Backroom Deal Could Put Future of Two Bicycle Projects in Jeopardy

Editor’s note (Sept. 18, 6:39 p.m.): The Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition was recently told by state officials that both projects will move forward.

By RHODE ISLAND BICYCLE COALITION

The city of Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are working on a deal behind closed doors to redirect funding from two state bicycle/pedestrian projects — City Walk and the Woonasquatucket River Greenway between Eagle Square and downtown — to pay for city-owned bridges. Work on both projects, which were already underway, has been halted.

When complete both projects will create safe corridors through Providence, corridors that connect with the greater greenway network and current bike paths to provide safe routes for people who walk and bike.

This is one reason why people choose to live in a city like Providence: cities that are bike and pedestrian friendly, cities where the local elected officials care that there are safe corridors for walking and cycling.

Halting the City Walk and the Woonasquatucket River Greenway corridor projects to divert the funds to pay for bridges flies in the face of creating the city where we want to live, work, and play.

When the mayor and the governor were elected in 2014, bicycle and pedestrian advocates were ecstatic at their promotion of bicycles, strong support for complete streets, and their understanding of what a difference it makes for the city and the state to become biking and walking friendly.

This vision is betrayed by actions like this, and this proposal sets a dangerous precedent. We urge everyone reading this to contact the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, and/or RIDOT.

Make your voice heard, and ask them to reconsider this devastating proposal. Here are some talking points:

Bicycle funding should be used for bicycle infrastructure projects.

Ongoing projects should be completed. Abandoning projects mid-stream is wasteful and undermines public faith in city and state government.

Rhode Island spends far less on bicycle infrastructure than neighboring states as a portion of our budget, and raiding these projects exacerbates that.

Infrastructure that enables biking and walking is important for the health, well-being, and safety of Rhode Island residents.

These projects serve low-income communities, in places where many don’t have other transportation options.

The mission of the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition “is to cultivate a physical and social environment in Rhode Island that encourages bicycling for all ages.”