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Providence Planning On-Street, Brightly Painted ‘Urban Trails’

A pilot on Broad Street this summer demonstrated safety-importing bump outs and how the urban trail system would look and function. Photo: Sam Goater

The city of Providence, Rhode Island, is inching closer to its broader vision of connecting every neighborhood with on-street biking and walking "trails."

This coming spring, Broad Street in South Providence will be redesigned, incorporating street murals, curb bump outs and an on-street biking and walking "trail." The city has secured $2.5 million for construction along a 2.5-mile segment connecting the neighborhood to downtown on Broad, Clifford Pine, Friendship streets.

This summer, residents got to test out the concept during a two-day trial. Volunteers painted murals in key locations and installed the bike/walk paths along Broad Street. Designs from local artists Dana Heng, Tamara Diaz, and Lisa Perez were used to create pedestrian plazas and bump outs at some key locations where there have been safety issues.

"At the outset of the project, I think a lot of folks were really skeptical of what our intentions might be, who this facility might be for," Martina Haggerty, the city's lead coordinator for the project, told Streetsblog. "What we saw was community members really seeing that this was a facility for them and for their children. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive."

Broad Street demonstration. Photo: City of Providence
Broad Street demonstration. Photo: Sam Goater
Broad Street demonstration. Photo: City of Providence

Providence is now moving to make much of the tested ideas (pictured above) permanent.

The idea for a network of "greenways" emerged from the grassroots, neighborhood groups, last year and was inspired by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

Other key segments of the network — called City Walk — are still somewhat conceptual. Haggerty couldn't tell us exactly how long the whole system will be.

Photo: City of Providence
Photo: City of Providence
Providence's "City Walk" on-street biking and walking trails are one of the projects targeted for cuts by Rhode Island DOT. Photo: City of Providence

But one key link is already under construction: the $17-million pedestrian bridge over the Providence River. The project takes advantage of left over trusses from Interstate 95, which is being relocated to open up new land in the city for development. When the pedestrian bridge — plus park spaces on both sides — is completed, it will expand City Walk to 3.5 miles and connect to the East Bay Bike Path.

"We’ve shifted the way we talk about bike paths a little but to talk about them more inclusively," said Haggerty. "It will include the protected shared use path facility."

"When complete, City Walk will strengthen connections between nine Providence neighborhoods stretching from India Point Park on the City's East Side to Roger Williams Park in South Providence," said Haggerty. "The project will connect various parks, schools, and civic institutions in between, improve safety for people traveling by all modes, and celebrate the diversity and culture of Providence neighborhoods through the inclusion of public art, signage, and vibrant public places."

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