect mass cycling to take root in Rhode Island without our core cities establishing bike routes that are suitable for eight year olds, eighty year olds, and everyone in between. If we’re going to provide routes that are safe for people in wheelchairs and rascals, we need bike routes, like what the Dutch and Danish have. Doing this can help us make more efficient use of our school bus funding, our sidewalk funding, our parking, and improve business outcomes for small business.

The mayor has pushed some reform. The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission currently receives advanced notice of city street projects, and its review of those projects has brought piecemeal changes to sections of street as they’re repaved. Many project reviews include only tiny sections of street, and nothing has yet been accomplished beyond paint, either through door-zone bike lanes, or even worse, sharrows. But this is not enough. To be frank, if Providence is not going to become a charming patch of shallow ocean in the next century, we need concerted action now.

What do community members demand?

A demand is a challenge that comes as an honor only to those politicians who warrant it. Mayor Elorza has objectively not accomplished what needs to be accomplished in his first years of office, however, he has demonstrated himself to be someone who, with pressure, might accomplish those goals. Be honored, Mayor Elorza. You’re being called to the challenge.

The mayor must work to design a full network of protected bike lanes on the major arterials of the city. A starting point for this would be 50 miles of infrastructure, which we estimate would take only 3% of on-street parking to achieve.

The mayor must also work to create “bike boulevards”, routes that are low-traffic and low-speed, off of the major arterials. These are not substitutes for protected bike lanes, which are needed to reach jobs and shopping opportunities in commercial areas, but they are majorly important improvements to help make our neighborhoods safer for school children.

The Mayor’s Office has been supportive of remaking the 6/10 Connector as a boulevard, but as yet has not sought public conflict with RIDOT and the governor’s office about their intransigence to community needs. We need the mayor to pick this fight, in a direct way, just as he did on LNG. It’s understandable that the mayor wishes to advocate behind the scenes, but what will bring life to this issue is a top official speaking openly about the poor priorities RIDOT is putting forward. Without that, the 6/10 Connector continues to take a back-burner position in the news cycle. Speak up, mayor! Put the state government on notice!

These projects must be funded. The city’s 40 million dollar bond includes transportation and non-transportation priorities, but among transportation priorities only 17% of funding is going to non-car priorities, mainly sidewalks. The city must spend in proportion to its population of non-car owners (22%), and it must make good use of those funds to make sure that biking is considered a high priority.

We’ve seen you act before, Mayor. We have faith in you. Step it up! We need you to take action. The bike rides aren’t enough. We’re here to vote for you and to back you up when you are ready to do this.

It’s time.



I've been thinking lately about the hysteria over Kennedy Plaza's so-called "war zone" of panhandling, when a woman was crushed to death by a Peter Pan bus in KP. This is the second bus-related death in as many years, while to my knowledge, I've never read of anyone dying in Kennedy Plaza from panhandling. The major crimes you hear about are drug dealing and loitering.

@carfreepvd beat me to it.
And then today I was biking on Hope Street. I usually try to avoid Hope Street, actually, but I was in a hurry. Of course, as is to be expected on an arterial street with sharrows, I encountered aggressive driving.

I wrote an extended piece talking about a woman passing me angrily on Hope Street today, explaining all the minutia of the street design, what her actions where, where things occurred. And then I thought:

Nope, not going to do that.

Because here's the thing. It's very simple. Hope Street needs to lose a lane of parking, and there need to be protected bike lanes.

I could go on and on about the experience of biking on Hope Street, how uncomfortable it is. But who exactly am I writing this for? I haven't seen any evidence at all that me writing this stuff leads positively to bike infrastructure being put in.

Every time someone does something aggressive on a street that isn't designed the way it should be-- something preventable, because it can only be changed by a street that is designed differently-- it feels like someone has cocked a gun at my head, pulled the trigger, and CLICK. The gun is jammed! Whew! Saved!

I even know that the gun is likely to be jammed. I know that we have a low rate of actual deaths on the road (Rhode Island's got a great-- great by U.S. standards-- record). I know as an advocate that the actual battle is about subjective safety as much as it is about objective safety. People need to feel safe, and they'll bike. And that will lead to better results.

But knowing that doesn't help.

This is not what you see posted as an example of the evils of traffic engineering, because Hope Street isn't that bad by U.S. standards. But the choice to retain parking on both sides of the street instead of using one of the lanes to create protected bike lanes means it's a miserable place to bike.
This is how far the lady who passed me made it. You can feel the tension build up. She didn't do anything that was technically illegal. She probably followed the three-foot-pass law, for all I know. But passing someone on an urban street where there isn't separated space for bikes is aggressive. Period.
A street like this encourages aggressive people to try to pass you, because it says "hey, this is a place for through traffic" and at the same time (whispering) says "try riding your bike here." It makes no attempt to fix the incongruity between these two messages, and so people are forced into aggression. Everyday.


Now is the winter of our discontent. For want of a few parking spots, I lost my protected bike lane. For want of a protected bike lane, I rode in the street. For riding in the street, a lady got mad. One day she will graze me with her car, and the next vehicle behind her will run me over.

A parked car! A parked car! My neighborhood for a parked car!

He got buried under a parking lot, you know.


What Percentage of Parking Spots Would It Take to Build a Bike Network?

A protected bike lane carved from parking in San Francisco.
If we removed parking from major streets to create protected bike lanes, what percentage of the city's parking would that represent?

To find out, I tried to think about how many on-street parking spots there might be in Providence. This turned out to be kind of a hard thing to do. Providence Department of Public Works lists 370 miles of roadway in its care, which presumably does not include streets under RIDOT's watch (RIDOT controls fewer streets than I thought, but still a substantial amount: N. Main, the West Side's Westminster, Elmwood, Allens, and Hartford. I thought they controlled Broad Street, Waterman, and Angell, among others, but I was apparently wrong).

In any case, let's round up the list and say that there are 400 miles of streets in Providence, most of which have double-sided parking (so, we're up to 800 miles). We can probably assume that upwards of 1/3 to 1/2 of that space ist taken up by things like driveways (which of course offer their own parking), crosswalks, and fire hydrants. 

It's hard to estimate what the average block length is in Providence, since the grid is pretty irregular, but when I clicked on blocks in a kind of random fashion throughout the city, it looked like they ranged between 0.1 of a mile and 0.2 of a mile. So let's say 0.15 to be safe. If most streets are 30-40 feet in width, and you've got a crossing every 0.15 mile, that's going to cut into your parking spots a tad too.

So let's say that rather than 800 miles of end-to-end cars, we've got something closer to 400 flat, once all those obstructions have been taken out.

Now, how many miles of protected bike lanes would we need to form a superb network throughout the city?

Two years ago, a temporary protected bike lane went in on
1.7 miles of Broadway in Providence. It required removing
just one side of the street's parking. When will we make
it permanent?
I think if we got up to 50 miles, that would be great. Just estimating off of the East Side and extrapolating-- N. Main, Hope, Blackstone, Waterman, and Angell, and Wickenden-- that's like 10 miles right there). Multiply that to include a variety of neighborhoods, and you're looking at around 50 miles.

50 out of 400*. But, now, keep in mind that on some of these streets parking wouldn't be removed (Blackstone, for instance, could get protected bike lanes without removing parking). On most of these streets, you could remove just one side of the parking, and leave the other side. So maybe we're looking at 20-25 miles of parking, out of 400.

So 1 on-street parking spot out of 16 32 could be removed, and from that we could get a bike network that was unmatched in any place outside of Denmark or the Netherlands.

Even if you drive everywhere, 1 out of 16  out of 32 doesn't sound so bad (and truthfully, we could start by doing a fraction of that-- going for 20 miles of protected bike lanes would be a start towards the goal of 50, and would get a lot of new cyclists on the road). But take a look at these aerial views of neighborhoods to see how little parking is truly taken up (It helps to enlarge these photos and really look-- the parking's pretty empty).

Hope Street

Note how empty the parking is even at the CVS parking lot, off-street. Also, keep in mind that almost every one of these houses has a driveway that can hold two or more cars, which people could use by signing up for the Park with Spotter App.

I chose the busiest area of parking for Hope Street, around the merchant area. However, I think everyone (including the merchants) will agree that the parking is even emptier in between this area and Brown, where there's often only a parked car every several hundred feet or so).


Off Street Parking is Pretty Empty

Behind the Biltmore. I've seen it emptier than this. Yay for building more garages!
Now Let's Add Parking Back In

So we've been working with a 1 to 16 32 ratio-- about 6% 3% of on-street parking-- and leaving all off-street parking alone. We've also shown using Google Maps that parking throughout the city is fairly empty.

But what if we used bike infrastructure to add parking back in?

Creating neighborhood greenways could allow more parking on some streets.

This pedestrian plaza in the Graduate Hospital District in Philadelphia removed some parking spots, but added them back in another place. Removing some parking for protected bike lanes could also involve adding some elsewhere.
A lot of neighborhood streets, like Elmgrove, have too much room, allowing speeding. What if we put large bump-outs in with trees and greenery, and allowed people to have angled parking next to those green areas. As you can see, there's already no shortage of parking, but angled parking adds parking spaces.

Elmgrove has no shortage of parking, and lots of space. But could we add parking spots here by angling parking, and using
bump-outs to narrow the travel space? This could deal with neighborhood speeding issues.
Adding parking is not something I love. It's not a proposal to please me. But if we could add parking spots by changing their orientation, perhaps we could also slow cars. I think streets like Elmgrove would do well with diagonal diverters and periodic roundabouts added to slow cars as well, like with bike boulevards.

Changing Demand

So we should remove about 6% of parking, add some new parking along neighborhood streets, make parking spaces available on driveways using the Park with Spotter App. What else comes into play?

Getting people to bike will also reduce the number of drivers, and reduce the amount of storage space needed, thus opening up more parking.

A single parking space can comfortably hold ten bikes. That means for every ten people you get on a bike, you get 11 9 parking spaces-- one for each of the cars not on the road, and another bonus one minus the spot for the bike corral (It also should be noted that bike corrals can get really intense, like the ones in the Netherlands, which are two-tiered and can hold even more bikes).

When you start to look the math, removing some parking to add protected bike lanes adds up for your business. It means that you're ultimately adding the number of people who can shop at your store. You're making parking available for drivers who decide not to bike. It's an investment towards expanded business.

*So, the more I thought about this after publishing this post, the less it seems relevant to me whether all the space on the street is parking spaces or not. For example, if you'd credit the parking spaces with the areas lost to driveways and fire hydrants and so on, you have to do the same to the protected bike lanes (since an equal ratio of space is going to be taken up by those things as well). So Maybe it's more like 50 out of 800. And in that case we're looking at around 3% of the parking on-street spaces, to create a massive bike network.

You can argue about this in the comments section if you want.

Joe Paolino: the Donald Trump of Providence

Joseph Paolino is a prominent Hillary Clinton backer and former Democratic mayor of Providence, but you might not know it.

Paolino has been in the news a lot recently excoriating Mayor Elorza for enforcing court orders that have required the city to stop its "aggressive panhandling" law*. The court order allows for police intervention in panhandling that's actually aggressive (that's called "mugging") but no longer allows police to sweep homeless people out of site of the rest of us simply for holding up signs asking for change.
A photo from April 2014 (James Kennedy) from a series on empty parking in 
Providence's downtown after Paolino, through ghost-reporter James Baar, said
Providence lacked any parking, needed to get rid of its central bus hub, and was
plagued by homeless vagrants and petty criminals. Projo clearly did not fact-

As a result, there has been a noticeable rise in people who panhandle not being forced away, and hence a worried conversation about the existence of homeless people. I have noticed the increase in panhandling as well, but over at The Projo you'd think it was the second coming of Lucifer. The sky is falling over there, and they keep parading it around, today calling Kennedy Plaza (where I will frequently sit just to people watch) a "war zone" (through a person-on-the-street quote, of course, and as the banner headline for the article). This is one of many times over the years that Joe Paolino has received a platform at The Projo for his anti-transit and anti-homeless person crusade. 

In the article, Paolino made conciliatory remarks ('It's not us against them. It's not them against us. It's us working together,' said Paolino") and so let's remind ourselves of the tone Paolino has taken in past reports.


Some Reader Replies (Follow us at @transportpvd):


In a 2014 Projo article, Joseph Paolino was interviewed by reporter James Baar for an opinion-as-news piece. I'd like to draw attention to a few of Paolino's recommendations:
•Decentralize the bus station to fringe areas, possibly, as some propose, the 195 development land and acquire air rights over the railroad station.

•Build a huge parking garage under Kennedy Plaza similar to the 1,300-car garage under Boston Common and expand Burnside Park over the entire Plaza to create a mid-city garden.
•Close the clubs, which are incompatible with an upgraded residential/business downtown that mingles with a growing ed/med campus.
•Issue clear orders to the Public Works Department to eliminate permanently — with police support, as needed — potholes, littering, garbage and graffiti. Other cities have proved that is possible. No excuses. Do it.

•Empower and increase walking police patrols, day and night, to eliminate vagrants, panhandlers, security threats and bad actors, as has been done in other cities.
•Encourage the establishment of multiple householder shops, with initial tax and rental landlord incentives, to jumpstart natural market demand.
As I've pointed out before, there are stunning connections between these recommendations, that show Paolino's worldview. Bus riders should be put aside. The people who matter-- suburban white people-- should have lots of parking. The streets must be clean and free of filth! And get rid of all the low-life scoundrels in the way of my suburban white clientele!

There are also stunning ways in which these recommendations are logically incongruous. We should marginalize transit, but we should somehow keep the streets free of potholes (ahem: transit helps to maintain streets for cheaper). We should build an underground garage for 1,300 cars, but we should have lower taxes (underground garages usually run at around $100,000 per parking spot). We should have market development, with few bureaucratic obstacles, but we should also have the firm hand of government come down from the sky and get rid of businesses Paolino doesn't like. We shouldn't have homeless people bugging us, but we also should make housing more expensive with all these mega-project expenses, and marginalize the transportation methods people might use to get jobs and move up in the world.

It's gonna' be TERRIFIC! You won't believe just how great it's going to be! A garage! And I'm going to make Mexico pay for it!

If we as a city had the kind of money that Paolino's plans would entail, we could end homelessness. The garage alone would cost $130 million ($100,000 x 1,300) without consideration of the fact that Paolino calls for a magical allotment of cash to fall in our laps to build a park overtop of it, and not including the 35 police that today's Projo article said would be the minimum to get rid of all the vagrants. 

I don't know. I see a resemblance. 
I don't love being panhandled. And I am not as warm-hearted to homeless people as I wish I could claim to be. I feel often like I"m living fairly hand-to-mouth at this stage of my life, so it's been years since I've offered anything more than a half-smile and a sorry to a homeless person asking me for change. And yes, it is slightly awkward, and yes, I do understand that people wish they didn't have to experience that awkwardness. But it is not a war zone, or a siege. It's poor people showing their existence. We should stop airing the views of pampered millionaires who think everything around them is free (free garage! free park! free tax cuts! free police!). We should start looking at how we can make dents in homeless for real.

*(stepping aside form whether you agree with that ruling, it's hard for me to see how Mayor Elorza following separation of powers is something to be put against the mayor, unless Paolino expects a kind of swaggering Andrew Jackson, "Oh YEAH! Then let him enforce it!" form the mayor)

Overlaps of Interest

Rounding errors from the budget are put into long-overdue bikeway extensions, but RIDOT director misattributes these to 
RhodeWorks, which is really a project to rebuild the failed 6/10 Connector urban highway.
The Rhode Island Tea Party and its various offshoots have been been rallying against what they view as the extreme waste of using RhodeWorks money for bike path extensions. They point to pictures of Director Peter Alviti standing at RhodeWorks signs as proof that the truck toll plan was a "bait-and-switch". 

This is a case where both sides are not telling the truth, but for different reasons (and to different degrees). 
RIDOT has been the only agency at any level of government gunning to complete the 6/10 Connector as a decked highway, with a Big Dig-like green space above the highway. As a fig leaf for its extreme spending on this one project (estimates have gone as high as 80% of tolls, which Republican groups incorrectly attribute to bus lane costs) it has allocated a tiny amount of money for bike projects. The $2.5 million being allocated above in the extension of the Blackstone Bike Path to the Massachusetts border would be a rounding error on the $1 billion+ budget for the failed 6/10 highway. 
The money for these bike paths doesn't actually come from tolls. There's supposed to be some spending on biking and walking as part of normal transportation policy, but RIDOT continues to mismanage roads money, and then drops or delays biking and walking projects to make up for that. The Providence pedestrian bridge, for instance, appears to be back on schedule after five years of delays, but people should remember that that project was cost-neutral because it had been budgeted off of the decision not to remove the moorings from the I-195 highway. So, even when a project doesn't cost anything, if it's related to walking or biking, RIDOT will put it last on the priority list.*

What happened with tolls was that RIDOT found new money for roads, and so it freed up some of the mismanaged money that should have gone to biking and walking. Gov. Raimondo and Dir. Alviti now have a situation where they want to represent RhodeWorks as great for biking, because for many voters that represents a positive. The Tea Party seizes upon that to say AH HA! WE KNEW IT! THE TOLLS WERE JUST A PLOT TO MAKE EVERYONE BIKE EVERYWHERE! CAUGHT YOU!

In the RI Tea Party column, "save money" should probably say "allegedly save money"
since they support maintaining the same broken priorities without tolls to pay for them.
Transportation policy isn't really that complicated, which is why a lot of times I feel like a broken record, writing the same basic advice over and over again. 

Nonetheless, in our binary system of politics, there's a lot that can get lost in the conversation. 

I drew two Venn diagrams to help sort things out.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation believes that building transit and bike routes is just grand, but OOOOH! BIG ROADS! LET'S SPEND LOTS OF TAXPAYER MONEY ON BIG ROADS comes first. They're also okay with tolls, because tolls help with the BIG ROADS BUILD LOTS OF BIG ROADS plan.

The Rhode Island Tea Party is against tolls, because tolls sound like taxes, and taxes are EVIL. They, however (with exceptions, I should say!) are for big roads, and believe that those projects should have priority. They're against spending on transit or biking at all.

I believe that we should save money on transportation projects. Taxpayers deserve a break! But they way we do that is by following the proven techniques of places like Denmark or the Netherlands. The city of Copenhagen spends just 4% of its local economy on transportation, but has optimal outcomes (compare that to a transit-oriented but not-yet-very-bike-friendly city like New York (10%), or a city that's pimped out on highways like Houston (16%).

RIDOT supports tolls in order to continue building urban highways, whereas a smart usage of
tolls would help manage congestion and reduce infrastructure costs.

I also believe biking and walking comes first. It's like Occum's Razor. You solve transportation problems with the simplest solution. The simplest solution is actually land use (not having to travel at all, because what you need is right there). But after that, biking and walking are the simplest and cheapest, and so those come first. Big roads come by far last. They are the most expensive, and have the least return in transportation outcomes.

Because of this Venn diagram overlap, there are times when I agree with the Tea Party and times when I agree with RIDOT, but both are inherently not oriented towards my general political views. The Tea Party just hates the idea of collective government action, and I don't agree with that. RIDOT believes in spending as much as it can on road projects, because it's stuck in models of transportation that were designed in the 50s and 60s. RIDOT modifies those models by putting lipstick on a pig (building a bike lane here, and bike lane there). But it's still stuck on cars-first.

*You could make the argument, I guess, that money is fungible, and thus any new money (i.e., tolls) does go to bike paths, because bike paths appear to be the newest priority. The reason that's not true, in my opinion, is that in order to truly manage your transportation system in the most cost-effective way, biking and walking should be the first things you spend on. So the whole houses of cards that holds up the Tea Party's argument falls apart when you point that out.

Boston Trip-- Happy Birthday to Me!

Rachel took me to Boston on the T (that's a strange construction-- I guess technically the MBTA took us to Boston, but Rachel planned a trip). It was my last day being a thirty-year-old, and we wanted to do something nice.

I had a great time. The highlight was the Isabella Gardner Museum (courtyard above).
I wish this was a bike path, but we weren't allowed to bike here.
This awesome community garden in the Emerald Necklace was
fun to walk around in, but the roads next to it were not fun to
bike on.

Hubway: What I liked.
We used to Hubway bike-share system to get around. It was reasonably priced to get a 24-hour pass ($6/person*). I had ridden Hubway before. I found the same things fun and frustrating about it that I found the last time I rode it. 

What was fun was being able to see the city while moving around. There's a lot to be seen in Boston, and being underground makes it hard to really develop a map of the city in your head. I think that's especially important since you need The Knowledge to get around Boston's streets.


*Addendum to that: Rachel informs me this morning that Hubway took $101 for each of the bikes as a deposit ($202 total). That part's okay**, I guess, but it's going to take up to ten days to get it back (Eep!).

**Well, okay, let's be truthful. That's a stressful amount of money.


What I didn't like about Hubway.
1. The gearing is really low (the bikes have three gears, and I never came out of the high gear, because it's so low). Given that a lot of Boston's arterials are frighteningly large and fast, and its side-streets are often indirect and confusing, being on a bike that can't go above 10 mph makes you feel like a sitting duck. 

Alright, I admit it! I liked it.
2. The bikes are made to be kind of floppy and heavy and awkward. There's been a lot of yawwwwwn uninspiring things written on this, frankly. Most of the yawnifying-things-written say that having the bikes be awkward and heavy and floppy is some kind of wonderful upside that reflects the democracy of bike-share, or some victory over the MAML class. I dislike MAMLs too, and you'll never catch me in lycra, but I think this is nonsense-wrapped-in-nonsense. I think somebody went on a trip to the Netherlands, saw people riding casually on crappy bikes there, and reversed the logic that underpins that reality: they assumed floppy awkward bikes somehow lead to safe streets, whereas I would argue safe streets lead to people feeling great on floppy, awkward bikes

Even if you have safe streets, it's nice to be able to hit 15 mph. Or 20. And Boston's not too hilly, so please fix the gear ratios, Hubway.

3. It's really hard to find the docking stations. And the aforementioned low-gearing means that where I think I can get in the allotted 30 minute intervals is a lot less than where I usually can get on a bike (I would guess on my own bike-- which is not exactly a titanium racer or anything-- I can go 8-10 miles in a half-hour; I would guess no more than 2 on one of the Hubways). The combination of these factors made the half-hour intervals slightly pinched, but we got around it okay.

4. Did I mention that the streets in Boston are horrible to bike on? There are some cycletracks, but they're in random, unconnected locations (we saw a few new ones being built, and that was exciting). There are sharrows everywhere. I know, Rhode Islanders have no right to complain, because we're even worse off. But please fix this, Boston. 

4b. And think about making your cycletracks wider-- in the Netherlands they're like 3 to 4 meters-- because once you have a good set of them, they're going to get clogged by lots of new riders. :-)

The Big Dig
It's worth noting our visit to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. We enjoyed its greenery, but were cognizant of just how expensive that greenway had been (hint: it was the yuge highway underneath it that was expensive).

The Greenway is beautiful, but it's surrounded by a surface roadway that feels much like a busier version of Providence's North Main Street. The sections f the greenway are cut through by lots of stroady streets. This really interrupts the experience of the greenway. 

I personally feel like if you build the country's most expensive highway project underneath something, the bare minimum trade-off for pedestrians above should be no cars on the greenway! (Or at least no cars on one side, or something. . . ). It needs a road-diet! 

Which reminds me. . . Rhode Island DOT wants to make the 6/10 Connector into a "boulevard hybrid" that is like the Rose Kennedy Greenway, except a lot shorter. Director Peter Alviti admitted during the Providence community meeting a few months ago that the "surface boulevard" that was part of the "boulevard hybrid" was "basically a service road". Let's build a real boulevard.
RIDOT"s prototype of the 6/10 Connector has all the charm of that paint-on grass they put on top of a Mountain Top Removal in Appalachia, doesn't it?  One. Billion. Dollars. Tolls. Tolls. Tolls. (Just a reminder. . . )
Just a reminder.

The No'th End

This car nosed in on these people. Like urbanists say, the people themselves had a slightly restraining effect on the car,
but ultimately, people had to give way to this driver. This is a street that ought to be for pedestrians, bikes, and delivery vehicles/disability shuttles only.
This was Rachel's first time to the North End (and she's a Mass townie!). I've been there once before, and insisted on going to have a walk around. It's a great neighborhood-- one of Jane Jacobs' features in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It has a fair amount of reasonably-sized streets, like its main drag, Hanover Street. It also has some sorta' narrow ones, like the one above. And it even has some streets like the ones I really loved back home in Philly, where you can touch the walls of the buildings on either side of you from the center of the street. 

Hanover Street was opened to pedestrians at the end for the Feast of the Assumption (which is really tomorrow, the 15th). But the rest of the street was still open to cars. The cars behaved themselves and went slowly, but the tiny sidewalks meant that it felt like Times Square during New Years. The North End should just ban non-delivery cars. 
A lot of the streets in the North End just need to be pedestrianized. The ones that are too narrow for cars are already ped-zones, by default. I think the neighborhood should consider going one step up, and banning cars off the streets that are wide enough to squeeze a car past another parked one. At least on some of them.

Amsterdam: Before cars, during, and after. It required political choices.
Even on Hanover Street, people were spilling off the sidewalk and into the street because of the tiny sidewalks. Hundreds of people. Thousands maybe. And the streets were clogged with cars too, but there were nowhere near as many. There was some evidence of biking, but considering the layout of the neighborhood, there really wasn't as much as you'd hope for. It really would make the neighborhood even nicer if Boston closed some of those streets off to non-delivery/non-emergency vehicles.

Flood map of Boston: today's 100-year-surge could be high tide tomorrow.
Now, I know people are going to complain about losing their parking spots, so I prepared you a slogan, Boston: Protected Bike Lanes: Because after Boston floods, you won't have a parking spot anyway ©).

Vroom vroom.

The weird thing about Boston to me is that in many ways it's certainly succeeding at urban design in ways that Providence is not. But there are also so many ways in which Boston is clearly shirking its potential to be a great city. If Providence is the city that could be a B+/A- student, but is getting Ds, Boston is like the place that should be an A++ but is pulling B-/C+ grades, and just getting by.


Hope Street Going Solar

Correction: This event is Monday, August 15th. A previous posting said that I had missed the event.

Hope Street Merchants Association Breaks Ground, Launches Crowdfunding for Solar-Powered Street Lamp Project
Installation of prototype and crowdfunding kick-off party

mark the arrival of Off-Grid on Hope

Providence, RI – A neighborhood improvement project that the Hope Street Merchants Association (HMSA) has been working on for more than two years has now taken tangible form – and they’re launching a crowdfunding campaign to build on that success.
Off-Grid on Hope is a project to install locally designed and fabricated solar-powered street lamps along the Hope Street business district, with the goal of making the street safer and more pedestrian friendly after dark. A portion of the project will be crowdfunded through a campaign that begins on August 15 with a kick-off party from 5-8pm at the new home of NBX Bikes (729 Hope St.).
On July 29, industrial designer Jonathan Harris officially broke ground on the project, installing a working prototype in front of Kreatelier at 804 Hope Street. The HSMA aims to raise approximately $100,000 to implement Phase One of Off-Grid on Hope, which will install 10 lamps from the intersection at Glendale Avenue to the Citizens Bank (792 Hope St.). The completed project will eventually install up to 30 lamps from Rochambeau Avenue to Fifth Street.
The location of the kick-off party is symbolic of efforts to improve the neighborhood, as NBX Bikes’ new location fills a significant gap in the business district’s streetscape. 729 Hope Street was the home of a beloved local cafĂ© before it closed more than five years ago. What had been a neighborhood hub remained vacant and fell into some disrepair until NBX Bikes breathed new life into it. The kick-off party will be the first chance for the neighborhood to congregate there once again.
“We’re so proud of the work we’ve done already and now we’re asking for the community’s help to make the next phase of this project happen,” said Line Daems, owner of Kreatelier and the coordinator of Off-Grid on Hope. “The Hope Street Merchants believe strongly in supporting the community where we work through neighborhood improvement projects, and this is our most ambitious one yet. We invite everyone to join us for a fun, casual evening and an opportunity to learn more about his innovative project.”
About the Hope Street Merchants Association
The Hope Street Merchants Association organizes businesses in the Hope Street Area of Providence with the goal of promoting the diverse urban community as a unique destination and of being a unified voice for issues related to the merchants. Our mission is to provide useful and important information to businesses, to create opportunities for members to better market their products and services, to organize community friendly street festivals and other events, and to beautify the neighborhood.