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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...

Put the Fountain Back in Fountain Street

"Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Providence's streets are currently a place for the strong of will-- those who can out-pedal or out-run a car-- or who have a car-- are the ones who feel most comfortable on the street. But instead the city needs to take a bold look at its misuse of public space, so that the meek can inherit the earth (Well, at least the city. Let's not get carried away. . .).

I've been contrasting the great job that Providence Planning and Mayor Elorza did on fixing the protected bike lane on Fountain Street with the outright shitty job that has been done on the next street over, Sabin. But looking at the area and taking pictures as I waited for the library to open and write this post made me even more aware of the whole neighborhood network, and how to make that network click together into a total system.
Fountain Street is as yet not a very well used protected bike lane, and clearly that is because it begins and ends and busy streets full of cars, trucks, and buses, and only goes in one direction (Yes! One direction! Really!).
Fixing the Whole Thing
There's a lot else that's done wrong here. Sabin Street's death-trap, right-hook bike lane is even shorter than the 0.3 miles that Fountain Street's takes up, because according to statements by Providence Planning's Bob Azar at BPAC, the Rhode Island Convention Center objected to the loss of parking spots in front of the center, and the city folded (Azar cornered me at a meeting once many months later to tell me that he "misspoke" on that issue, and you can take that for whatever you take it as, but to me what that says is someone in the city above Azar didn't like that he spoke frankly and told him to shut-up).
The way that space is used here is overwhelmingly pointing towards the need to reduce the space given to cars, but the design is very much the opposite.

Sharrows Mean Death
The Broadway door-zone bike lane comes across I-95 as sharrows on a four-lane stroad-bridge. The four lanes are entirely there for the use of highway entry and exit, because neither Broadway nor the streets further down have four lanes. It's a giant car space that is used principally for half an hour in the morning and the evening as a the receptacle of traffic jams, and then left open to speeding the rest of the day and night.
The sharrows require that a cyclist be brave enough or crazy enough to bike in front of drivers in the same lane, then cross the slipway off of Service Road 7 to get to a painted bike lane on the other side of traffic. This sharrow lane should be entirely for bikes. The slipway should not exist. The bike lane that is currently there should be extended as more sidewalk space with trees.
This slipway needs to disappear, like yesterday.
Two-way Traffic
Sabin and Fountain should both be two lanes of two-way traffic. The north parking lane on Fountain needs to become a protected bike lane headed west, and Fountain should lose a parking lane and a travel lane each to created protected bike lanes in both directions. They should not be anemic and narrow like the ones that currently exist on Sabin, but should be built to Dutch design standards.

The most active space in the whole area is this skate-park. (If you want to weird people out, stand on a bench and take pictures of people sitting). The worker who was fixing things in the theater said that theater owners talk very actively about how much the skaters keep this park clean and orderly. Their presence makes the city a better place. Otherwise this would be a parking lot or worse.

Closing (Well, Opening. . . ) Empire Between Sabin & Fountain
Two-way traffic patterns and protected bike lanes would facilitate opening the block of street in front of the Hasbro headquarters (and whehhh the fiahh station use-ter-be) to either additional development or garden space. The bike lanes would be allowed to traverse the space, but the car traffic would not be allowed to, in a "filtered permeability" style. I'm torn on whether the currently under-used POPS in front of Hasbro should stay a POPS or would be better as more building space, but opening this space up could give a lot of creative options, since there is a lot of land here.

Put in a Fountain

What if we put a fountain in the center of the intersection at Fountain & Empire, and created a roundabout?

It's Fountain Street, right? Fountain Street's drivers should be allowed to come in-and-out in both directions, but at the end of the street there should be a roundabout cul-de-saquing* car traffic. The block in between the library and Trinity Repertory would also be better used for something other than cars. Both of these blocks get really open sun because of where they're placed, and could be the site of very successful garden spaces for library and theater patrons to sit in. They could add to the restaurant life on the next block of Empire (which I think should stay open to cars and buses since it carries major routes like the R-Line).

Rhode Island has lots of small rotaries with statues and fountains in them, and they work very well. Providence should adopt some more of these. They don't have to be gigantic. They should be small enough to essentially carry through the bike traffic and allow for people to walk around.

I just finally learned how to properly embed these maps into the site, so here's a map. The red like represents the main through-route for transit and cars (basically the R-Line route). The green represents areas that have lost car lanes to bike lanes, and gone to two-way traffic from one-way traffic. The blue represents filtered permeability on Empire Street. The magenta is places that could be redeveloped along this route.


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