Greater City Providence

Curb extensions being installed on Atwells


Atwells Avenue at Sutton Street.

It has been nearly three years since City Councilman Terry Hassett was struck and severely injured by a hit and run driver on Atwells Avenue; one in a long line of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on the Avenue. Now, we are finally seeing some action on building pedestrian safety interventions.

After the Councilman was struck, we listed some recommended safety interventions including curb extensions such as those being installed now.


Atwells Avenue at America Street.

Hopefully we’ll continue to see more of this type of infrastructure installed in the city to promote pedestrian safety.

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.


  • The other difficult issue on Atwells, at least at night – are the drivers who just stop wherever they are to take advantage of valet parking. If you are driving down Atwells then by the time you make it past all of the randomly stopped vehicles (some half in and half out of the road), all of the valets dashing across the street and the random pedestrians ambling into the road – you tend to speed up wanting to make up for all the time you wasted sitting there trying to figure out who was doing what with their cars.
    It would be fantastic if there were a better way to handle the valet situation so there isn’t quite as much frustration and chaos.

    I’m glad the infrastructure is shifting to make it safer for pedestrians. I cross Atwells regularly, especially with my 8 year old during the school year. Building pedestrian refuges would be fabulous, but I do find that once I’m in the middle of the road the traffic coming the other way tends to respect that I am in a cross walk and let’s me finish crossing.

  • The valets are an issue. I don’t know why every single restaurant needs their own. Why can’t they just work together and have one valet stand per block? I’m surprised the city even allows them all to have their own valets. Realistically, people should be encouraged to find parking (literally 1-2 blocks away, for free) and not block up traffic on Atwells (because we all know the valets are not safe drivers… no way in hell I’d ever trust one of them with my car).

  • Jeff, have you seen the brand new curb extensions on Hope Street in Summit? Pretty great.

  • Sara’s idea about constructing pedestrian refuges at the center of the street is a good one and would be easy on Atwells, since the two existing travel lanes are 14′ wide each. If they shaved off 2′ from each lane that would leave a 4′ wide refuge in the center and the two travel lanes would pinch down to a reasonable 12′ at crosswalks. I wonder if RIDOT or the city considered this?

  • I’m not so sure that a pedestrian refuge is the best idea here – Atwells is only two travel lanes wide. Pedestrian refuges are excellent for four-lane or six-lane arterials, but if pedestrians are getting “stranded” in the middle of a two-lane road, then that problem needs to be addressed with HAWK beacons or better signal timing, not with infrastructure that suggests that pedestrians should wait in the middle of the road and yield to car traffic when in actuality, the opposite should be happening.

    If you go down to New London Union Station, you’ll find several excellent examples of the kind of crosswalks that Providence needs more of – noticeably different material from the pavement that surrounds them, and with embedded lights on the borders that pedestrians can activate at any time, causing the crosswalk to light up and make noise. It’s incredibly hard to ignore, even in the daytime, and I have had the pleasant experience of watching cars actually come to a stop for me after activating the warning lights.

    The 4′ of space that could be claimed for a refuge is better spent on expanding the sidewalks an extra 2′ apiece, and this would have the added benefit of requiring the lanes on Atwells to shrink accordingly everywhere – not just at crosswalks.

  • Forget the street what about the sidewalks? Honestly you can’t go 5 ft with out tripping over chairs and end up in the street anyway. Fun times on the hill. could be worse I suppose, take last Friday’s street brawl for example where not a single Cop could be bothered directing traffic during the incident even after the melee had ended.

  • I note this goes all the way down to Knight St near the Holy Ghost Church. It’s a mess at the moment. But here’s the thing, that intersection has the big sign above with the flashing lights anr motorists ignore it regularly.

    One thing I always say, if the city wants to erase it’s deficit start parking a cop near pedestrian zones and tagging vehicles who ignore it. Granted it’d be a short period before drivers realized you have to yield to a crosswalk occupant. But the money grab would be nice.

  • They could park a cop near almost anything and get tons of money. The intersection at Eagle and Valley (for running the stop sign). The traffic lights on South Main or Dean just north of Atwells (for blocking the intersection). Just about anywhere on Smith or North Main (for speeding).

    But I really like that curb extension at Knight St. It really slows down traffic coming up the hill as people try to turn onto Knight and have to really slow down to make the turn.

  • I really like bump-outs (or neck-downs, what-have-you) a lot in theory, but as they’ve been implemented in Providence, I don’t care for them as much. If Providence ever wanted to put a bike lane on Atwells, the only place it would ever have to do it would be in one or more of the parking lanes. By building these bump-outs, it makes that a little more difficult.

    NYC has pedestrian islands that are between the curbside protected bike lanes and the street. I think if the city embarks on more of these, they should consider having them built in such a way that they allow for that type of use.

    This is especially an issue with the Hope Street bump outs. There’s portions of Hope Street that have low enough parking usage that the parking lanes could feasibly be switched over to bike lanes, and that would be appropriate since Hope Street is marked as a bike route and has high bike ridership. I can’t see that happening in the near future for a street like Atwells, so maybe it doesn’t matter as much there.

  • If parking were to be removed from Atwells, the freed up space would best be given to the sidewalks to increase outdoor commerce on the avenue. As it is today, the sidewalks are wholly inadequate for the level of foot traffic. The roadway should be reduced and traffic calmed to the point where cyclists can confidently ride with the slowed traffic. At the western end, where the business district ends and congestion lessens, bike lanes would be prudent.

    Most streets in Providence are not wide enough for the New York style infrastructure, but for the few that are, the floating parking lane with pedestrian islands between the bike lanes and auto lanes would be ideal.

  • I think extended sidewalks could be a good thing too.

    One problem on a bike in traffic is that sometimes the traffic is too slow. That’s not the worst thing you can encounter, but it does matter. In Center City Philadelphia, the streets were pretty narrow, and the traffic kept things moving slowly so that it was safe, but there weren’t a lot of bicyclists because of the need to sit behind someone’s exhaust pipe at close range in stop and go traffic. So I wonder whether Atwells might also suffer from that in spots, too. Although, it’s the worst of both worlds. It’s too fast at the western end, and too slow at the eastern end (but with bad intersections to boot).

    But outdoor seating, wider walkways, that would be worth sacrificing some bike lanes for.

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