New Providence Crash Map Highlights Bicyclist and Pedestrian Dangers
November 20, 2023
PROVIDENCE — When walking on North Main Street, Greg Gerritt said he keeps his head on a swivel.
When crossing the street, he said, “you have to sprint within the first second of the walk sign.” He often runs across the street rather than walks, something he said he won’t be able to do for much longer because he’s in his 70s.
“Lights are short, not for drivers,” said Gerritt, “for the pedestrians.”
These and other tips and tricks are things he has picked up his in decades of walking Providence and the North Main Street stretch, and as “part of my training as a jaywalker” when he was a child growing up in New York City. But for those who don’t see or can’t speed up to avoid an oncoming vehicle, Gerritt said the area can be a treacherous place to get around by foot or bicycle.
There have been dozens of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists on North Main Street over the past decade, according to data compiled and displayed on a new crash map tool created by the Providence Streets Coalition (PSC).
The map includes crash data going back to 2010 for the entire city of Providence and offers an insight that Gerritt and others have said is invaluable.
“If you don’t have this, you don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “You can’t change things.”
That was part of the point behind PSC’s efforts to make the map, according to coalition member Jamie Pahigian. Since the organization released the map last week, he said the group has had a lot of positive feedback about the online tool.
The benefits come in multiple parts. The map helps raise “awareness of the dangers people face every day,” and provides data to advocates and decision-makers who want to improve street safety.
The interactive map distinguishes between crashes that are fatal, non-fatal, and do not lead to injuries, as well as incidents that involved bicycle or pedestrians. It also allows users to search by city ward and census block, type of injury, and time of day and year, along with other variables.
Overall, the map shows that since 2010, motor vehicles have hit 3,678 pedestrians and cyclists in Providence, leading to 30 fatalities.
The data also show trends in the crash profiles. During the same time period, 88% of those crashes resulted in an injury; 40% occurred at a signaled-intersections; and 28% were considered hit-and-runs.
“I feel like there are a lot of stories there,” Pahigian told ecoRI News. He noted looking at the signaled intersection data alone, PSC will be able to make more compelling, data-driven arguments for employing safer techniques, such as banning right turns on red in certain areas or all parts of the city, as well as implementing exclusive pedestrian phasing, which stops all vehicles and allows all walk signals to start at once.
“Our hope is that, combined with a commitment to [the city’s pledge to eliminate traffic fatalities on its streets], this map will help us identify hot spots and trends, and make life-saving changes to our road network,” the coalition’s lead organizer, Liza Burkin, said in a statement announcing the map.
On top of improving safety, Pahigian said he would like to see the map encourage a change to public records laws to make crash records public at the state level. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which keeps the statewide data, denied PSC’s request for the information several times, ecoRI News previously reported, and the attorney general ruled the agency had the discretion to do so.
PSC ultimately received the data from the city, which included data on state-maintained roads within city limits.
The most recent fatal pedestrian crashes on North Main Street are not yet included on the map, but the coalition plans to update it each spring.