In late summer 2019, Providence installed a two-way protected bike lane on Eaton Street, near Providence College. Some people who lived near Eaton Street felt that the bike lanes made Eaton Street dangerous to people driving cars on Eaton Street or walking on the adjacent sidewalks. I disagree with that opinion and I attended a public meeting on September 4th to express my disagreement. The effort to remove the bike lanes was led by Providence City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan, of Ward 5. This morning, Majority Leader Ryan sent an email saying that the city was now planning to remove the bike lanes and re-stripe Eaton Street. I’ve pasted that email below, or you can see her announcement on her Facebook page.
Here’s what I sent to Majority Leader Ryan. (I addressed her as Councilwoman Ryan, but I’ll be sure to address her as Majority Leader from now on. I apologize for the error).
Dear Councilwoman Ryan,I was dismayed to learn that the city will be removing the bike lanes from Eaton Street. Because these lanes used a new design that has not been seen in the city before, I can understand that some people were afraid that the lanes would cause safety issues. By narrowing the street, these lanes caused people to drive more slowly. This was a significant safety improvement. If the Eaton Street lanes had been left in, drivers would have gotten used to them and we would all come to appreciate the safety benefits for people in cars, people on bikes and people walking.Unfortunately, as you said in your email, the city is going to return Eaton Street to its previous configuration. I think this is a bad decision, but I guess it’s already done. I hope that you will take this opportunity to learn more about the benefits of protected bike lanes and work to implement them on other streets in Providence.I attended the September 4th meeting at St. Pius V and if I remember correctly, you said that you are not against bike lanes, that you were just against how these bike lanes were designed and implemented. Several people at the meeting suggested that Smith Street would make a better location for a protected bike lane. From what I’ve heard from city officials, RIDOT controls Smith street because it is designated as a state highway. The city officials have also told me that RIDOT is resistant to the idea of building a protected bike lane on Smith Street.As an elected official, you have a great deal of influence. You have used that influence in what you saw as a service to your constituents in getting the Eaton Street bike lanes removed. Will you will use that influence again to convince RIDOT to install protected bike lanes on Smith Street? I admire the amount of effort you put in to return Eaton Street to its previous configuration. Will you work just as hard to create a protected bike lane on Smith Street?Sincerely,-James-
Dear Neighbors,I wanted to let you know that Eaton Street will be repaved to its original traffic pattern.Making our streets safe and accessible to all is one of my top priorities. We need to balance all new initiatives with the needs of the surrounding community, particularly when it is a matter of public safety. After hosting two community meetings and hearing your incisive observations, I am pleased to report that the Mayor has agreed with us.I want to personally thank you for working together to address these genuine issues of public safety. Our voices were heard loud and clear. This change is happening because of you, and that is something to be proud of.The work on Eaton Street will begin in a timely fashion, and when I have the full details, I will let you know so that you are prepared for any potential delays that may occur due to the restriping.Also, I want to thank Mayor Elorza, and I applaud his vision for a City that is responsive to multimodal transportation. Although the plan that was rolled out for Eaton Street did not fit or serve our community’s needs, I genuinely thank Mayor Elorza and his Directors for their professionalism and their willingness to engage with us to reconsider this plans implantation.Therefore, due to these recent developments, the community meeting that was tentatively scheduled on October 2, 2019, at St. Pius V Church has been canceled.As any additional information regarding this important community issue arises, such news will be shared on the City Council web page and social media:You can follow the City Council on Facebook @PVDCityCouncil, Twitter @PVDCityCouncil, Instagram @PVDCityCouncil, and on the web at council.providenceri.gov.Thank you for being vocal and caring community members! I appreciate you and your willingness to engage on these important issues.If you have other neighborhood concerns, I invite you to join us at my monthly community meeting which is held the first Monday of every month (if Monday is a holiday it falls on Tuesday of the same week) at Mt. Pleasant Community Library from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM.If you have other concerns, you can always call my office at 401-521-7477.Sincerely,
Jo-Ann Ryan, Majority LeaderProvidence City CouncilCouncilwoman – Ward 5