The Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) is the official city body for advising the Mayor on bike/ped issues. The current commissioners are Eric Weis (chair), Matt Moritz (coincidentally RIBike board president), Michelle Cortez-Harkins, Laura Bozzi, and Jef Nickerson. The commission is staffed by Martina Haggerty of the City’s Department of Planning & Development, and is kicking into a higher gear for 2016. Some updates from last week’s meeting:
- Automatic walk signals: since approximately Thanksgiving, the City has been implementing a pilot project of making all walk signals automatic rather than activated by pressing the “beg button”. The rough boundaries of the pilot are Clifford, Exchange, Dorrance, and Empire. Slight modifications to the signal timing can be made by Public Works mostly from their office. Success metrics for the pilot have not been settled, but if Public Works hears more people commenting in favor of the change (and asking for automatic walk signals elsewhere in the city) more than they hear people complaining about the change, the change will probably stay. They’ve heard a few negative comments already, so you can reach City Services at 401-421-2489 or ask for better signalization at a specific intersection here.
- Pedestrian access in work zones: The Department of Planning & Development is going to work on making an ordinance in 2016 to require construction work to provide robust pedestrian access through work zones. It’s shocking we don’t have something like this already and great that the City is moving in this direction! It’s always useful to call up (same number as above) and offer support of good work City staff are already doing.
- Bicycle Master Plan: The City’s current bicycle plan, “Bike Providence” is out of date and was inadequate (due to its heavy recommendation of sharrows) even when it was new. Planning & Development is prioritizing a rewrite of the plan, starting in February (next month!) at BPAC. There will be at least one public meeting about this at BPAC (Feb 17th at 4:45) and approximately four additional listening sessions in different neighborhoods of the city throughout the spring. Make sure you attend and push for a robust plan with connections throughout the city and lots of separated bike lanes!
- BPAC to get involved in road projects: Planning & Development is working with Public Works to get BPAC’s eyes on big road projects (e.g repaving) earlier in the design process. This would be a fantastic procedural change that could help get better bike infrastructure on the streets by default. Stay tuned in February for more news about this.
- Complete Streets: The City is working with consultant VHB to analyze bike/ped crash data, train City staff on complete street principles, and create a complete streets implementation plan for the City. While this is one of the more esoteric changes to be announced last week, it has some of the greatest potential to make sure the default for Providence streets is liveable, safe, and comfortable for all road users.
- Providence’s TIP submission: The City highly prioritized bike projects in their submission for the state Transportation Improvement Plan. Some of these projects include money to fund CityWalk (connecting India Point Park to Roger Williams Park with robust bike/ped infrastructure), 20 miles of bike lanes throughout the city (as yet unspecified), off-road path or separated bike lanes along the Promenade/Kinsley corridor of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, and a study of how to connect the current end of the Washington Secondary Path (near the Cranston Police Station) to downtown. The City is also looking to put in a bike lane on Fountain Street this spring, and is seeking funds to put bike racks at Providence schools. We are incredibly impressed by Providence’s asks for bike projects in the TIP, and while there are manifestly inadequate funds proposed for bike funding by RIDOT at the state level, we hope as many of these projects as possible will be funded.
If you are interested in bicycling and a resident of Providence, or just recognize the importance of biking and walking in our state’s capital, we very much encourage you to attend future BPAC meetings! Increasingly, they are going to be a place where real bike improvements develop in Providence.