Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Providence Bike Advisory Commitee

You may not believe it by the poor condition of the roads, the lack of bicycle friendly signing and striping, and the attitudes displayed by some of the higher horse-powered amongst us, but Providence does have a Bicycle Advisory Commitee. We met last night to discuss the up coming (May 18, 2007) Bike to Work Day event. Bike to Work Day is an opportunity to show your support for those who find bicycles a good option for daily commutes into the congested downtown. These events occur in many places where there is an awareness that the choice a bicycle over the single occupancy vehicle is available to many of us and there are many more who would like the opportunity make that choice.

My feeling is that the biggest obstacle for most is the perception that it is unsafe to ride a bicycle on city streets. Of course, it can be a daunting proposition for those who are trying to imagine themselves trading the relative comfort and safety of being behind their familiar steering wheel for the relative exposure and effort of riding a bicycle; but Bike to Work Day is an opportunity for a publicly sanctioned event that draw cyclists together into a visible unit doing what they do safely and efficiently. Those who attend this event tend to come from all over and have different routes they prefer which, at least on this day, converge at a table full of fruit and pastry laid out with them in mind.

The upside is that events like this provide an opportunity to showcase a community of professionals, tax payers, voters and what have-yous who consider their bicycle a viable option to making that regular trip into the city during the most congested times on our public roads. It is an opportunity to repesent an adult on a bicycle as one less adult in a car - taking up space on our roads, burning fossil fuels, filling up valuable real estate currently used as parking. These adults are happy to do it because they realize their ride is at once a necessary trip to work as well as the excercise they find a hard time fitting into their increasingly busy days.

The downside is that we celebrate this convergence one day out of the year. Politicians show up to talk about all the things they have done to support bicycling as a viable form of transportation and to share all of the warm and fuzzy feelings that are associated with saying in words that they are on board with bicycling for every one's heath and welfare. When the PA is turned off and the banners are taken down, where is the follow through? Where is the "Providence Bicycle Network" that of friends in City Hall have been boasting about for the past 10 years now? It sure looks good on paper, but I'm not sure they're getting it.

What they are failing to realize is that Providence is in the Stone Ages when it comes to providing real incentives in the form of public awareness and infrastructure that should let cyclists and motorists know where to be on the road and how to behave. When young, vibrant people are searching for a city to call home they look for such things to attract them here and when they don't see it, they take the job in one of many cities where they do.

For us as individuals however, its not enough to saythat the City owes us these things. Its a chicken-or-egg thing. Let our politicians know that we are out there by being out there. Don't wait for that magical day when a lane gets striped from your front door to the office-it just aint gonna happen.


Jackson said...

Well said, as usual.

Connie said...

For those of us who commute daily (this = 1 less car on Providence Streets and one less car parking on a Providence Street!) from the EBBP, we just heard that the path will be unavailable starting on May 21st for at *least* 17 months for construction. The pictures of the proposed finished product look great, but in the mean time, the Henderson bridge is it for us - and perhaps the Bike to Work day will be a good time to grab the mayor (or anyone else who will listen) and ask for some protection (k-rails? signage?) along that route so we'll feel a bit safer during this long stretch. Thanks for the idea!

Connie said...

Woops! I meant to say the path "across the Washington bridge" will be closed for at least 17 months - not "the path"! So we'll have to take the Henderson for that time - results in 4 extra miles per day for me...