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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Demand a Mile to Get an Inch

Update: Check out the more fleshed-out version of the Tobey Street pedestrian/bike bridge up at RI Future and Streetsblog.


The City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations* have reached an agreement on the 6/10 Connector. I won't call it a compromise, because that's not what it is.

The governor used autocratic power to block the fully realistic aspirations of the city, not just to the city's detriment, but to the state's. She has failed to be a leader on climate change or racial justice, the two major struggles of our time. The Cheonngyecheon highway-removal in Seould was a success despite carrying 60% more vehicles than 6/10. Any statement on this agreement must acknowledge the ways that Gov. Raimondo has failed future generations of Rhode Islanders by being so obstructive.

I would have liked the mayor to fight a bit harder and more publicly, but that is a sin of omission. His administration, and especially his planning department, deserve more credit for working as hard as they did. I hope the mayor will consider state office someday.

There are some improvements worth lauding in the new plan. It regains some land by slimming down the highway. The number and length of bridges has been reduced, meaning that future taxpayers will be on the hook for less maintenance. I like the removal of the Tobey Street ramp and the creation of a bridge for local traffic from Tobey Street to Grove Street, especially because I used to live on Tobey. It feels poetic.

What can we demand now? It's the responsibility of activists to fight for what can actually be won. The battle over the highway is over, but there are more ahead. Each of the bridges over 6/10 needs to get not just bike infrastructure, but protected bike lanes. All of the non-highway lanes must be built to 10', not 12'. We need to look closely at the bike path alignment which is proposed, which I think will likely feel noisy and polluted and be less cost-effective than a full network of protected bike lanes through the whole neighborhood. We also need to ask what the widths of the sidewalks are going to be (I haven't seen anything reported on this), what the extent of the trees will be, whether street lights will be to pedestrian scale, and other low-cost but high-importance details.

The state is getting to reduce its bridge load from nine to seven bridges. This is positive. At least one of those bridges should be pedestrian and bike only. I hope my former neighbors on Tobey Street will demand that that bridge remain car-free. Drivers have never had that bridge in the past, so this is the most realistic bridge to ask to go car-free. We can enliven the crossing by making it an attractive place like what is proposed for the river crossing in Downtown. In addition, I'd like to point out that there is no cost issue in the way of fulfilling this demand.  A bike/ped bridge could be built to less demanding engineering standards and would not be shaken by cars and trucks, making its maintenance less demanding as well. It would create a high-priority connection for local non-car traffic which would reduce crime and help ease traffic congestion on the other bridges.

The only way to build towards success is by doing things differently than we have in the past.

*I love using the full name.

An earlier version of this had an astonishing number of typos. Apologies. Our computer died, and I've  been composing the blog using a phone, which is very challenging to edit. That's also why there's no images in this post. I think the computer will be up again soon, and hopefully we can start imagining what Tobey Street should look like.

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