Tag Archives: hill avoidance

The Providence Wiggle

Reader(s) outside of Providence, I apologize if this post may bore you, but I feel that it is important to relay this information as a public service to cyclists traveling between Downtown and Wayland Square (or other parts of the East Side). First some background info.

San Francisco, like many North American cities has done quite a bit in the last few years to improve infrastructure for its cyclists. They’ve added bike lanes, designated more bike routes, and probably done some other stuff too, probably some sharrows or something (what? do I look like a journalist to you? do I really need to “research” these blog posts?) I’ve only ridden a bike in San Francisco once, and it was quite enjoyable. Of course, there are still a few obstacles to cycling in SF, namely those durn hills! But those resourceful Californians have created something to assist in climbing those hills and help them get from one side of their fair city to the other. And because they are a bunch of dirty hippies, they gave it a whimsical name: “The Wiggle.” I guess they didn’t create it so much as they discovered it, or mapped it out. Whatever, it’s a good way to minimize the hill in getting between the east and west sides of town.

The Wiggle has its own Wikipedia Page, Yelp Page, and coming soon, its own PSA including a jingle.

And while the hills of Providence certainly lack the monumental nature of the hills in San Francisco, they are still an impediment to everyday cycling. College Hill, one of the steepest, lies between my office and my home. Here’s the most direct route.

The map indicates that this is an official “bike route.” What you can’t quite tell from this map is that the hill gets to something like an 8-12% grade for a few blocks right around where it says “Rhode” in “Rhode Island School of Design.” It’s so steep there’s even a mini-switchback at one point. So, unless I want to pretend I’m attacking on the Alpe d’Huez, I go around:

This adds about 1 mile to my trip, but it’s definitely worth it. There are many different variations that one could take, but the main point is that you head down to Wickenden Street, and then attack college hill from the south where it is much less steep. Not only is it less steep, one also avoids the highest point of the hill. There’s a slight issue in that there is no way to completely avoid the act of “wasting hill” that is, one goes up a hill, just to go down it again.  But just repeat to yourself what the good book says, “You gotta get up to get down,” and all will be well.

Here’s a close-up of the more wiggly part of the wiggle:

This is my preferred route for wiggling, but every once in a while I like to take a different route.


I like to turn from Wickenden on to Brook Street, while Spouse prefers to go up Wickenden and turn at Governor Street.  I feel that Wickenden is steeper and has more cars on it and due to the parked cars it’s difficult for a car to pass [UPDATE FOR DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY PURPOSES: the parked cars are only on one side of the street, still I feel that it makes it difficult for cars to pass a cyclist]. Spouse prefers Wickenden’s straight shot aspect and lack of stop signs.  I’ll also admit that I take Brook street in order to glance at the display window of Legend Bicycle, Spouse has less interest in doing that. [ADDITIONAL UPDATE: the choice of Pwiggle route continues to be a point of contention in the CarFreePVD household and although Spouse has her points, I'd like to point out that I take this route every day while Spouse only takes her Wickenden route a couple times per week and in non-peak rush hour direction]. For the inbound route, I go straight down Governor to Wickenden because it is downhill and requires fewer turns and stop signs. But really, all manner of variations are possible in this area, and the Providence cyclist is free to wiggle anywhich way the heart desires, unlike those San Franciscans who have signs telling them what to do.

Spouse's preferred outbound route. Coincidentally, the preferred inbound route for both of us.

For the downtown section of the route, there are two options. One can take the “bike path” which is really a walkway along RISD combined with sidewalk along the WWI and WWII memorials.

The hiccup for this option comes at around the second arrow where one must transition from the path to the street. I’m not much for curb hopping, so I don’t really like this so much.

The on-street option requires moving from the right lane to the left lane and then waiting for a left turn signal.

Lately, I’ve been using the on-street option more, mostly because I don’t like the curb hopping. Your results may vary.

There’s seven turns in the Providence Wiggle (or Pwiggle, if you prefer) and I’m only counting the section from Wickenden Street to Wayland Square. It turns out there’s only 6 in the San Francisco Wiggle (which I will now call the Swiggle). Although our hills may be less steep, our wiggles are evidently more epic. Point: Providence.