With the exception of adding a few more signs, sweeping, and stenciling the bike lanes on the Henderson Bridge, RIDOT has completed the bike lane project on the Henderson Bridge. The big question I have, however, is would you use them?
In the minds of the RIDOT engineers, they have transformed the Henderson into a bike friendly facility by grinding out the existing stripe for the breakdown lane and adding, at most, 6 inches to the width and magically transforming it into a bike lane. I do applaud RIDOT for thinking about bicycles, but question whether the plan couldn’t have been a bit more aggressive. I honestly wonder to myself whether RIDOT has inadvertently made conditions worse for cyclists, even though their intentions were good.
What could they have done differently?
Even though most motorists are probably not aware of this, the Henderson Bridge is NOT a mini-highway. The speed limit on the roadway is 35mph, yet the lanes seem to be as wide as something you would find on a highway. Couldn’t we have narrowed the motorist’s travel lanes and provided a really nice bike lane? Something that was wide enough so cyclists aren’t forced to ride through all the debris shed by the motorists. Once the bike lanes are marked, you can bet on the fact that motorists will expect cyclists to be in the marked bike lane, if it’s full of debris, where will you ride?
The much more troubling outcome of the changes is depicted in the picture above. For cyclists who enter the Henderson Bridge from Northbound on Massassoit and loop around the on-ramp, they will be faced with this lovely transition. RIDOT expects cyclists to use a bike lane up until this curb cut, at which point they will need proceed through the curb cut, wait for a break in oncoming traffic, cross over what will be a marked crosswalk and then continue traveling on in the marked bike lane. Does this strike anyone else as extremely dangerous? Looking at the picture above, does anyone truly believe a cyclist is going to go through this curb cut rather than just ride straight ahead and try to merge?
All the while you are faced with cars tearing up the on-ramp from Massassoit. The picture on the right is what a cyclist’s view will be like, waiting patiently for their turn, while cars accelerate to around 50mph as the enter the mini-freeway also known as the Henderson Bridge. I am a big proponent of cyclists obeying traffic laws, but with design work like this, I can certainly understand why many feel neglected and tend towards breaking laws for their own safety.
Also bear in mind, that these improvements come about at a time when the Washington Bridge will likely be shut down for what could be a few years, as they begin work on the Linear Park. I must say, I’m disappointed by what RIDOT has come up with as improvements for cyclists. However, I must say, we cyclists are also somewhat to blame. I myself attended numerous STC meetings when the Henderson Bridge contracts were being discussed. We were so focused on trying to mitigate the impact of the construction on cyclists (at the time the Washington Pedestrian Bridge was closed and the Henderson Bridge was the most logical alternative), that we neglected to thoroughly review the proposed plans for the bike lanes.