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Reader: The little things

This post was submitted by a Greater City: Providence reader.

I enjoy the discussions of big plans and projects like train stations and streetcars, but sometimes I despair of anything ever coming about in a city that can not accomplish the simplest, tiniest, glaringly, obviously necessary public works.

These pictures were not taken on isolated, dead end residential streets. They are some of the busiest pedestrian routes on the East Side.

Leaving Miriam Hospital and looking to catch a #99 bus on North Main?

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5th Street at Highland Avenue

This view is down 5th street to North Main. This is the main vehicular route to the hospital including ambulances. I guess people should be thankful for state of the art painted crosswalks and unwarranted 4-way stop after having to walk in the street.

Those who work at Miriam and walk to their car at the old auditorium can study glacial geology on Highland Avenue at 4th street.

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Highland Avenue at 4th Street

Bring your all terrain wheelchair if you want to enjoy this righteous ADA compliant curb at the corner of 3rd and Highland.

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3rd Street at Highland Avenue

It may come as a surprise to windshield perspective types, but people actually do walk to the Bus Terminal at the end of Cemetery Street. While staying with us a while back, my elderly mother took a day trip to Boston by bus. I offered to drive her to the terminal but she said “Don’t be ridiculous, I know where it is and it is only a few blocks.” This is Frost street about halfway from North Main to the Bus Terminal. She fell here.

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Frost Street

I urged her to sue somebody and make a stink, but she was not badly hurt and soldiered on.

Even where there is a sidewalk you still may still have to dodge the traffic speeding around the bend.

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Cemetery Street

You can see little kids on their way to and from the playing fields walking in the street here too.

These dangerous substandard conditions have been in place since the neighborhood was developed from farmland. In recent years, millions have been spent to install neckdowns along Hope Street and Summit Avenue, on ADA compliant curb cuts, and on sidewalk replacements. That’s all good, but who is minding the priorities as they might affect the people who actually walk around?

At a neighborhood meeting a few years back, Councilman Jackson was strutting about how he had brought in the funding for sidewalk replacements then underway. I pointed out a site where a sidewalk in reasonably fair condition was replaced, right next to a broken, crumbling one that was left untouched and asked why. He said that a property owner must apply to his office for a replacement and wait for years. I asked would he not agree that a greater good would be served if sidewalks were built where they are most needed or even entirely absent instead of spending money to replace serviceable sidewalks? He rolled his eyes and explained that by ancient statute, the initial construction of a sidewalk is up to the property owner. After that, the city can decide to rebuild it, but the city has no provision to construct sidewalks where there are none. I tried to point out that an ancient statute that serves the public so poorly is something a councilman could do something about but he hurried away. I guess the status quo is working for him.

Enormous spending on highway projects is beyond question. Lots of other projects of varying worth get proposed and built. Yet little old ladies are stumbling over rocks where a mere sidewalk should have been built 90 years ago and nothing can be done.

You just wanna walk? No infrastructure for you!

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5 Responses to Reader: The little things

  1. Jef Nickerson November 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    I had to make a few visits to the Miriam last year and I was ever so annoyed by the lack of sidewalks. If you leave the ER and walk down 5th to get the bus, there is an inbound bus stop directly across North Main from the end of 5th Street, but no crosswalk. You have to walk all the way north to Smithfield or south to 3rd Street to find a crosswalk. But you have to walk even further now to find a bus stop once you’ve reach the crosswalk. Where was the planning to take reaching Miriam into account when North Main was rebuilt, not too long ago? RIPTA put the bus stops in the right place, but DOT didn’t make it so you could cross the street.

    This is of course all on top of there being no sidewalks on 5th Street.

  2. Lewis Dana November 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    Ever try to walk up North Maine St. to Whole Foods? Yes, there’s an amply paved, nice smooth walkway; trouble is, it’s for cars.

    There’s no pedestrian access. Period.

    Oh, yeh, there’s another entrance you can use: go on up No. Main, turn right up Doyle and use the McDonald’s Drive Up Window Lane. At least there the cars have to slow down to place their orders, so you have a prayer of surviving.

  3. Tony P November 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    But they’re rebuilding sidewalks all over Federal Hill and downtown. Imagine that.

    And I agree with Lewis Dana – University Heights is not pedestrian friendly at all. The pedestrian seems to be the last concern when any big retail project is developed. Look at Eagle Square, there is token pedestrian access.

  4. Jef Nickerson November 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    Even the vehicle access at Eagle Square and University Heights is whack. I’d love to meet the people who laid those places out and thought, “that’ll work.” It would be interesting to find out how their brains work.

  5. Jim November 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    It’s really silly that the city can’t take the small amount of land in front of houses by eminent domain to install a sidewalk. There are similar issues in Elmhurst where there are no sidewalks present. The only time I saw one built where there wasn’t one, it was a “temporary” asphalt sidewalk (temporary according to Councilman Mancini).

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