Public Health & Recreation

Providence Opens ‘Slow Streets’ to Pedestrians and Cyclists

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Highest density neighborhoods and areas where residents have the least yard space were the main factors taken into consideration by Providence officials when determining the city’s nearly 13 miles of Slow Streets. (City of Providence)

With access to Providence parks and green spaces limited up to this point because of the pandemic, Mayor Jorge Elorza has launched a pilot program called Slow Streets to provide extra outside space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Starting May 2, nearly 13 miles of streets will be temporarily closed to most traffic, allowing only access for emergency vehicles, people who live on the streets, trash pickup, people who need to access for essential businesses, or people making local deliveries. Speed limits will also be temporarily capped at 10 mph.

“Today we are unveiling our new Slow Streets program, something that’s been in the works for quite a while, almost three weeks now,” Elorza said during an April 30 virtual announcement. “Our sidewalks are very narrow and bring people in close contact with each other. So, we are taking one first step to help spread people out so they can enjoy the outdoors, stretch their legs, but do so in a way that’s healthy for them and safe for everyone around them.”

Elorza noted that his administration mapped the entire city to make selections for streets to be a part of the initiative.

“We wanted to focus on streets and neighborhoods where we anticipated there would be a lot of activity, and essentially looked at densest neighborhoods,” he said. “We also looked at communities that lacked backyard space.”

To enforce reduced speed limits, physical distancing, and traffic, $15,000 was spent on barriers, and a network of volunteers was created to monitor the situation.

In addition to the Slow Streets initiative, certain parks near high-density residential neighborhoods will be opened for local active access only, though courts, fields, and playgrounds will remain closed.

“By active use we mean either you’re continually walking, running, or biking, but you have to be moving,” the mayor said. “They’re also accessible for local access only, meaning that we’re not opening up the parking lots, so you can’t drive to them. If you can walk to them or ride a bike to them, they’re accessible to you.”

Other cities such as San Diego and Oakland have also implemented similar initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic, and were part of the inspiration for bringing the idea to Providence.

“Part of this plan is to intentionally create a place for cars to safely coexist with pedestrians, and people riding bicycles,” Elorza said. “It’s possible. We’ve seen it done in other places, and we’re excited to try it here.”

Slow Streets include:
Oxford and Ontario streets, between Elmwood Avenue and Eddy Street

Vermont and Farragut avenues, between FC Greene Memorial Boulevard and Michigan Avenue

Waverly and Peace streets, between Union and Elmwood avenues
Elmdale Avenue, What Cheer Avenue, and Moorefield Street, between Plainfield and Whitehall streets
Leah and Roanoke streets, between Atwells and Academy avenues
Brown and Camp streets, between Meeting Street and Stenton Avenue
Federal and Ring streets, between Tobey and Dean streets
Governor Street, between Wickenden and Angell streets
Amherst Street, between Erastus and Bowdoin streets
Pleasant Valley Parkway and Nelson Street, between Rosebank Avenue and Walton Street
Parade Street, between Chapin Avenue and Westminster Street
Eastwood Street, between Merino and Heath streets
Camden Street, between Douglas and Chalkstone avenues
Roger Williams Park Loop Road, FC Greene Memorial Boulevard, Maple Avenue, and Cladrash’s Avenue.

Open parks include: Roger Williams Park; India Point Park; Dexter Park; Gano Park; Blackstone Park; Neutaconkanut Park; Wanskuck Park; Riverside Park; Donigian Park.

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  1. Mayor Elorza deserves credit for trying this, and its being done in a spirit of experimentation and willingness to modify things depending on feed-back. Indeed the city has asked for volunteers to monitor and provide feedback. But its always difficult to challenge motorists sense of entitlement who don’t want to be slowed down or lose a parking space, and Golocal already reported Councilman Michael Correia has challenged the plan and the $15,000 being spent to implement it.

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