As many have already probably found, or read elsewhere, starting on July 9th, 2012, RIDOT is finally beginning working on the George Washington Bridge connector of the East Bay Bike Path. This project will widen the barely 3 foot wide sidewalk in to the George Redman Linear Park.
Unfortunately, despite many conversations with RIDOT and attempts on the part of many RIBIKE members and others, RIDOT has chosen NOT to provide a signed detour or suggest alternates beyond the statement that the Henderson Bridge has bike lanes which they only recommend for experienced bicycle users. Equally inscrutable is the map that RIDOT has prepared, which highlights all of the RIPTA routes that cross the Henderson and Washington Bridges, but does not indicate any location where those buses can be caught near either end of the bridge.
We have already commented directly to RIDOT staff about the lack of accommodation for bridge users during the construction, and that advance notice of the closure was limited to press release 2 days prior during a holiday week. As of Saturday July 7th, no signs were present at either end of the bridge indicating imminent closure. As of Monday evening posters are mounted on the bulletin boards at either end of the bridge, but we believe that the signage that is being provided is inadequate and unhelpful, as it is in locations that aren’t obvious, especially on the Providence side of the bridge where the bulletin board is flush with the side of the bridge piers about 30 feet from the now closed ramp and stairway entrances.
To RIDOT’s credit, saying that the Henderson is only suggested for experienced cyclists reads as an outright admission that they understand the bike lanes on that bridge to be sub-standard and hazardous, perhaps also recognizing that high traffic speeds and multiple lane crossings required by some bicycle users put those road users at risk. They have promised to have the lanes swept more frequently, every 2 weeks.
When going to get photos (to be uploaded soon), I met a rider who was started by the fence and cones and had no idea how to get over the Henderson Bridge on a bicycle and didn’t notice the sign until I pointed it out, but the sign wouldn’t have helped since it doesn’t indicate any bicycle route, and contains far too much detail to be useful without already knowing the area.
We are still trying to work with RIDOT, RIPTA and others to get better information available at the bridge sites, as well as improving the options available. We know of many bicycle commuters who are impacted by this change who may go back to commuting by car to avoid the extra distance or poor conditions on the Henderson Bridge.
Below is my attempt to assist those who want to use their bicycles solely to continue their commute. This may look familiar to many from the last time the bridge was closed, during the construction of the I-195 replacement bridge several years ago. I have also attempted to mark locations on the map of bus stops near each of the terminators of the bridge. For west bound, many easy options exist with the Route 32 and 34 buses using Warren and Veterans Parkway. For those trying to travel east bound, there aren’t any options close to the Washington bridge, requiring instead to travel north to Waterman, or to South Water Street to catch buses just before they cross bridges. Suggestions for updates to this map are welcome, please post in the comments.
View Washington Bridge Detours in a larger map
I’ve also started a photo gallery to collect construction photos.