Bike Lanes — Yea Or Nay

The Mayor loves his bicycles. But this is an old city with narrow streets and not terribly bike-friendly and finding a way for cars, bikes, and pedestrians to coexist safely is not going to be easy. Still, while the Mayor’s Great Streets Plan may provide a roadmap to bike paradise, his rollout has lacked finesse.

Despite what the city calls “a year-long, robust community engagement process,” many residents in the Eaton Street area were apparently caught off guard, and last September, following a heated community meeting, the city was forced to remove those first bike lanes on Eaton Street.

In December, plans to convert one of the two travel lanes on Clifford Street in the Jewelry District into two bike lanes — leaving only one lane for cars — drew this response from Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association:

“They are anti-development,” said Sharon Steele, the president of the Jewelry District Association. “This is a construction zone right now.” Clifford Street goes through the I-195 District, where several new structures are either under construction, just completed or slated to be built in the next five years: several apartment buildings, a parking garage behind the Garrahy courthouse, a Holiday Inn Express, and the Wexford innovation center.

“The Garrahy Garage is going to dump 1,250 cars … onto Clifford Street,” Steele said.

She argues the new bike lanes are a safety hazard, leaving nowhere to pull over for emergency vehicles. Plus, construction trucks for the many projects — which currently block one of the two driving lanes — will be left with no place to pull over.

In January a proposed two-way bike lane on Mt. Pleasant Avenue was shot down following another heated community meeting.

And last March, Councilwoman Ryan proposed changes to the Great Streets plan. From Uprise RI:

Councilmember Ryan’s legislation would require major street projects or alterations to be treated as Major Land Development Projects as defined in the City of Providence Land Development and Subdivision Regulations. This would put the process under the review authority of the City Plan Commission (CPC).

Now comes a new campaign from the Providence Streets Coalition to help educate the public and create awareness of bike lanes. Madeleine List writes in today’s ProJo:

Through the campaign, which consists of digital, print and billboard components as well as radio ads created in partnership with Big Nazo, the group seeks to show residents how bike lanes and urban trails can help smooth traffic and make commuting safer for motorists as well as people using alternative modes of transportation, according to a press release from the organization.

What Big Nazo has to do with riding a bike or driving a car, I’m sure I don’t know. I am all in favor of promoting bike usage, but the Mayor needs to address community concerns and persuade the grownups.

4 thoughts on “Bike Lanes — Yea Or Nay”

  1. “But this is an old city with narrow streets and not terribly bike-friendly and finding a way for cars, bikes, and pedestrians to coexist safely is not going to be easy. ”

    Central Copenhagen is markedly older than Providence (or any New World city for that matter). Despite this, the city is consistently ranked as the most (or one of the most) bike friendly in the world. Among Copenhagen residents who work/study in the city, 62% of all trips are taken by bike. Collectively, residents who cycle request in 1.1 million fewer sick days every year. Every kilometer traveled by bike rather than car is estimated to bring in 1€ in savings on healthcare. As far as safety goes, between 1996 and 2008, “the share of bike commuters in Copenhagen increased from 30 to 37 percent, while the number of cyclist injuries declined by 50 percent.”

    It is clear that building bicycle cities makes us healthier and safer and a city’s age is only a barrier to bike friendliness as long as we pretend it to be.

  2. The author made her feelings about bike lanes quite clear in commenting on the implementation of the Blackstone Blvd road diet. The complaints and concerns raised in opposition to expanded bicycle networks by residents and council members are virtually the same as those voiced in municipalities across the country. Fear of altering the status quo is the theme. Don’t be so scared folks. We can make this town better but Sharon Steele style fearmongering is a major impediment to progress. Let’s put it this way, would you rather me ride at 12mph directly in front of your car and hold you up or provide safe spaces for the both of us to travel at our vehicles’ natural speeds?

  3. Bike lanes would not be necessary if licensed drivers knew the law.

    It is legal for bicycles to ride on paved roadways. It is our right to be there, unlike driving which is a privilege.

    They can hate bike lanes or bikes on the street, but I will not allow them to hate me both ways.

    The ability to travel or move freely is a right. The ability to use your vehicle to herd human beings is more of a barbaric, local custom.

  4. Sharon Steele

    Hi Beth…I loved this, as I love all of your work. Hope to catch up soon… Maybe at Phase 3 when we can further expand our inner circle…

    Do you have the ability to push your column to your followers every day???
    Sending lots of hugs…Sharon

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