Archive | Bicycles

A proposal for two-way Empire Street at LaSalle Square


Original drawing by RIDOT, modifications by Jef Nickerson • Click image to enlarge

Last month we took a look at the city’s plans for the redesign of LaSalle Square. The city is planning to make Empire Street two-way for the entire length (from Weybosset/Broad to through the square to Sabin Street). The city has had some back and forth with RIDOT on the issue, so the current plans do not reflect two-way Empire Street.

I’ve given some thought to how Empire should move through the square and above is a drawing of my idea.

Empire-Broadway through-route

Make Empire and Broadway one continuous through roadway. Make Sabin end at a T at Broadway/Empire. This makes for just two light movements. Broadway/Empire green with no turns, just straight through. And Sabin green with left and right onto Broadway/Empire. No need for special light cycles to get different turns accomplished, very easy predictable geometry for drivers and pedestrians. If the lights are timed right, one should be able to drive from Broadway and Dean to Empire and Weybosset and beyond without stopping.

Aborn Street plaza

Aborn Street, which runs between the Dunk and the Hilton is technically a public street, though it does not actually run anywhere and effectively acts a driveway for the Dunk. Since it has almost no public traffic, I’ve downgraded it from a full street to a plaza-like configuration. The street climbs up onto the sidewalk, bollards on the sidewalk mark its path. See the plaza at the RISD Chase Center for an idea of how this would work. The Chase Center plaza doubles as open space and a loading dock for the Museum and other adjacent buildings.

Sabin sidewalk/Dunk Plaza

Sabin Street is pulled away from the Dunk to make it meet Empire/Broadway at a right angle. The space where Sabin used to be outside the Dunk gets replaced with a raised planter that can double as casual seating along the planter ledge. This puts a barrier between traffic and pedestrians and also funnels pedestrians along the sidewalk properly.


Dunkin Donuts Center prior to renovations • Photo by Jef Nickerson

At the Aborn end of the Dunk there is currently a sad little plaza that could and should be upgraded to make a small pocket park outside the Dunk. There was a small, not too terrible, pocket park at this location prior to the Dunk renovation, it was behind the giant electronic sign and really underused before. Having a park that is more open to the street, combined with more foot traffic in LaSalle Square would make for a more successful park at this location.


Reader: NYC Bike Lanes


9th Avenue


Madison Square Park


Madison Square Park

A reader submitted these photos from New York City to show what is being done with bike lanes there and as an example of what we should be thinking about doing in the 195 Street Grid:

Attached are photos of bikeway conditions at two intersections in New York. Ninth Avenue in Chelsea that shows one of the new bike traffic signals and partial island separations that NYCDOT has recently been installing around Manhattan. The other two show part of a complex intersection at Fifth Avenue and Broadway at Madison Square Park. The images reveal a hierarchy of use between the automotive traffic-way and stop-line, bikeway crossover, and pedestrian crosswalk. Bicycles usually are signalized along with automotive traffic. The bike crossovers act as a safety buffer between vehicles and pedestrians.

These conditions could provide examples for alternatives approaches for the Wickenden Street intersection. The potential for dangerous interactions between cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles with the current auto-centric design seems great. RIDOT may have legitimate concerns about traffic backing up on the highway, but its design comes at the expense of everything else.


LaSalle Square redesign


The city Department of Planning and Development has been working for some time on a Downtown Circulation Plan. Signs of the plan are visible already on city streets, Washington Street was made two-way, and the lights at Washington and Empire are built for the future transformation of Empire into a two-way street. Eventually, Weybosset will be made a two-way street as well. A large part of this plan will involve LaSalle and Emmett Squares near the Convention Center.

The city has secured funding and plans to move forward with the redirection of Empire and the redesign of LaSalle Square next spring. Below are conceptual drafts of the planned redesign of LaSalle Square.

Please note, there is a key part of the plan that has changed that is not reflected on these drafts. In the final plan, Empire will be two-way straight through LaSalle Square to the intersection of Sabin Street and Broadway. The city originally wanted this, but RIDOT was originally reluctant to allow two-way traffic through the center of the square. RIDOT now agrees that Empire should be two-way through the square, and new plans are being drawn up to reflect that.


Download full site plans:
LaSalle Square Site Plan DRAFT
Fountain Street Site Plan DRAFT

So, let’s review the components of this plan:

Continue Reading →


Bike Sharing is coming to Boston

bike share in Barcelona reports that a bike sharing program is coming to Boston with plans of expanding to Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline.

According to Inhabitat

The new system will be very similar to infrastructure already in place in cities like Montreal and Paris. Riders can pick up bikes at one of the 290 stations with a swipe of a credit card, ride it wherever they need to go, and dock it at the station closest to their destination – no heavy locks and chains necessary. In Montreal, people can pay abut $78 per year or $5 per day to participate, which is quite a bit more economical than owning a car.

This sounds pretty awesome. I can think of several times when I’ve gotten off the commuter rail in Boston and thought, “If I only had a bike…” Although, then I usually come to my senses and think, “…I’d get killed by a car.” I hope that in addition to adding more convenient bicycles to the street, more bike lanes and signage are added as well. Simply adding bikes to the mix of crazy Boston traffic doesn’t seem like a complete answer to me.

However, in my opinion, adding more bike sharing programs to cities and towns across the country may be just what we need in order to improve the way bikes are accepted as a form of transit in our auto-centric society. Too often I hear horror stories about people getting practically run off the road by angry/distracted/ignorant drivers. That’s not to say all drivers are bad, but enough people seem to think that roads are only for cars, and bikes are only for recreation (just see some of the comments on the article).

I applaud Boston for trying this program, and I hope more cities, Providence included, are soon to follow.

Do you think a bike sharing program like this one could work here?


Bikes Ride Here


Photo from Bike New Haven

Design New Haven reports on the city of New Haven’s newly launched website, Bike New Haven, and boy is it great. Great starting from the above photo on the front page. Bikes Ride Here, on the street, amen!

As Design New Haven outlines, the site is full of great information about cycling in New Haven. Bike safety, route information, planning documents, bike-to-transit options, a system to request bike racks, and more. New Haven really seems to have it’s act together on ensuring that bikers are part of the transportation infrastructure in the city and not just an after thought. I encourage everyone to take a look at the site and think about what we’d like to see in Providence along similar lines.


Re-imagining our squares

Emmett Square | View Larger Map

The city has a plan known as the Downtown Circulator (I think that’s what it is known as), which would make Weybosset and Empire Streets two-way, rebuild Fountain Street, and rebuild and reconfigure Emmett and LaSalle Squares. Currently, the city is on track to begin this work next spring (last I heard).

Thinking of what these squares could be, let’s look to Madison Square in New York. Madison Square sits at the intersection of Broadway, 5th Avenue, and 23rd Street adjacent to Madison Square Park and the iconic Flation Building. Recently, the city Department of Transportation rebuilt Madison Square to deemphasize auto traffic and improve pedestrian and bike ameneties.

This video from Streetfilms shows the transformation of Madison Square:

As Emmett Square sits aside Burnside Park, Madison Square sits aside the large and lush Madison Square Park (home of the Shake Shack). In a way I wonder the attraction of sitting at a chair in Madison Square, which in effect is really just a glorified traffic island, especially when a large leafy park sits across the way. Certainly the reconfiguration makes the area better for pedestrians (I’ve crossed here and it was a nighmare) and it looks like traffic may also flow more smoothly, the intersection is at the least, less confusing after.

I see the true utility of this area as a meeting place, rather than a pure recreation or relaxation place. “Meet me at Madison Square,” is more exact than, “meet me in Madison Square Park,” which would require more definition to zero in on the location that you are actually going to meet someone at. The same could hold true for Emmett Square versus Burnside Park or Kennedy Plaza. As it is now, one would never consider meeting someone in Emmett Square, there’s no there there to meet at. Reconfigured as Madison Square was, certainly people would see the area as an actual place, rather than an intersection.

This could also serve as a pedestrian way station. Formalized parks such as Burnside require a modicum of commitment, one actually has to enter the park to reach the benches to stop and sit. As one is wandering through a city, one often needs places to stop, make a phone call, tie a shoe, look through a purse, read something, etc. Wandering through Providence, the city’s built environment does not provide many of these way stations for the pedestrian. Rebuilt Emmett and LaSalle Squares could be among the first places to serve as way stations. These small spaces serve as stepping stones to allow pedestrians to move from place to place through the city on their way to their final destinations.


Bike Providence Live

View Bike To Work Day 2009 in a larger map

In anticipation of Bike to Work Day 2009 (May 15th!) the Providence Bicycle Coalition has created a series of “Bike Trains” so you don’t have to go it alone. Commuting by bike, no matter how long the distance, can be a bit intimidating the first time on RI roads. By joining these bike trains, you’ll be biking with other folks headed towards the city.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, a bike train is one or more experienced bicycle commuters who follow a published route with predetermined meeting points. Other cyclists can hop on and off the train at any point. It’s a great way for new cyclists to give bicycle commuting a try in a safe environment!

To take this one step further, the East Bay Bike Train has added LIVE UPDATING via GPS! This means that you can check the status of the group to see not only where they are, but also make sure you have time for one more cup haven’t missed the group.

This begs the question, why doesn’t RIPTA have this?

Seriously, how great would it be if all the bus shelters had, at minimum, the time until the next bus?

Maybe we could start a gorilla version and just request everyone with an iPhone start updating a common map and publishing route updates.


Washington Bridge Bike Path Open… For Now

Washington Bridge

According to the RI DOT’s blog, the bike path on the Washington Bridge is now open.

The bike path on the bridge is in its original configuration, and cyclists and pedestrians should exercise caution on the path as it is very narrow. There are numerous alcoves along the path where cyclists can pull over and let an oncoming rider pass.


The path will eventually be closed again when the Department is ready to begin construction on a project to convert the remaining portion of the old bridge into a wider bikeway and linear park.

So, hopefully it will be available for Bike-to-work Day. No word yet on when exactly it will close or for how long.

Also noted:

While the Washington Bridge bike path is now open, it will be closed on Sunday, May 3 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. because it is part of the route for the Cox Sports Marathon. Cyclists on the East Bay Bike Path north of Middle Highway in Barrington can expect congested conditions as the path itself will be part of the road race course.


Bike-Sharing in Texas

bike share in Barcelona

Bike Share Rack in Barcelona by Matthew Coolidge

When I heard on the radio that Austin, Texas was introducing a bike-share program I got all excited and immediately thought of Barcelona, where people actively use a great bike-share program.

Listening a little more carefully, however, the story is that the city is introducing the program for city employees.
At first, I was a little disappointed, but thinking about it a little more, simply getting city officials to bike between departments probably makes a lot of sense. It’s not a bad start…

I’ll be interested in seeing if it catches on. In a city the size of ours, I think we might be able to get away with Razor Scooters.

[more info]


State Laws and Biking

Bike...that is all

Photo by thatsparklychick from flickr

The Providence Bicycle Coalition (PBC) has been hard at work trying to update the state laws when it comes to bicycle safety.

According to their blog,

For the most part, the changes to existing laws are minor edits to bring them more in line with the rest of Title 31 and to update them to match the reality of cycling today.
The big changes are included in the proposed vulnerable roadway user portion of the bill.

The H5074 hearing is now scheduled to be heard tomorrow, April 2nd, at 4pm in room 205 of the State House.

We need to show our strength in numbers to support this legislation, so if you are avaiable PLEASE SHOW UP!

Head over to their site to read the proposed changes.


Washington Bridge bike/pedestrian path to re-open soon?

Washington Bridge

Photo by Jef Nickerson

Buried in a ProJo article about the new Iway ramp opening is this little nugget.

In the coming weeks, the narrow catwalk on the [Washington] bridge, which connected India Point Park to the East Bay Bike Path, will reopen. This was a favorite route of runners, cyclists and pedestrians heading between East Providence and the East Side of Providence.

So it’s reopening in the coming weeks? Yay!

No word on the Washington Bridge Linear Park though. Anyone know the status of that?