Greater City Providence

ProJo: Pedestrian safety on Providence’s Federal Hill takes giant step forward


In 2013 the state, in cooperation with the city, installed on Atwells 14 sidewalk “bumpouts,” 7 neon green crosswalk signs that are supposed to be more vivid than the standard highway orange, and other signs; upgraded some pedestrian-crossing signals; and restriped to create a 3-foot buffer zone on both sides of the avenue.

Nothing has been done to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection of Atwells and Dean, which is basically an extention of the Route 6/10 highway off-ramp.

Scheduled this year are the installation of additional traffic signal improvements, including 12 unusual pedestrian crossing signals; the painting of “25 mph,” the speed limit, and “PED XING” on the pavement; and the painting of 11 additional crosswalks.

The pedestrian crossing signal, called a “rectangular rapid flashing beacon,” would be unique in Rhode Island. It is a pedestrian-activated LED array attached to a pedestrian crossing sign that irregularly flashes an amber or white light that Urso said is impossible for a motorist to ignore.

Now if we can just stop people getting stabbed to death and drunks driving up on the sidewalks, it’ll be a nice place.

[alert type=”muted”]See also:
Thoughts on the Councilman Hassett hit and run (Nov. 1, 2010)
How do you solve a problem like Atwells? (Nov. 28, 2010)
Curb extensions being installed on Atwells (Aug. 7, 2013)[/alert]

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.


  • Given the higher density and narrowew streets, perhaps the flashing beacon will be more effective on Atwells than other locations similar technologies have been deployed. As an example the HAWK signal on Valley is routinely ignored when flashing such that people crossing from Rising Sun Mills to the auxiliary parking lot generally don’t bother activating the thing.

  • I was wondering, they sounded horrible.

    They worry me from a maintenance perspective, I hate saying we can’t have nice things because we have a history of not taking care of our things, but… A walk down Atwells shows the lack of care for existing infrastructure. I also think, if we’d just engineer the road to be the actual speed limit, then we wouldn’t need things like this. As for the possibility or impossibility of drivers to ignore, we’ll see I guess, drivers in Providence are capable of ignoring a lot.

  • That is an expensive eyesore.

    Anyplace on earth where driver-pedestrian interaction has evolved so that walking around does not elevate stress hormones and bloodshed is much rarer than around here, it was accomplished in the absence of gadgets like that.

  • “I also think, if we’d just engineer the road to be the actual speed limit, then we wouldn’t need things like this.”

    That’s why the bumpouts and speed humps are there.

  • And I think the bump-outs will help with calming traffic. I think that speed humps aren’t quite as effective, they tend to make drivers angry and people speed away faster after going over them. None of this work has done anything to the Dean and Atwells intersection which is a pedestrian nightmare.

  • The video claims an 80% success rate with drivers yielding.

    From what I could find with a cursory Googling, that’s within a ~5% margin of what other places have found. Interestingly, no matter the starting success rate of drivers yielding, it tends to reach that same ~80% level. It may be an eyesore, but that may be the secret to its success.

  • too bad this didn’t happen after accident #1.. and not some politician related accident

  • At the intersect of Atwells and Knight St. there’s a big Pedestrian Crossing sign, with two flashing yellow lights, one on either side.

    Plus it’s bumped out right near the church. Cars speed through anyway. So I suspect we’ll need more draconian solutions. A stop strip that flips up when it detects a pedestrian crossing. That way drivers risk shredded tires.

    In fact I’ve often thought of carrying caltrops and when offending drivers blow through a well marked cross walk, just toss em’ in front of the vehicle and they can enjoy the flat tires.

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