Thanks to Transport Providence, in partnership with the East Coast Greenway (ECG) Alliance, residents of Providence, Rhode Island recently gained first-hand exposure to protected bike lanes during Park(ing) Day 2014. On this day, people from cities around the world took over on-street car parking stalls and remade them into vibrant public spaces called parklets. The Transport Providence team went further and connected parklets along Broadway by installing a protected bike lane — which physically segregated cyclists from cars.
Such demonstrations are essential to building broader support for a traffic-free bike route that connects all major cities along the eastern seaboard. In order to encourage cycle-tourists to travel from scenic off-road trails into culturally vibrant urban cores, cities must consider building protected bikeways.
“There are some places where it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to put a trail in,”says Eric Weis, Program Director for ECG Alliance. “[Protected bike lanes] would fit our definition of completed East Coast Greenway. Whereas a regular bike lane — where you’re right next to a motorist who’s probably texting or struggling with an Egg McMuffin in the morning — doesn’t provide the same level of safety.”
The protective barrier of the pop-up bike lane was made from tall potted plants and donated traffic cones from Traffic Safety Store. It was situated on Providence’s West Side along the north side of Broadway, part of the ECG on-road connector from downtown Providence to the Cranston Bike Path. Because Broadway has approximately 5 feet of space between parked cars and moving traffic, the project obtained a city permit to block on-street parking, allowing car-free space between the side walk and the lane’s protected edge. A more permanent installation would use delineator posts or fixed object such as curbs, decorative planters, and Jersey barriers.
Providence doesn’t have a significant history of cycling accidents, but like many cities throughout the east coast, commuters are often hesitant to travel by bicycle. By introducing dedicated facilities, urban roads including Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C. and 2nd Ave in Seattle more than tripled their cycle-commuter population.
“In a city like Providence where we’re perfectly capable of bicycling from one side of the city to the other, we felt we needed to jumpstart the conversation,”says James Kennedy of Transport Providence.
The pop-up bike lane received financial contributions and support from Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition . Festivities on Broadway were attended by State House representatives, Art Handy and Lisa Tomasso. While not all motorists appeared to understand the project and a few parked in the bicycle lane anyways (due to lack of permit enforcement), the pop-up bike lane succeeded in drawing significant turnout from both cyclists and non-cyclists.
“People paid more attention and tried to drive like they were in a neighborhood instead of swinging around the corners,”says Kennedy.. “The biggest feedback we got was from people who didn’t even bike. People were just happy to see there was green space on the street.”
By, Dana Henry, guest writer from the Traffic Safety Store