If you don’t feel like reading this whole explanation, come to 444 Westminster St in Providence for the public meeting about the future of Kennedy Plaza at 5pm on February 16th. If we can get a big group of RIBike members there, we can improve bicycling conditions at the heart of Rhode Island’s capital city.
[EDIT: this issue is not on the agenda for the BPAC meeting, though it may be touched upon. Definitely come to both that and the KP meeting, though, as both will be interesting.]
Recently, the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA) has been working with RIBike to move the officially designated East Coast Greenway route northeastbound from Weybosset Street in downtown Providence to make use of the new parking-protected bike lane on Fountain Street. We’re talking about this because our board serves as ECGA’s state committee for Rhode Island, which means we need to approve any adjustments to the official Greenway route.
While we love the symbolism of the new Fountain Street lane, and think it provides a real improvement over the multi-lane speedway that bikes were stuck in beforehand, our board expressed a few concerns about the route change:
- First, there’s a pervasive problem in Rhode Island of people parking their cars in bike lanes. While calling the police department non-emergency number (401-272-3121 in Providence) may result in a parking enforcement officer coming by to ticket the offending car, even a few minutes of a parked car obstructing bike traffic is enough to force a bicyclist out of the bike lane into traffic, increasing objective danger and decreasing the perception of safety. This is part of why we need more physically separated bike lanes, but while we work toward those, we need police departments to step up enforcement against parking in bike lanes. While it’s getting better on Fountain Street as people begin to understand the new lane, it’s still a problem relevant to the Greenway route change. The RIBike board decided that this concern would probably lessen significantly within 2017, so while we made note of it, this wouldn’t keep us from approving the route change.
- Second and more important, we were concerned about the proposed route as it turns from Dorrance Street southeast-bound onto Washington Street northeast-bound through Kennedy Plaza. There is currently no green arrow for this left turn, meaning bicyclists need to turn left through a confusing intersection, unprotected from oncoming straight and right-turning car traffic. ECGA and RIBike have already brought this up to the City planners, and it should be on the agenda for the February BPAC meeting (along with more information about the Big Jump award). Conveniently, the following day, February 16th, the City is holding a “citywide conversation about Kennedy Plaza” where we should also turn out & speak up for a more bike-friendly downtown. That second meeting will also surely address the tensions around the presence of low-income residents and the desires of some to move bus traffic from Kennedy Plaza to other locations, ideally somewhere convenient like next to the train station. There are many important and complicated issues in this visioning process, but it’s important that we go and speak up to demand that Kennedy Plaza be a place where people feel safe, not a place where we are killed with few consequences like Michelle Cagnon was in August of last year.
Thank you for speaking up for safer streets for bicycling, and we hope to see big crowds at both of these meetings!