Restructuring South Main



Source: Kennedy, over on the Transport Providence blog, posted some conceptual re-designs (done by Jonathan Harris) that RIDOT could do during their upcoming re-working of South Main Street.  These two seemed to be best options from a bikecentric view.

The first option would incorporate contra flow bike lanes.  To my knowledge this has never been done anywhere in RI.  It would provide a safe way for cyclists to flow in both directions along South Main Street.  No doubt it would be an uphill battle, since drivers would have to be conditioned into looking both directions before pulling out onto a one-way street.

back in parkingThe second option would include back in parking, presumably it could be angled to reduce the overall footprint of the parking.  While this wouldn’t provide two-way travel for cyclists along South Main, it is probably safer from an overall use perspective.

Either one of these options would be a huge improvement over the current conditions.  James doesn’t mention what the traffic counts are along this section of South Main and whether or not RIDOT would even consider reducing a lane of traffic.

If you travel this section of road, who doesn’t if you ride around Providence, then we’d encourage you to come out for a public meeting of the Providence Bike & Ped Advisory meeting on Wednesday, February 19th, 4:45 PM at 444 Westminster Street.  If you can’t make the meeting, then at least send an email to Eric Weis expressing your opinion on the matter.


  • James Kennedy
    Jan 31, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! One of the advantages of the contra-flow or buffered options would be that they'd allow for easy emergency access for fire trucks or police, or emergency egress if the state ever needed to evacuate that area for a hurricane or other natural disaster. The current design being offered by RIDOT centers around the idea that wide auto lanes are needed for this purpose, but Human Transit blog did a nice piece outlining the many advantages of wide transit and/or bike lanes and pointed out that emergency exit is one of their top advantages.

    See reference here:

  • Mark Dieterich
    Jan 31, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    James, wouldn't the back in angled parking provide the same?

    One question I have yet to get answered by RIDOT is what the actual requirements are for emergency evacuation route. This came up when we were working with them on the Elmwood Ave. restructuring. The traffic counts there didn't support the need for four lanes (two traffic lanes in each direction), but my understanding was that they were pushing to keep them at four lanes because of needed capacity along an emergency evacuation route. At the time, I asked whether this capacity was needed at all times or whether it could be there, but not used; i.e. in the form of an extra wide bicycle lane that could be driven on during an emergency. I never did get an authoritative answer to that question… perhaps it's time to raise it again 😉

  • Feb 3, 2014 at 10:10 am

    As I recall, the issue on evacuation routes is that there is a minimum curb to curb width that is to be maintained, since in the case of an evacuation/use as an emergency route, all lane markings/parking lanes, etc. are expected to function as a one way route. Buffered bike lanes, angle parking, etc. do not interfere with this since in those cases, vehicles won't be legally parked, and a bicycle user would move over to the curb lane.

    The biggest push back on Elmwood wasn't really the need for 4 lanes, as evidenced north of Reservoir triangle, but an unwillingness of the design engineers to 1) Remove the concrete median south of that point, 2) "confuse" drivers by having the road change from 4 lanes, to 3 lanes, then 4 lanes, then 3 lanes again as 4 lanes are deemd to be required at the reservoir triangle traffic lights.

    What I really don't get is how disconnected 2 adjacent projects are in terms of what they are proposing and designing.

  • barry
    Feb 5, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    ridot usually is open to road diets that reduce the number of lanes, so if its feasible to do that, don't count ridot out. In this case even if 2 lanes remain perhaps there could be ways of slowing (not stopping) traffic to help pedestrians and maybe bicyclists.
    Should the design be influenced by the proposed (and supposedly funded) bike/ped bridge on the old I-195 corridor?
    Was South Main St studied for possible inclusion as part of Providence's replacement of one-way streets to two-way?