City seeks plan for lagging cycling infrastructure

"We...see bike infrastructure as more of a need now."

With a large, auto-less student population, relatively gridlock-free roads and new or improved bicycle paths extending like spokes to nearly every corner of the state, Providence has all the makings of a cycle-centric city. More

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TRANSPORTATION

City seeks plan for lagging cycling infrastructure

"We...see bike infrastructure as more of a need now."

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/PAUL TAGGART
With a large, auto-less student population, relatively gridlock-free roads and new or improved bicycle paths extending like spokes to nearly every corner of the state, Providence has all the makings of a cycle-centric city.
Posted 3/26/12

With a large, auto-less student population, relatively gridlock-free roads and new or improved bicycle paths extending like spokes to nearly every corner of the state, Providence has all the makings of a cycle-centric city.

But while bicycle ridership has climbed over the last 10 years, the city’s internal cycling infrastructure has lagged behind other cities.

New bike lanes and navigational arrows connecting the major bike paths were painted on city streets last summer, but bicycle advocates say they do only so much, are often difficult to follow or confine riders to close proximity with hurried motorists in others.

“The existing city bicycle plan is centered around major streets and, seen through a cyclist’s eyes, it is auto-centric,” said Matthew Moritz, president of the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition. “It uses all the roads a car would use.”

That existing bicycle plan was created a decade ago and doesn’t take into account the recent surge in ridership or the latest in transportation planning, bicycle advocates say.

City, and now state, planners agree.

This past winter Providence was awarded a $36,000 state grant to hire a consultant who will plan and put together recommendations for a new bicycle plan.

“There has been a strong increase in the bike culture in Providence and we definitely see bike infrastructure as more of a need now than we have in the past,” said Melanie Army, principal planner with the city.

Along with greater ridership here and across the country, the study coincides with planning for the reconnection of the street grid on the Interstate 195 lands, which will need to in some way account for bicycles and tie into current paths and parks along the Providence River.

Of course, pro-bicycling public works projects are not always welcomed enthusiastically by drivers.

In New York City, for example, the creation of hundreds of new bike lanes on city streets produced a backlash from motorists who blame them for increasing traffic.

Even some cyclists question the wisdom of bicycle lanes when they are ticketed for riding outside of them.

For Providence bicycle advocates such as Moritz, these issues point to the need for any plan to prioritize getting riders off busy streets where possible, either off the road entirely or onto routes that take advantage of side streets.

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