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Thoughts on the Councilman Hassett hit and run

Atwells Avenue. Image from Google StreetView

First, this goes without saying, but let’s say it because I’m about to get angry. Our thoughts (and I’m sure for those of us that do so, prayers) are with Councilman Hassett and his family and friends, and we hope for nothing but the speediest and fullest recovery for the Councilman and to see him back at work at City Hall soon.

Now’s the part of the post where I start to get angry. First I’m going to get angry at myself. Pedestrian injuries and fatalities are such a common place occurrence around here, and the section of Atwells where the Councilman was hit is among the most common, that I barely think about it anymore. It is simply part of the landscape. Like changing leaves, or students coming back to town.

The Journal reports:

The accident was the second severe mishap on that part of Atwells in five days.

A week ago, Brittany DeQuattro, whose home address the police withheld, suffered leg fractures and severe head cuts on her 22nd birthday when she got out of a parked car and was struck by the eastbound car of a hit-and-run driver in front of 422 Atwells. DeQuattro was hospitalized for a time and Zienowicz said she is expected to fully recover. The incident remains under investigation.

The scene is near the intersection of Atwells and Marcello Street, where a car driven by an off-duty policeman on a rainy night in December 2005 struck and killed a young woman pedestrian. The policeman was not criminally charged.

In October, Ericka Manzo, 25, was seriously injured near 216 Atwells when she was struck by a car driven by an allegedly drunken man as she crossed the street at about 1 a.m. The man was criminally charged in the hit-and-run accident.

People have been talking for years about the need for safety improvements along Atwells, where the speed limit is 25. After the 2005 fatality, the city did install more speed-limit signs.

That list does not include the elderly gentleman who jumped the sidewalk and slammed into the facade of Siena last Tuesday (thankfully no one on the sidewalk or in the restaurant were hurt).

Photo by Jim Beller

It also does not mention the person who was struck earlier this year prompting then Council-candidate Steven Meresi to get Traffic Engineering to install a crosswalk at the western end of Atwells, not far from where the Councilman was struck.

See what I mean? It happens all the time, one eventually gets outrage fatigue and I’m suffering from a severe case of it. I’m tired of being tired of hearing about people being run down in the streets and now I’m angry.

I’m also angry at the rest of the media. Of course the reaction to a City Councilor being struck by a car will be different than a private citizen as far as the media is concerned. More people know the Councilor, so it is a bigger story, we all know what a City Councilor is even if we don’t know the specific person. So it is a big story, OK. But look back up at that list from the Journal, someone in the newsroom could have picked up on that years ago and made a bigger deal of it.

I’m also angry with the City Council and the Mayor. The Journal goes on to write:

Lombardi said he asked Mayor David N. Cicilline’s staff to spend federal aid under the Obama economic stimulus bill on traffic-calming measures on Atwells but was told that the work was “not shovel-ready” and did not qualify. Lombardi insisted that preparation had been made and it did qualify.

“Obviously, [traffic] enforcement would be nice there, too,” he said. “People pick up speed. It’s difficult to see at night.”

It is no secret that the Mayor and Lombardi are not exactly friends. Somehow Steven Meresi, who at that point was just a regular citizen, got Traffic Engineering to install a crosswalk within days of someone else being struck, but Lombardi has not been able to get any serious action in decades in office. Was Cicilline playing politics with people’s lives? Was Lombardi not trying hard enough to rectify a deadly situation? I’ll let you dear reader be the judge.

I’m also angry with Traffic Engineering. The Councilor and the Mayor should not even have had the opportunity to bicker over this issue, Traffic Engineering should have identified the problem (or PPD should have identified it for them), and worked up a solution. If not to engineer roadways so that people are not struck down on a regular basis, then what is Traffic Engineering for? I will be asking the next Mayor to look into Traffic Engineering, determine what their function should be, and urge him to work to make them more effective.

Continue Reading →

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Los Angeles CicLAvia


StreetFilms

Ciclovías are an event where a major street(s) in a city is closed to automobiles and turned over to bikes (and pedestrians, and dancers, and performers, and a whole bunch of non-auto activity). The events started in Columbia, South America and have been spreading across the world, with Los Angeles getting into the action on 10/10/10 as seen in the video above.

Wikipedia describes Ciclovía:

Each Sunday and holiday the main streets of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and other municipalities, are blocked off for the event to become Carfree. From 7 am to 2 pm, runners, skaters and bicyclists take over the streets. At the same time, stages are set up in city parks. Aerobics instructors, yoga teachers and musicians lead people through various performances. Bogotá’s weekly ciclovías are used by approximately 2 million people (30% of citizens) on over 120 km of carfree streets.

In Bogota, permanently designated bicycle lanes are also known as ciclo-rutas, while streets temporarily closed for that purpose are called ciclovías.

Ciclovías happen in many cities but the inspiration is credited to Bogotá.[1] The events have taken place since 1976 when they started through the efforts of organizer Jaime Ortiz and others. Some credit Bogotá Mayor Hernando Duran Dusan with starting Ciclovías in the early 1980s. Mayor Enrique Peñalosa deserves some credit for turning Bogotá into a safe cycling city by taking on the dominance of automobiles in the late 1990s.

So now the question is, if (when) we start a Ciclovía in Providence, where and when should it be? How often should it be? What type of events should surround the Ciclovía? Should it run all year..? Sound off in the comments.

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New York\’s Quality of Life Agenda

Yes, yes, I know. Providence is not New York, it is hard to compare. But all of these initiatives are things that can and should be scaled to Providence.

Look at this Times Square statistic again, there was a ten-to-one ratio of pedestrians to cars, yet 90% of the space was devoted to cars. No place in Providence is Times Square, but places like Atwells Avenue, Thayer Street, Kennedy Plaza, Elmwood Avenue, Broad Street, etc. are certainly given over more to cars than to the pedestrians that actually are using the space.

The biggest take-away for me, is that these changes have happened in 3 years. I attend a lot of meetings around the city and I am seriously to the point now where I feel like we have too many meetings, too much public input. We’re taking in circles at this point. When the loudest people showing up to the meetings are the ones that will never be happy with anything, it is no wonder we never get anything done. Of course, it would help a lot if agencies like RIDOT would actually present palatable plans from the get go, and if rules and regulations were actually enforced so we did not all the time feel like we had to come out and fight against things.

That talking in circles and getting nowhere is changing a bit though, the Pedestrian Bridge is on a major fast track schedule, and the Core Connector Study is also moving along rapidly. Both of those projects have external forces making their schedules move. The ped bridge needs to be done within the timeframe of the Iway project, and the Core Connector Study in part has use-it-or-loose-it stimulus money.

Let’s hope our next Mayor, like Bloomberg has done in New York, can present and sell a vision and can engage the people who want to see change, so that the naysayers are not the ones monopolizing public discussion, so we can get some stuff done around here.

Via: Urbanophile

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Elmwood Avenue Enhancement Report

From Community Works Rhode Island comes the Elmwood Avenue Enhancement Report . RIDOT has been planning for the rebuilding of Elmwood Avenue, and their proposals were typical RIDOT move as many cars as possible in the least amount of time designs. Community Works and others got out ahead of RIDOT and asked the community what they wanted and came up with this report which incorporates many Complete Streets paradigms and takes into account not just the automobile traffic, but pedestrians, cyclists, school children, open space, and the needs of the residents of the neighborhood.

From Community Works:

As many of you are aware, Community Works Rhode Island has been working with neighbors, elected officials and RIDOT for several years to make sure that the upcoming re-pavement of Elmwood Avenue meets the needs of this community. Starting in 2005, we held numerous public design meetings to create neighborhood-based recommendations for improving Elmwood as our neighborhood main street and historic Avenue. Through our meetings, it became clear that the neighborhood priorities are to make the Avenue a safer place to walk and bike, a more appealing place to do business, and a greener, more accessible route to Roger Williams Park, including “bringing the elms back to Elmwood.”

After much work by our elected officials, especially Senator Juan Pichardo, many neighbors and local organizations and our landscape design consultant L+A Landscape Architecture, we are pleased to release the final report of recommendations that was created out of this lengthy process. This report was delivered to RIDOT this week. Community Works Rhode Island will continue to advocate for the recommendations of the report as RIDOT moves forward with their design process for the Avenue, and asks for your support in distributing the report to the larger community and advocating for the recommendations.

Community Works Rhode Island thanks all of you who participated in the process over the years, and looks forward to continuing to work together to transform Elmwood Avenue.

The report looks at the street as a whole, but divides it into seperate areas with different needs. The southern end is the “Bikeway to the Park” with seperated bike lanes and enhancements to the roadway to slow highspeed traffic and allow for a better environment for cyclists and pedestrians, with an emphasis on making a pleasant experience for people heading to Roger Williams Park.

In the area around the Knight Library and Gilbert Stewart Middle School there is a “Hyper Zone” which makes large scale interventions to slow traffic and increase the safety of children in the area. Techniques such as raised cosswalks, textured pavement, and corner bump outs are recommended.

A pedestrianization scheme is recommended for Columbus Square (the area where Reservoir Avenue splits off Elmwood). Northbound traffic on Reservoir would be diverted to Adelaide Avenue making a right angle intersection with Elmwood instead of the highspeed race to make the green light and merge which happens now (we’ve all done it). Atlantic Avenue, immediately south of the triangular park, would be closed to traffic and pedestrianized, making the park connect to the block to the south and having it now function as a usable public space, and not as a glorified traffic island as it is now. Other pedestrian enhancements are recommended.

As is the case in Olneyville, Elmwood and South Elmwood are neighborhoods with a low level of car ownership and a high level of transit use. The current configuration of Columbus Square is all about the car and even the retail in the area is auto oriented, if not shops that sell things for cars, or sell actual cars, they are shops set back from the street with massive parking lots not at all catering to the many people in the community who arrive on foot. A better pedestrianized Columbus Square will encourage retails to cater to pedestrians and will attract new development that is suitable to the neighborhood.

I encourage you to download the full report and review it for yourself. It is a good template for other street redesigns in the city. If you support the report’s recommendations, especially if you live in the study area, be sure to contact RIDOT and let them know.

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News & Notes

Dallas Covers Highway with Greenery – Cities are increasingly decking highways with piles of greenery and new development. [Governing]

I’m looking at Route 10 at Olneyville, Route 95 from Broad to Atwells, Route 95 between Garden and George in Pawtucket, Route 95 next to the State House…

Parking Management That Actually Manages Parking [Bill Fulton, Mayor of Ventura Blog]

Some shoppers have complained over the past few months that parking at the mall is free, so why should they pay to park downtown? The answer — provided by Downtown Ventura Organization board chair Dave Armstrong — is that you’re paying for access to a few hundred premium spaces. And he’s right. After all, all the mall parking spaces are far away from the stores — farther than even the most remote free lot downtown. If it was possible to drive right inside the mall and park in front of your favorite store, don’t you think the mall would charge for that space? And don’t you think some people who think it’s worth it would pay the price? Obviously, the answer to both these questions is yes.

A Portland group pulverizes pavement to make way for green space [Grist]

Newport: Making Transportation Holistic [RI Future]

On September 15th, the Newport City Council passed a Complete Streets resolution, becoming the first municipality in Rhode Island to give equal consideration to all road users in its planning rather than giving primacy to automobiles. Redesigning our streets to be more inclusive of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders will be a boon to our quality of life by improving the environment, the local economy, and our health.

Dearest Providence, why are we letting Newport take the lead on this? Step it up!

Nissan’s smug (?), cute (?), ironic (?) polar bear Leaf ad [Grist]

But let’s take a look at the claim that climate-endangered mammals will thank you for buying a Leaf — which goes on sale later this year for as low as $21,000 in California and Georgia, and slightly more in other states.

An electric car might be superior to the gas-burner you own now, except that it still takes plenty of embodied energy to produce a new car. If buying a Leaf earns you a bear hug, then hanging on to a reasonably efficient ride for a few extra years probably deserves one too.

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Reader: NYC Bike Lanes

nycbike_9th-av

9th Avenue

nybike_5th-bway

Madison Square Park

nybike_5th-bway002

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.

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