We at the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition are dismayed the to read about the lawsuit filed by a group of downtown property owners against the City over the Kennedy Plaza redesign.
In particular, we object to the lawsuit’s contention that “increased bicycle traffic” was a negative by-product of the proposed plan. We believe that diversifying transportation modes in the city and increased bicycle use benefits all residents. Further, it is self-serving and backward-looking to attempt to thwart an effort to improve the city’s transportation infrastructure.
The plan’s overarching intent–a truly intermodal transportation hub in the center of Providence–is promising. An emphasis on automobiles to the near-exclusion of other transportation options has not served downtown Providence well, and in fact, led to a flight of retail activity and jobs – as well as lower property values – in the downtown area in the late 20th century
Cities like Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, New York and Boston demonstrate that quality of life and business vitality is improved by emphasizing transportation options including mass transit, biking and walking. If successful, this misguided lawsuit would prevent such progress in our city.
Furthermore, many of the city’s poorest residents, students, elderly and disabled individuals rely on RIPTA and suggesting that the Kennedy Plaza redesign allows for too many busses is a suggestion that these citizens are not welcome in this part of Providence.
And as there was a robust public process to get the design to this point, bringing a lawsuit is heavy-handed and anti-democratic response to concerns.
We have a choice to make about the kind of city Providence will be. If we want a thriving, successful downtown area, with a higher quality of life and inclusion for all residents, we must embrace changes that will bring a full range of transportation options to the city center and not retreat into failed models.
The above commentary was written by the Rhode Island Coalition Board.