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Transport Providence: Petition for bike lanes on Westminster Street

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Image from Google Streetview

This is a guest post by James Kennedy from Transport Providence.

The next mayor must re-envision our city streets by supporting protected bike lanes. Westminster on the West Side is the first place Providence should start the transformation.

Providence does not have cavernous streets like Los Angeles, but many of its streets are much wider than streets in other East Coast cities, but without bike infrastructure. While Philadelphia has buffered bike lanes that are eight feet wide on streets that are around twenty-four feet wide, there are no such lanes on the West Side’s Westminster Street, which is about forty feet wide. The excuse that we don’t have room for infrastructure that will make more people feel safe on bikes has to be set aside.

We would like the city to implement bike lanes on Westminster because:

  • Bikers already use Westminster, but at their peril. Although a 25 mph street, cars routinely go over 40 mph on the street. Parked cars mean that people on bikes have to “take the lane” on a street that is too fast for them to ride safely and comfortably in mixed traffic.
  • Westminster is home to several schools, including three high schools. Protected bike lanes will help students to get to school more independently and safely.
  • Protected bike lanes will be a great improvement over less advanced infrastructure that already exists on Broadway. Studies show that elderly riders, small children, disabled persons, and people who are less athletic are much more likely to use protected infrastructure than narrower lanes that are next to parked cars. Protected bike lanes also prevent dooring.
  • Studies also indicate that bike lanes are good for business. Cyclists spend more money on average than non-bikers, because of the money saved on transportation. We’ve already received support from Fertile Underground, Blue Bicycle Bakery, and Sol Chariots for the proposal (admittedly, the usual suspects…). We know that others will follow.
  • While biking infrastructure will improve the business climate of Westminster Street, it will also provide an affordable way for low income people to continue to enjoy the neighborhood. We want transportation solutions that improve our neighborhoods, but don’t price people out.
  • We have proposed that businesses be able to test out these bike lanes as temporary infrastructure. We feel confident that the neighborhood will like the change if they get a chance to see it. Important projects like the closure of Times Square in NYC to cars happened first as temporary projects. They soon proved so popular that they are permanent, and are inspiring change in cities around the world.

Visit Transport Providence to sign our petition, and let your city councilperson know you support, especially if you live on the West Side. And if you frequent Westminster Street businesses, let your favorite business owners know how much this issue means to you.


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25 Responses to Transport Providence: Petition for bike lanes on Westminster Street

  1. James Kennedy January 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I put up a Spanish version as well. http://transportprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/01/spanglish-attempt.html

    We have our first mayoral candidate on board, with Jorge Elorza signing the petition.

    We also have several business owners from Fertile Underground, Blue Bicycle Bakery, Sol Chariots, and The Space Yoga signing, so far. Hope to add more to that list soon. . .

  2. Ryan January 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    I’m not entirely clear on recommended bike lane / cycle track widths, if such a thing actually exists – but a cursory Google search suggests that a fully protected, two-way cycle track can happily exist in 10′ of road width.

    Shrinking the travel lanes to the FHWA minimum length of 9′ for local urban roads would let us have a protected two-way cycle track on one side of the street, and a parking lane on the other; narrower travel lanes would also go a long way towards solving that problem of people blasting down the street at 40+ mph.

    I want it to be noted, however, that Broadway and Westminster are never really more than about 1/4 mile apart from each other. They really don’t both need dedicated bicycle infrastructure, and they really don’t both need dedicated transit infrastructure. So, while I am more than happy to get behind protected bike lanes or a cycle-track on Westminster, I would hope the bicycle community would similarly get behind dedicated bus lanes or a grade-separated transit ROW on Broadway – even if that means Broadway has to lose its ‘less advanced’ bicycle infrastructure.

  3. James Kennedy January 3, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    In general, I feel that the dynamics of biking are somewhat different than transit. I’m usually advocating for the consolidation of transit lines into frequent services (hopefully on ROWs) because the 1/4 mile (or hell, even 12 mile) distance between routes is small enough to be walked when the line can be relied upon to be actually serviceable.

    Biking, on the other hand, much like walking or driving, I think tends to require a more diverse range of options. It’s much more about individuals going like herded cats every which way.

    I’m not sure how I’d feel about your proposal. I think that for a transit ROW on Broadway, it might be worth giving up the bike lanes. There’s an awful lot that one would want to access on Broadway, though. It’d be worth considering.

    Coming from a Philly context, where the streets are all gridded, I found it annoying at times that there was nothing specific for me to ride on as a cyclist on Broad Street, even though that only meant having to cut over to 13th a block away. But in Providence, where everything’s sort of spoked, I feel like it’s even more of a need. Broadway and Westminster are almost like parallel streets compared to most Providence Streets, so maybe it’d be okay.

    Tell you what, if Jef ever gets his car-free Atwells, I’m definitely down (you gonna’ publish that soon, Jef?). Also, when we tear out 6 & 10 and make bikeways and light rail from the mall to the zoo, I’ll be pretty enthusiastic to.

    I love the 9′ lane idea! That was one of the things that I was surprised by when I went back to Philly this Christmas. I had told people that I thought there were lots of 9′ lanes in Philly, and people said “No, that’s crazy. That can’t be. Narrow is 11′”. So I was expecting my memory to be wrong. But sure enough it looked like there was about six inches one either side of the standard-gauge 23 trolley tracks on 13th Street, so I think 9′ it is. And of course there were much narrower streets on the residential back streets. The snow is kind of making things that way right now, and it’s lovely to see the slow cars amble about.

    :-)

  4. Andy January 4, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    I’d just like a proper bike lane to be built in this city, anywhere.

    Simply laying down some white lines and arrows do not make for a safe experience.

    Bike lanes ought to be between the sidewalk and a parking lane with raised beds or curbing to reduce injuries, protect cyclists, slow down motorized vehicles and reduce, if not eliminate cars passing on the right within bike lane.

    Not much planning or thought needs to go into this. Literally flipping parking lanes and bike lanes from how they are being created now.

  5. James Kennedy January 4, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Just a necessary point of fact:

    On Westminster the bikes lanes would require removing a lane of parking (ideally both lanes, although I guess Ryan says that narrowing could help keep the parking in place and reduce speeding, which would be great).

    Another point of fact:

    I’m super all about the protected lanes, as I obviously started the petition, but there is a need to plan around intersections, because there’s some evidence that poorly built protected lanes sometimes increase accidents at those junctures (one of the things that helps, I’m sure, is narrowing the other lanes and creating bump outs to slow turns, so that sounds like the direction we’re going in anyway).

    Making protected bike lanes safe is not rocket science, though. I like this video post especially as an explanation:

    http://janheine.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/separated-cycle-paths-a-summary/

  6. MattM January 6, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    I have been told in the context of another project where lane narrowing was proposed lanes can’t be narrowed to less than 11′ anywhere a full size RIPTA bus may run because of the size of the vehicles being purchased sine 2010.

    James has it exactly right, intersections require extreme care when designed and implemented to ensure that riders are not put at increased risk because they are invisible behind a row of vehicles. Washington DC has done a decent job of trying to deal with this on 14th St NW where the last 20-25 feet before an intersection, the bike lane has a chicane further from the curb, more in line with the parked vehicles. Of course, the downsie on that is that they’re shoving a bi-directional lane into 5′ of space it seems.

    Also, having 2 way bike lane on one side of a 2 way street is not a good design. Segregating bike traffic behind a row of cars causes directional conflict for drivers needing to look over their left shoulder, through the barrier for rider overtaking them on the left before making a turn. This is an extremely unusual configuration that should not be implemented, ever.

    I think that based on James prior work, south of the Cranston/Westminster intersection, taking parking on both sides of the street is likely the better option and creating a one way track on both sides. If width stil allows for one side parking after that, yay? I doubt anyone would build it this way, as it would “confuse drivers”, but I’d suggest alternating sides of the block for the parking every other block or some such, thereby creating a chicane like effect on the center lanes to help reduce speeds.

  7. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    In Cambridge, near MIT there is a bike lane that is up at sidewalk level.

    I don’t 100% love this arrangement as pedestrians can be apt to wonder into the bike lane creating a dangerous interaction and forcing bike traffic to have to slow as a result. However, I can envision some way to overcome this, a low curb, bollards, something…

    With the bike lane up at sidewalk level, you can then implement raised crossings at intersecting streets with pedestrians and cyclists on top of a raised area that cars have to slow to mount and enter the intersection.


    This is quite a bit of infrastructure to build, but something to think about. This raised crosswalk is not completely unheard of in Providence.

  8. Ryan January 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    “I have been told in the context of another project where lane narrowing was proposed lanes can’t be narrowed to less than 11? anywhere a full size RIPTA bus may run because of the size of the vehicles being purchased [since] 2010.”

    I don’t buy it. That RIPTA would be allowed to purchase buses wider than the federal standard minimum lane width (or, hell, that someone would be allowed to sell such a bus) seems tremendously unlikely to me, and my recollection of the few of the new buses I’ve seen is that they’re no wider than any of the earlier buses in the fleet.

    That having been said, even if the new buses somehow inhibit lane narrowing – as I previously mentioned, Broadway is never really more than 1/4 mile away and both bus routes that run on Westminster today should probably be running on Broadway instead, combined with the two buses already on Broadway to get us close to 5 minute headways on that road. That solves the problem of accommodating buses that might be too wide and also creates more pressure for dedicated bus lanes or better on that road.

    “Segregating bike traffic behind a row of cars causes directional conflict for drivers needing to look over their left shoulder, through the barrier for rider overtaking them on the left before making a turn.”

    There’s no row of cars separating the cycle track from the vehicular traffic because all of the parking is on the opposite side of the street.

    ” think that based on James prior work, south of the Cranston/Westminster intersection, taking parking on both sides of the street is likely the better option and creating a one way track on both sides.”

    I never suggested that it wasn’t the better option. What I am suggesting is that it’s the option least likely to happen for a long, long, while.

    If you preserve one lane of parking today, you can remove it later once everyone’s comfortable with the benefits of the cycle track. If you try and remove both at once, you’re going to be in for much larger fight than just removing ‘some’ of the parking; and if we’re going to go to battle over total elimination of street parking, there’s far better roads to start with than Westminster.

    “If width stil allows for one side parking after that, yay? I doubt anyone would build it this way, as it would “confuse drivers”, but I’d suggest alternating sides of the block for the parking every other block or some such, thereby creating a chicane like effect on the center lanes to help reduce speeds.”

    What would likely actually happen is that all of the parking would remain on one side of the street, the bike lane on that side of the street would end up in the door zone (or sandwiched uncomfortably between parking and the sidewalk), and neither lane would really have sufficient buffer space on either side of it.

    Alternatively, if we were left with enough room for a third vehicle lane but the hard fight to eliminate parking was won – I would not be at all surprised to see a left turning lane implemented, helping to speed traffic along and ‘make up for’ one or both of traffic calming measures and/or the elimination of all parking.

    Believe me, I’m no fan of street parking. I’ve suggested before that the city seriously needs to be looking at ‘parking lanes’ as a source of transit ROW in places where getting that ROW is otherwise going to be an impossibly messy process of eminent domain, knock-down-drag-out legal grudge matches, and a whole lot of unpleasant landscape reconfiguration.

    But I don’t believe that we are at the point, politically or otherwise, where taking parking is a thing that we can do easily, or potentially at all. I don’t particularly like having to defend my suggestion of building garages and coupling the creation of structured parking with the removal of street parking elsewhere, but it’s that kind of horse trading that has to happen to get things done today.

    Would I like to see all the parking go from Westminster? Absolutely. Would I rather a “non-ideal” road reconfiguration that is forced to preserve some parking than no changes whatsoever? You bet.

    “I don’t 100% love this arrangement as pedestrians can be apt to wonder into the bike lane creating a dangerous interaction and forcing bike traffic to have to slow as a result. However, I can envision some way to overcome this, a low curb, bollards, something…”

    I don’t think any protection is needed. Bicycle riders in Boston and Cambridge are more than happy to seize the sidewalk and create the same dangerous interactions all on their own, yet I get criticized when I suggest forbidding bicycles from utilizing sidewalks where dedicated infrastructure exists.

    And yes, I’m very grumpy about it.

  9. Runaway Jim January 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    I agree that we should forbid any mode of transportation that is faster than your 2 feet on the ground can take you from sidewalks (this includes scooters, skateboards, and bicycles).

    As for width of lanes and buses, do the federal guidelines for minimum width take buses into account or is it just for normal traffic without buses always using those roads? I’m guessing it’s the latter. And that’s fine for the occasional vehicle that’s a bit too wide because cars can pull over to let it pass. But when the road is constantly used as a bus route, it makes more sense to have it wider so traffic isn’t stopped every time a bus goes by (like they’re forced to do during the hour people are at church every day at noon on Eaton Street where the cops turn a blind eye to people parking on both sides of the road despite “no parking any time” and “no parking school days” signs).

    And having buses on both Westminster and Broadway makes sense due to the large population of people that surround both roads.

  10. Ryan January 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    “I agree that we should forbid any mode of transportation that is faster than your 2 feet on the ground can take you from sidewalks (this includes scooters, skateboards, and bicycles).”

    THANK YOU.

    “As for width of lanes and buses, do the federal guidelines for minimum width take buses into account or is it just for normal traffic without buses always using those roads? I’m guessing it’s the latter.”

    I’m relatively confident that the latest iteration of the guidelines are at least paying lip service to the idea of non-SOV transportation on our roadways – and, certainly, I have no reason to believe that buses are inherently wider than what can be safely permitted on minimum-standard roads.

    Also, in the context of what MattM was told and has relayed to us (i.e., it’s the 2010 and newer buses that are the problem), the objection makes no sense – RIPTA would have to be purchasing wider buses today than they were before (which seems unlikely). Furthermore, they would have had to signed off on and purchased the new buses without doing their due diligence to determine whether these buses could be safely accommodated on all streets (unfortunately, this doesn’t seem that unlikely).

    Mind you, I’d be willing to believe that the problem is actually with all buses. The minimum length for local urban street lanes is narrower than the minimum length for urban collector/distributors and urban arterial roadways – but even then, the minimum for those classifications of street is 10′, not 11′. Only ‘rural’ arterial roads have a minimum length of 11′, and freeways in all environments are pegged to a strict 12′ lane width with no leeway.

    And if it is truly the case that 9′ lanes are an insurmountable problem for buses, I’m still more than willing to continue to support realignment of the Westminster bus routes onto Broadway, because I’m comfortable calling Broadway an arterial road – which it likely always will be.

    “And having buses on both Westminster and Broadway makes sense due to the large population of people that surround both roads.”

    I believe the large population of people surrounding Westminster benefit more from four buses running every 5~7.5 minutes on Broadway than they do from two buses on Westminster running every 15 minutes and two more on Broadway running every 10, especially if the former arrangement includes dedicated bus lanes and signal prioritization (or outright preemption – however, RIPTA’s official position is that preemption causes more problems than it solves.)

    Mind you, I’d certainly feel differently if there was a larger gap between Broadway and Westminster.

  11. James January 6, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Standard gauge for a freight train is 8’4″. I find it kind of fanciful to imagine that a bus can’t do 9′. But part of it might be that buses in RI tend to turn and do silly loopy maneuvers into parking lots or side streets a lot more than SEPTA buses ever did in Philly.

  12. James January 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    I do think Matt is probably right that two-way on one side is confusing and potentially dangerous. And the only way to make that less so would be with expensive signaling. I would prefer to take both lanes of parking away, although I guess I would compromise to a one-way protected bikeway if it came to it, since that might avoid the pitfalls of people not agreeing to the loss of parking, or having a complex design.

    Still, I would highlight the fact that there is PLENTY of parking along Westminster. Really, even if you park all the way over on Broadway, your walk is going to be less than if you park at the end of a huge Walmart parking lot. And the bike lanes/improved transit outlined above would really decrease demand for driving anyway, while buoying business with non-car traffic.

  13. Ryan January 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    “I do think Matt is probably right that two-way on one side is confusing and potentially dangerous. And the only way to make that less so would be with expensive signaling.”

    I don’t believe that it would be that confusing, and I think painting a broken yellow line in the middle of the cycle track with arrows pointing in the direction bicycles are intended to travel is probably all the extra signaling/signposting that would be needed on top of the signaling that will be needed regardless (to protect bicycle riders at intersections and link cycle traffic into the existing signalization structure), but I’ll defer to your judgment.

    “Still, I would highlight the fact that there is PLENTY of parking along Westminster.”

    And for that reason, I very much doubt that the businesses on Westminster will notice losing half of it beyond the initial “YOU’RE TAKING OUR PARKING!!” – it’s a much easier sell to take 50% of it than it would be to take 100%.

    That having been said, you can perhaps just barely squeeze two 9′ travel lanes and an 8′ parking lane into a 40′ road profile with 7′ cycle tracks on either side – but whichever lane abuts the parking is almost certainly in the door zone and/or the bike lane ends up serving an unintentional second role as buffer space to protect cars parked in a narrow parking lane from cars moving on narrowed travel lanes.

    There’s exactly 0% chance that the parking would be configured into chicanes (it would almost certainly all be put on the eastbound side of the street, prioritizing parking for traffic inbound to Downcity over traffic outbound), but… it is doable. I don’t think that’s necessarily better than having the cycle track on one side of the road and parking on the other, but…

  14. MattM January 7, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    The problem isn’t confusion/safety for bike riders in a 2-way track on one side of the road. It’s the turning conflicts of putting parallel traffic to auto-drivers in unexpected and invisible places. A 2-way one side bike lane/buffered bike lane is only recommended by standards for one-way streets.

    I’d suggest to James, et. al. to put together a streetmix diagram or similar to show the picture of desirable configurations instead of trying to describe it in words.

    Here’s one:

    http://streetmix.net/msmoritz/1/west-westminster-street-pvd

  15. James January 7, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    This would be my compromise proposal if we don’t have enough support for two parking lanes to be taken.

    http://streetmix.net/-/100043

    This would be what I’d want if I could have it the way I want it to be.

    http://streetmix.net/-/100044

    (Note, I’m not sure of the exact widths of the sidewalks but am assuming. I also don’t know for sure the widths of the original travel lanes, but I’m assuming Westminster as it is now is 8′ on either side for parking, with two 11′ travel lanes.)

    My assumption would be that buses would stop in the lanes, preferably on the other side of red lights to allow them to go again if the signal changes. Bus riders could use the little islands to get off, and then look to cross the bike lane, like in New York’s protected lanes.

  16. James January 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    I went for the pedestrian-level lights.

    I also think that some kind of plant buffer would be nice. Maybe not trees, but shrubs or flowers.

    And I think if we have only one bike lane, it should be west-bound, since the east-bound one will have troubles around Route 6/10 as it crosses into Olneyville because of the off-ramp (some ideas on that problem would be nice).

    My really long term hope is that this would all connect into the great light-rail/bike-trail we’re going to have after we tear 6 & 10 out. ;-)

  17. barry January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Thanks James for starting this thread and the petition which I urge all to sign even if we don’t agree on just what the best or most realistic design might be. Signatures show an interest that we can hope the political class will note.

    That said, I don’t agree with combining bus routes all onto Broadway. A lot of users are elderly, have some mobility constraint, have heavy packages, or already have a walk from south of Westminster just to get that far. During bad weather or snowstorms, with poor sidewalk snow removal, walking is generally difficult enough. Would Westminster St businesses say it would be OK to have all their parking on Broadway?? Those streets are not always really that close to each other. And RIPTA has removed bus stops to speed trips (does it??) already making some inconvience for some who live along the bus route.

    I also do not agree with a blanket prohibition against uing any sidewalk by bicyclists. There are situations where I feel sometimes you just need to (out my way, parts of Mineral Spring or Route 44 sections in Smithfield with fast busy 4 lane roads no shoulders) where if sidewalks were off-limits safe biking would be impossible and almost nobody would ever ride a bike. (There are also few pedestrians)

    I wonder what folks thing of shared bike-bus lanes which I observed seem to work pretty well in Paris where the flow of bikes and buses (and some other professional drivers allowed to use the lane) was such that cohabitation was possible, though again intersections and bus stops could be tricky.

  18. Ryan January 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    “That said, I don’t agree with combining bus routes all onto Broadway. A lot of users are elderly, have some mobility constraint, have heavy packages, or already have a walk from south of Westminster just to get that far. During bad weather or snowstorms, with poor sidewalk snow removal, walking is generally difficult enough. Would Westminster St businesses say it would be OK to have all their parking on Broadway?? Those streets are not always really that close to each other. And RIPTA has removed bus stops to speed trips (does it??) already making some inconvience for some who live along the bus route.”

    I perhaps do not give enough weight to the mobility concerns as I ought to be, so thank you for pointing this out. The distance between Broadway and Westminster is almost certainly a lot more to ask someone of limited mobility to handle.

    As for the weather concerns – I loathe having to factor those into any consideration for what we should or should not do. It is not like snow and ice are immovable objects against which we have no recourse other than to curse and suffer until nature runs its course. In my mind, at least, the assumption that sidewalks won’t be or can’t be properly cleaned of snow or ice is making the assumption that DPW and/or local businesses (as appropriate) are inept, incompetent, and hopelessly so – such that all we can do is shrug our shoulders and plan around these ‘problems.’

    In fact, sidewalks do not have to become hazardous whenever the city is touched by snowfall. That this is what happens today means that ordinances need to be changed, businesses need to be held accountable for the condition of their storefronts and sidewalks and (in the case of big box establishments) parking lots; and DPW needs to be responsible for and accountable for clearing sidewalks at the same rate and to the same level of quality that they clear roadways for vehicles.

    To briefly return to the initial subject – bike lanes – another concern that must be addressed is keeping them clear during periods of inclement weather. Whether or not it’s possible to clear a protected bike lane of snow or ice (it is), I would not at all be surprised to find DPW claiming they ‘can’t’ clear the bike lane, and therefore it is somebody else’s responsibility to do so. I think we can all agree that this should not be allowed to happen, and methods for having DPW or another municipal/state organization clear the bike lanes and keep them clear and clean are of paramount importance.

    I do strongly believe that the city needs to start moving towards implementing dedicated transitways – bus lanes where we can get them are a given, and certain high-volume corridors (like Broadway, Broad/North Main, Smith St, and Taunton Ave) should be considered for something more substantial. We might not have the money today, but that’s no excuse to not have the vision – and if we don’t have plans in place, there’s no hope of getting the money if and when it comes to be available. In this particular case, Broadway is certainly a much better target for substantial transit investment than Westminster; and if reconfiguring the street to permit bike lanes has too substantial of an impact on bus operations, then moving the buses makes more sense than ‘doing nothing.’

    That having been said, there’s certainly a number of things that could be done to Westminster that would allow bike lanes and buses to happily coexist, without having to take up what might not be a winnable fight in the current political climate to remove both lanes of parking.

    “I also do not agree with a blanket prohibition against uing any sidewalk by bicyclists. There are situations where I feel sometimes you just need to (out my way, parts of Mineral Spring or Route 44 sections in Smithfield with fast busy 4 lane roads no shoulders) where if sidewalks were off-limits safe biking would be impossible and almost nobody would ever ride a bike. (There are also few pedestrians)”

    Certainly, I would be skeptical of a blanket ban on any sidewalk riding and the ulterior motives of individuals who put a total prohibition forward. I can understand that as controversial.

    However, I don’t believe it’s at all controversial to ban sidewalk riding where dedicated facilities exist – i.e., the ban is in effect on any roadway where there are protected bike lanes or cycle tracks. That’s not at all controversial. My concern isn’t that an inexperienced bicycle rider would use the sidewalk on a road like Mineral Spring where to do anything else would be endangering themselves. My concern is bicycle riders on roads where it is more than safe to ride on pavement instead choosing to seize the sidewalk, especially in areas where pedestrian traffic is high and the risk for injury to any involved party even higher. (There are those who whine and protest that the severity of injuries when bicycles collide with pedestrians is much lower than when automobiles collide with anything else. I consider that line of logic to be nonsensical at best. Just because there’s much lower potential for outright fatality in a bike/ped collision does not mean that it’s okay to have people getting injured in “less severe” ways.)

    If Westminster Street gains two well-protected, clean, safe, and relatively wide bicycle tracks (one way on either side), there’s absolutely no reason or acceptable excuse to have any bicycle rider seizing the sidewalk and creating dangerous interactions between themselves and pedestrians, because dedicated facilities would exist. A prohibition carrying a sufficient penalty as to deter that kind of behavior would be absolutely appropriate.

    “I wonder what folks thing of shared bike-bus lanes which I observed seem to work pretty well in Paris where the flow of bikes and buses (and some other professional drivers allowed to use the lane) was such that cohabitation was possible, though again intersections and bus stops could be tricky.”

    I. personally, am skeptical on the grounds that riding in front of a bus is on a whole other level compared to riding in front of a car. Furthermore, as James and others have pointed out, the purpose of bike lanes is to provide protected, safe, and inviting facilities for inexperienced and less athletic riders – forcing them to use transit infrastructure is certainly nowhere near as inviting as dedicated bike infrastructure and it’s probably not as safe, either.

    There’s also the fact of the matter that I consider it appropriate and expedient to have transit (and emergency response) vehicles moving at a higher rate of speed than all other vehicles on the road, and for that reason, co-mingling them with (potentially) slower bicycles strikes me as contradictory.

  19. James January 9, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    Hey Barry,

    Thanks for your support of the petition, and for your thoughts on this.

    I really consider access for disabled folks to be important, but I disagree with how you’ve talked about bringing that about (although I’m not beyond being swayed). I feel like we have to create transit systems that work efficiently for baseline users–those are ones with distant stops, rights-of-way when possible, and very centralized, frequent lines. At first glance that would seem to jettison the idea of taking care of elderly or disabled users. But I think that if we build an efficient system, we can work to help give access to the stops to disabled people as part of that. Having transit-oriented design that brings density around the stops can add housing opportunities, and I would not be opposed to having a subsidy of some kind to help disabled or elderly folks live closer to those areas.

    What we have now with our buses are systems where we go off-route into parking lots and so forth in order to create access for a few disabled users, but the result is an awful route. Disabled people get a kind of access, I supposed, if you snake into a Walmart parking lot or create infrequent routes down each and every street. But they’d get better access–and so would everyone else–if we had routes that were run frequently and helped create dense, walkable areas.

    A lot of the advantages for poor people to shop at, say, a Walmart come from perverse subsidies we give to that type of development. The least of these is certainly the fact that buses go directly into their lots. It’s kind of a coup-de-grace to finish off the total effect. But I think if we started to preference creating frequent routes in walkable dense areas, even to the degree that some areas lost transit access, that would mean that the smaller, more urban and old-school suburban types of businesses would become more competitive. I think this is just a natural market outcome. And for the amount of labor time and fuel it takes to go out of our way somewhere crazy like Warwick Mall, we could run many, many more buses than just that one.

    Westminster is hardly out of the way in this sense, and so it’s a gray area. If we cut some of the exurban routes and created more efficient busing, maybe we could have frequent service on both Westminster and Broadway. But certainly something has to be cut/rearranged, in order to make the system work better.

    (Welcome further debate)

  20. Ryan January 9, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    “And for the amount of labor time and fuel it takes to go out of our way somewhere crazy like Warwick Mall, we could run many, many more buses than just that one. “

    I completely disagree with your characterization of the Warwick Mall as being ‘crazy out of the way’ – tucked between Bald Hill Road (RI-2) and Greenwich Ave (RI-5), directly off of I-295, a stone’s throw away from both I-95 and East Ave/Main Ave (RI-113), one mile from the Airport, and close to a great deal of residences that could be in easy walking distance if not for the auto-centric configurations of some of those aforementioned roads.

    The ironically named “Center of New England” big box hellhole is crazy out of the way. Most of the park and rides this state runs dedicated buses to are crazy out of the way. Warwick Mall doesn’t even come close to being ‘crazy out of the way.’ Wickford Junction and the traffic sewers to its west are a better example of crazy out of the way than the Warwick Mall is.

  21. Jef Nickerson January 10, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    We cannot remove or reduce buses on Westminster because of all the westward running streets, it has the best opportunity for dense transit oriented development. There are many lots and non-contributing structures that could be transformed into dense housing.

  22. James January 10, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    Ryan,

    We might not agree about the example of Warwick Mall, but we probably agree about the principle that we should avoid circuitous, repetitive, or long-distance service where shorter, more frequent, less repetitive service in more walkable areas would carry far more riders (i.e., make a bigger effect).

    Jef,

    That’s a good point. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, if we consolidated, we could consolidate to Westminster instead of Broadway. I think when I wrote the article back in the day, I chose Broadway because it was centrally located between Atwells and Westminster (Atwells is a street that really is ineffective to run buses on. Definitely for getting rid of the 92 since it just sits in traffic and goes nowhere. Put those buses on Westminster or Broadway instead).

  23. Ryan January 10, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    “We cannot remove or reduce buses on Westminster because of all the westward running streets, it has the best opportunity for dense transit oriented development. There are many lots and non-contributing structures that could be transformed into dense housing.”

    Broadway has the same amount of potential for development as Westminster does, and is a more direct shot into Kennedy Plaza than Westminster is. We probably aren’t closing either street to traffic outright any time soon – but we can only effectively fit any two of dedicated transit ROW, protected bike lanes, and other traffic onto a road of this size.

    Westminster should keep its buses unless the introduction of dedicated bicycle infrastructure would result in an insurmountable obstacle to bus operations. I’m not at the point yet where I believe that to be the case, however, if that is what happens I do not believe that moving those buses to Broadway is a world-ending proposition. Certainly, it’s problematic for certain groups of people as Barry previously pointed out, but I believe it to carry inherent benefits as well.

    The most important word in the phrase transit-oriented development is transit, not development. If Westminster and Broadway both have the exact same potential for property development (and, to a certain extent, even if Broadway has less potential – which I don’t believe is the case) but buses on Westminster cannot be provided with dedicated lanes or better and buses on Broadway could, than Broadway is inherently a better target for transit-oriented development unless the potential for development on that street is effectively nothing (which, again, I don’t believe to be the case.)

    Furthermore, while I absolutely am a huge proponent in removing street parking anywhere we can (my opposition to doing so here for this purpose is born of a skepticism that we actually can take both parking lanes in today’s environment – prove to me that we can do it, and I’m absolutely on board with it), and I am also a huge proponent for slowing down general automobile traffic, I am an opponent of eliminating that traffic outright. With very, very few exceptions (Atwells being at the top of the list, followed by the dismantling of urban freeways and even in the case of the latter I expect downgrading and complete streets rather than car-free streets), I consider the concept of closing roads to general traffic outright to be a utopian one, and the pursuit of such things to be far more trouble than it is or ever can be worth.

    We do not need to live with traffic sewers that place the high-speed movement of vehicles over the safe movement of people, and we don’t need to live with having vast swathes of public space devoted to parked cars, but for the most part, we probably are going to have to live with having most of our roadways accommodate some level of (slower-moving) general vehicle traffic.

    “We might not agree about the example of Warwick Mall, but we probably agree about the principle that we should avoid circuitous, repetitive, or long-distance service where shorter, more frequent, less repetitive service in more walkable areas would carry far more riders (i.e., make a bigger effect).”

    We certainly do agree on that. That is part of why I consider it important to champion Warwick Mall and its immediate surroundings as a prime example of how transit can help us begin to reclaim auto-centric development for people both locally and nationwide. Whereas places like ‘Center of New England’ can and should be allowed to fail, Warwick Mall is capable of succeeding and capable of evolving to match a more walkable environment. This is one place where Rhode Island could be leading the way, demonstrating how today’s automobile-dependent ‘downtown’ malls can become the center of tomorrow’s walkable urban environments, even as we turn away from exurban malls and rural strip mall developments, acknowledging such places as the mistakes to build that they are.

    Asking what the best way to shuttle people between Warwick and Providence might be is an important question, to which Warwick Mall is probably not the answer. Equally important is asking the question of what the best way to move people throughout Warwick and its neighboring towns might be, and Warwick Mall has a big part to play in the answer to that question.

  24. Jef Nickerson January 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Broadway has the same amount of potential for development as Westminster does

    No, Westminster has many more surface parking lots on it or within a block of it and buildings that are either falling down or would not be any great loss to be taken down for replacement with larger buildings. Broadway is almost completely built out and lined with historic buildings that should not be removed for larger ones.

  25. James Kennedy January 10, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    I’ve said this before, but I really think getting some grid-like formations would help a lot too. It would be really ideal just to have a few lines going in each cardinal direction, at intervals, and a few others that meet them at intervals. It can’t be an exact grid because we’re in New England, but it can come close. The East Side/Pawtucket are easy. Then the West Side, you’ve got Dean/Prairie which would make a great north-south line through the whole city, and eventually I think you could have a good north-south line that bends off towards the Statehouse on what used to be 6 & 10, going all the way down to Cranston. And then the South Side is relatively grid-like, so it’d be easy to run some buses along cross streets with Broad Street to make the R-Line more effective. But maybe only one north-south and one east-west one should ever come through Kennedy Plaza itself. Those would be the trunk lines.

    And then bike lanes like these would really help to fill in the gaps.

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