Greater City Providence

Sidewalk over street in Providence too

Remember a couple weeks back when I posted this photo from a Streetsblog story of a sidewalk crossing a street in Copenhagen?

Copenhagen sidewalk
Photo from Streetsblog

This is what I said I liked about it:

This Copenhagen sidewalk completely flips the script on the relationship between cars and pedestrians at intersections. Rather than there being a curb, the sidewalk ending, and pedestrians moved into the street via a crosswalk; the sidewalk continues across the road and it is the car that enters the pedestrians domain in order to move through the intersection. Why are we not making all minor side streets have this relation to the main?

Well, duh, we have at least one of these in Providence, on Westminster Street at Orange Street:

Sidewalk on Westminster Street continues right across Orange Street.

It is not quite as seemlessly sidewalk as the Copenhagen example, but observing motorists navigating it, it works the same way. Motorist get a cue that they are moving off the street and change the way they move, slowing to look for pedestrians and using more caution than if the sidewalk ended and there was only paint on the roadway for pedestrians. The fact that the sidewalk is at a higher level than the street also means that cars must slow to mount it. Meaning it acts as a sort of speed bump.

This should be firmly planted in the city’s road design bag of tricks. Imagine if all the alleys on Atwells worked this way for example; cars had to slow to cross the sidewalk rather than the other way around.

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.


  • I think there’s another one in the alley next to Saki’s Pizza on Weybosset. Then again, it probably came up with the trees… ;+)

  • Actually there are also a few down Westminster next to InTown Laundry and exiting the Satin Doll parking lot. Not that I would know anything about the Satin Doll. Because I don’t. Really.

  • > …for example; cars had to slow to cross the sidewalk rather than the other way around.

    Good idea. It’s similar to the benefit of the raised walkway in front of the State House.

  • One problem that I see with this strategy is this: If cars, trucks and busses have to yield to pedestrian traffic, then you can easily imagine the congestion and traffic jams that this would cause, especially during commuting times or special events. What’s wrong with lots of cars and trucks idling around in congestion waiting for pedestrians? An increase in emissions and a decrease in Providence’s air quality, which is already extremely poor.

    In the long term, when most vehicles have stop-start systems, then it will be much less of a problem, but given how old the fleet of vehicles is that is being driven around this city, that will be a long, long way in the future. I suggest such sidewalks are a great idea, but we’re not ready for them yet.

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