The first Boulevard bike lane striping entry on this website attracted far more comments – pro and con – than any other topic that has ever appeared on this site. So it wasn’t terribly surprising that the public meeting, held Monday March 3 at School One, was well attended.
However, despite memories of a rancorous meeting on the same topic some 7 years ago being fresh in many minds, this one was respectful, smooth, and civil.
I estimate that 40-50 people were there, and while not everyone elected to speak, many did. Also in attendance were John Nickelson (Prov DPW), Lambri Zerva (RIDOT engineer), Scott D’Amelio (VHB, the consulting engineer), Cliff Wood (City Council), Lts Schiavulli and Ryan of the City Police Dept., and Alix Ogden (Director, Providence parks Dept.). The meeting was led by city planner Melanie Jewett.
Most speakers were in favor of removing an automobile lane and replacing it with a bike lane. Those opposed to the bike lane were heard clearly. Their concerns were generally related to the viability of roadway narrowing as a traffic calming method, and the perceived vs. actual safety of a bicycle lane.
Those who spoke in favor of the proposal – the majority of speakers, and attendees – included those speaking on behalf of Summit Neighborhood Association and Blackstone Parks Conservancy. There were also a number of eloquent speakers from the Providence Bicycle Coalition and Take Back the Boulevard.
All in all, it was quite clear to the officials in attendance that the proposed changes are desired. Melanie told the attendees that the work would be done this spring.
Speakers asked the City to revise the plan in one specific way. The VHB plan calls for a 9′ parking lane, 6′ bike lane, 14′ car lane, and 3′ shoulder. We want to see the car lane narrowed by 3 feet or so, more in line with that to be expected on a residential street, and less like the lane width you’d find on I-95. The City and VHB now need to determine where to stick those extra ~3 feet: wider shoulder against the median? enhanced buffer between the car lane and the bike lane? When the plan is finalized, the results will be posted on this site.