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Archive | Reader Submissions

Dislike: Walking in the street

Photo by Andy Morris

Yes, everytime I run into someone downtown they say, “are you going to write about the sidewalks on Washington Street?”

Truth is, I’m totally avoiding Washington Street if I can help it. A bunch of things are conspiring to result in there often being no sidewalk on either side of Washington Street.

One thing is good, we like it, new sidewalks are being installed, yay! However, when work is being done on a sidewalk, there needs to be a place for people to go, either make pedestrians cross if there is no room, or block off a secion of the road.

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Tighter parking enforcement but fewer points of collection

New parking regulations on meter in Providence.

A reader points out to us, while the city has tightened parking regulations, expanded meter collection times, and increased parking rates, the parking meter itself is becoming somewhat of an endangered species in the city.

Missing parking meters on Ship Street in Providence.

The above photo shows what I guess we could call the Ship Street Extension, where Eddy loops around under where the highway used to be. There are 9 or ten parking spaces here, but only three meters remaining. Vandals, errant 195 removal equipment, who knows. There’s also 15 or so parking spaces on Dean Street where it was rebuilt between Atwells and Spruce Street where there are meter posts, but no meters on top of them. I’m sure there are examples of this throughout town.

I don’t know how long it takes a new meter to pay for itself, or even how much a meter might cost, but if we didn’t have this dearth of functional meters where parking is supposed to be paid, then perhaps the additional collections realized from that would allow us to not have to have paid parking on Saturdays, or at the very least, it could go further towards closing our budget gap.

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Alissa Graham: Providence Independence Trail

Prospect Park

This post was originally posted on Alissa Graham’s blog, Alissa: Adventurer and is reproduced here with permission.

Yesterday, May 4th 2011, Rhode Island’s Govenor Chaffee and Providence Mayor Tavares unveiled the “Independence Trail.” This three mile, downtown Providence trail will “feature 75 sites ranging from a place where George Washington slept to a statue of Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, whose distinctive facial hair coined the word ‘sideburns.'” (wpri.com)

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Reader Submission: Richmond Street overpass adios

A Greater City: Providence reader submits his photos and commentary of the demolition of the Richmond Street overpass.

Sunday, March 27, 5:30 pm
As the sun begins to fade into twilight, a farewell walk across the broad sweep and reassuringly solid concrete and steel decking of the Richmond Street overpass.

Monday, March 28, 9:04 am
Destruction begins. Residents brace themselves for days of relentless pounding, dust flying and back-up alarms beeping as the mighty span resists the machines’ attack.

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“Elmer the Elm” lobotomized

Elmwood Avenue at Route 95. Reader submitted photo.

A reader wrote in to us several weeks ago to report the lobotomization of several trees on Elmwood Avenue at the ramp from Route 95. Among the trees that had their tops sheared off was Elmer, who survived both the widening of Elmwood Avenue, which resulted in the removal of most of its namesake trees, and the construction of Route 95. The photo below was submitted by our reader and shows Elmwood Avenue during the construction of Route 95 in 1966. Elmer is visible at right past the bridge abutments.

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Reader Submission: Some good news from Japan

A reader, Tanya, who used to live in Providence and moved to Japan last year, wrote in to let us know about the Kyushu bullet train, which opened over the weekend in Japan.

I live in Kyushu (a while from the earthquake and tsunami) where the completed Kyushu Shinkansen line opened on March 12, the day after the quake. Recently a handful of shiny new train stations – including Fukuoka City’s massive JR Hakata City – have opened in anticipation of the bullet train. While Saturday’s opening ceremonies and fanfare were canceled due to the disaster, trains began to run as scheduled. Some Japanese friends here have expressed their sadness, that this situation came about in the midst of such an exciting time for Kyushu and Japan…

People love trains here. It’s awesome. In the midst of all of this, there is continued support for them and pride in such a great system.

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Abel Collins: Complete Streets

Complete street in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo (cc) EURIST e.V.

Abel Collins is Program Manager at Sierra Club RI where he runs the Club’s transportation reform project. The goal of the project is to expand and improve the transportation choices of Rhode Islanders in order to reduce the state’s carbon emissions and increase public health and safety. He also sits on the working group for the Coalition for Transportation Choices and is the vice president for policy of the Environment Council of Rhode Island.

Imagine Providence streets as safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders as they are for cars and trucks: fewer but better designed crosswalks, tree lined streets with narrower lanes to calm traffic, safe routes to schools, comprehensive bike lanes connecting the city, inviting sidewalks where businesses can sell their wares, and bus shelters that actually provide shelter. Imagine streets designed to reclaim their function as vibrant public spaces rather than the corridors for automobile traffic and parking that they have become. Can you picture streets that provide us with more than one viable transportation choice when we step out the door? What you are seeing is a complete street.

It isn’t hard to do, right? It’s not like we need a technological leap to make it possible, no sputnik moment here. Providence is a little more than 20 square miles, 4 x 5 miles give or take. Every destination is within walking or bicycling distance. The biggest obstacle is really just the car-centric mindset that has been at the center of our planning and economic development strategies.

The movement to bring Complete Streets planning to Rhode Island’s cities and towns is gathering momentum. Thanks to the work of Sierra Club RI and AARP, as well as the Coalition for Transportation Choices which they help lead, Newport, Middletown, and South Kingstown have all adopted complete streets resolutions. Even as I write these lines, Providence and Portsmouth are working toward resolutions of their own.

At the same time, statewide complete streets legislation will be considered this session which in addition to exhorting the benefits of complete streets designs and encouraging complete streets planning policies at state agencies will also create a complete streets council to help coordinate its implementation across the state.

Of course, it is the acceptance and implementation of planning policies by the Department of Transportation and municipal departments of public works where the rubber will finally meet the road, and these resolutions are merely the beginning of realizing those imaginary streets. Moreover, complete streets require more than just a shift in governmental thinking. We, the street users whether on our bikes, in our cars, or on our feet, are equally responsible for recognizing that streets are a shared public space that should be safe for everyone.

If you want to help bring complete streets to Providence and the rest of Rhode Island; if you want to make those streets you were picturing back at the start of this post real with all the benefits to public health, the environment, safety, local business, and the size of your bank account that they entail, then contact me, abel.collins@sierraclub.org, or at least let your local administrators, council members and state reps know about it.

If you’ve written something you’d like us to consider posting, please contact us and let us know.

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You can’t just paint a roundabout

From somewhere in Europe we see a roundabout that is simply painted onto an intersection. Fast and cheap traffic calming perhaps, but it is clear from the video that it is confusing to some people. Although it has served the purpose of calming traffic, while confusing, traffic is moving slow and the video does not show many if any collisions. There are however a few cars that plow straight through without a care in the world that are accidents waiting to happen no doubt.

This may also point out something about roadmarkings in general. It seems that many drivers simply did not see the paint on the pavement until they were right on top of it, also, they seem to have not seen the roundabout sign posted at the intersection. Our accommodations for pedestrians tend to be roadmarkings and signs.

This video shows, that with proper physical interventions, people are able to figure out that they are in a roundabout and understand how to use it.

If drivers are blinded to roadmarkings and signs as the first video seems to indicate, perhaps those should not be the entirety of what we rely on to make safe accommodations for pedestrians.

Reader submission via: How We Drive

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Robert Billington: Bringing the Blackstone Valley Bikeway to its completion

Photo (cc) cho_kettie

The following is by Robert Billington, Ed.D, President of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.

January 20, 2011

Let’s face it; Rhode Island’s bikeways bring lots of enjoyment to our residents. From South County to the Blackstone Valley, these paths connect our neighborhoods, improve our economy and draw visitors to explore our communities. They are safe, enjoyable and provide a stress-free place to relax and exercise. Everyone who experiences them wants to see not only more paths but improved connectivity between paths. We have the opportunity to do this.

While there are other bike paths in the state, what makes the Blackstone River bikeway special is the industrious American story it tells. Over 30 years ago, planning began on the Blackstone River bikeway — a bold idea for its time. Restoring dirty land along the oldest polluted river in the hemisphere, the river that launched America to super-power status, took great imagination, and guts. Ten years ago, the first few miles of the bikeway opened in Lincoln. Now with 11 miles of the Bikeway constructed, accessibility to the Blackstone River and Canal is now easy and enjoyable for fishing, canoeing and cross-country skiing. Our state has successfully transformed land that was once a dump to land that is transforming people and reconnecting them to nature.

While we have made considerable progress, we are not done. The completed section of the bikeway passes along the Blackstone River through Cumberland, Lincoln and Woonsocket. As wonderful as the completed section is, a significant amount of work has to be done in order to connect the Blackstone Valley bikeway to both the East Bay bike path and to the Massachusetts border. Despite the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s work to plan and construct the bikeway, its completion is elusive. The reason is funding.

We have worked with Rhode Island Department of Transportation officials to determine a completion date for the Bikeway and the amount of funding necessary. As of right now, it is projected that completion could take place in seven years if we continue to work hard and as long as the $31 million needed for construction is secured. To make the completion of the Blackstone Bikeway by 2017 a reality, residents, governmental leaders, community groups and organizations need to take responsibility to find the funds to complete the Blackstone Bikeway.

To date, we have 11 of the less-expensive miles of the Bikeway completed. Additionally, we have $1 million of the $31 million needed to fund the more-expensive miles ahead. We must not wait and assume that someone else will step forward and secure the funding to complete the rest of the Bikeway. We have done this for too long. It is time to stay focused and bring the project to full completion. While cutting through the dense riverfront of Central Falls, Pawtucket, East Providence, Providence, Woonsocket and North Smithfield is going to be difficult, the completion of the bikeway is within our grasp. We need to urge its completion to every local, state and federal official asking them to help us find the construction funds to build. This is a call to action to get involved and continue to remind our officials to push for the completion of the Blackstone Bikeway by 2017.

Even with the State’s growing budget deficit, we must not waiver from completing the Blackstone Bikeway. Our state has many priorities for recreational spending and we realize that the Blackstone River Bikeway is just one of them. However, this one has been on the agenda for over three decades. It is time that the completion is moved to the top of the list. Don’t think of the bikeway as simply being a place of recreation. With gas prices steadily increasing, it provides Rhode Islanders with a way to bike to work, shop for groceries and travel. The Blackstone River Bikeway is quickly becoming the new Main Street in the Blackstone Valley. The economic, environmental and health benefits from using the Bikeway cannot be overstated.

Residents, businesses, federal, state, and local officials, and community groups have to work to complete the Blackstone Valley Bikeway. It is time for the Blackstone Valley Bikeway to be completed. 2017 has to be the date! Push for progress: Cycleblackstone.com.

Robert Billington, Ed.D, President
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council

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Rhode Island Bikeways Map

Speaking of bike paths…

This post may not actually work, first time I’ve tried to host a .kmz file to embed a map on the site, so if nothing shows up on this map, well then, nevermind.

A reader forwarded me a .kmz file he created of the Rhode Island bike network (map key over there on the right). You can download the file here. If the Google Maps embed below does not work, you can download the .kmz file and open it with Google Earth to view the map.


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Regarding “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf”

The below is a letter to the Editor of the Providence Journal in response to David Brussat’s editorial “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf.” As of this date, the ProJo has not printed the letter.

In David Brussat’s “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf,” 1/13/2011, he portrays a disturbing instance of demolition by neglect of Federal Hill’s historic Grove Street School. The owner of the Grove Street School, Representative Michael Tarro, has been a blatantly irresponsible building owner defying city law all the while as an Assistant City Solicitor of Providence.

The Taveras administration defines, the city solicitor is responsible for “implementing all legal policies and procedures of the city to ensure that municipal services and activities are conducted in accordance with city policy and ordinance” as quoted in the Providence Journal in “Mayor appoints Padwa to city solicitor post,” 1/15/2011.

It is unconscionable that Michael Tarro continues to hold a position of enforcing city laws he himself willfully chooses to disobey, despite losing every battle in court over the past four years. As a former resident of Providence who could see the Grove Street School, a mere city lot away, from my own home, I am appalled that this issue is still not resolved and that the building continues to be open to the harsh elements.

Mayor Taveras, please secure this property to prevent further deterioration of a viable piece of Providence’s history, put a lien on the building for the cost of such a task, and get Michael Tarro off the city payroll.

J. E. Cole

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