Greater City Providence

Dean & Atwells, will we ever get crosswalks?

On the way home this evening I was greeted by sidewalks finally being finished, almost 14 months after they were removed at Atwells Avenue and Dean Street.

Yay, I guess. Would have been nice for them to be finished 3, 4, ten months ago, but whatever. Would have also been nice if there had been a space cleared for pedestrians to walk while the sidewalk is closed. Walking around that car parked illegally too close to the corner, into the traffic lanes, after dark is fine though, I guess. It is not like Atwells is a dangerous street for pedestrians or anything…

Oh, right. Three weeks after Councilman Hassett was struck by a car blocks away, still no crosswalks.

But, but, tonight they started repainting the road lines (yes, they were painted weeks ago, now they are repainting them).

Look closely in that photo, you can see the ghost of a pedestrian’s legs in the street (due to the long exposure). Let me digress about the fact that there is no crosswalk on Dean between Atwells and the Route 6/10 ramps. Want to walk down Spruce Street? Too bad! Dash across 4 lanes of highspeed traffic Frogger style or walk a block out of your way (and then cross 3 or 4 lanes of highspeed traffic in the crosswalk Frogger style).

Sidewalks closed, don’t worry, I’ll walk in the slip lane, I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Well, maybe with the sudden flurry of activity, we’ll get some crosswalks painted.

If a car is parked in a crosswalk, but the city never painted the crosswalk, does the crosswalk make a sound?

[box style=”red”]UPDATE 11/24: CROSSWALKS![/alert]

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • After living up there for a year and a half, I decided that the city didn’t really care about Atwells as a safe street for pedestrians or drivers as long as people gave money to the businesses there. The parking enforcement up there ignores the rules for parking on a crosswalk or parking too close to a corner. The restaurants are allowed to make the sidewalks unsafe for pedestrians and unfriendly for people with disabilities (try getting by the tables outside Mediterraneo or Siena in a wheelchair, I can barely do it on foot).

    The city doesn’t care. You know why? People are bringing money to the city.

  • Have they even fixed the chaotic driving lanes when driving south on Dean St, over Atwells Ave, and continuing on Dean St (towards broadway)? This has always been idiotic. But the last few times I was there, both left lanes could either go straight towards Broadway or turn left on Atwells towards downtown. It’s dangerous and confusing.

    To me it makes more sense for the left lane to turn left on Atwells, and the center lane to go straight on Dean. But this is one of those infamous DOT strategies where they purposely leave it vague so traffic will normally flow however people want, and the DOT isn’t blamed for causing a massive traffic jam. My assumption is the DOT probably thinks creating a Left Turn Only, and Straight Only set of lanes here would cause jams at peak time, so they do nothing and let the accidents keep happening.

    I don’t drive through there much because of this, never mind try to cross it as a pedestrian.

  • Miguel:
    You can see in the photo I just added to the bottom of the post, they’ve put in a dashed line from Dean southbound across the intersection, indicating that the left lane should turn left. However, I see no sign of anything prior to the intersection being installed instructing drivers which lane they need to be in.

    I think drivers pretty much know that the left lane should be left and right lane should be straight in normal circumstances, but they get no prior warning that all lanes are not through. If one assumes that the road will continue to have two travel lanes, and it does not explicitly state left turn only, then people assume they will be able to go straight. I think the people turning left from the right also are not quite aware of where they are and are making a last minute realization that they want to be on Atwells.

    Some simple signage and some lane markings ahead of the intersection would address these issues.

    There is a left turn signal facing the southbound drivers now, but again, if you are not somehow instructed ahead of time which lane to be in, being presented with a left turn signal when you reach the light is too little too late.

  • The intersection of Atwells and Dean is perilous mainly because Dean Street, which is a wide and unpeopled boulevard on the northern end, suddenly narrows where it meets Atwells. A long term solution might be to narrow that part of Dean Street between Atwells and Cedar (the approach to Federal Hill) and encourage higher-density development there through re-zoning–presently, it is mostly landscaped lots and surface parking.

  • Jef,

    Your exactly right. I find the problems mostly arise when people unfamiliar with the area (i.e. tourists, out-of-towners, etc) arrive at this conundrum.

    The DOT has been doing a pretty good job lately, aside from allowing the Union Ave bridge to take 2 years to complete when the point of STIMULUS money is to stimulate the economy NOW.. but I digress…

    I have noticed that in RI, the DOT/Traffic Engineering Departments don’t account much for tourists etc. Painting an arrow on a road or posting a turn arrow 25 feet from an intersection looks nice when there is no traffic. But it’s pointless when there is a queue of vehicles.

    I could spending all day blogging about some of the bonehead traffic arrangements in the city and around the state.

    But seriously.. China probably takes a week to build an overpass like the Union Ave Bridge.. and the U.S. takes 2 years and 8 MILLION DOLLARS!!?? Good grief….

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