One of our commenters, Matt Moritz, who (until recently) has been the president of the RI Bicycle Coalition, said that the Central Falls bike route was "an okay compromise". I don't want to unduly pick on Matt personally, since he's a nice and upstanding person and an excellent asset to the community, but I do find very frequently that his comments take this form ("x thing that James thinks is inexcusable is actually as good as we can do, realistically" with a real emphasis on the "realistically" part). I find, in fact, that it's not just Matt who says things like this, but that this is the kind of thing that is said in organized bike culture in general. It made me crazy to hear some people in the organized biking community fawn over the new sharrows when they were unveiled in Providence, as if they were totally unaware of how ineffective and insulting they were.
I think this is the reason Rhode Island doesn't have better biking. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by not demanding more.
Compare and Contrast
I've arranged some Google Streetview photos of the Central Falls bike route, and some of Broad Street. I'd like readers to decide whether they think Central Falls made "an okay compromise" when they decided on their routing.
Now, as I said, there are some small sections of this route that are decent looking, like this block (although, again, though nice looking, I wouldn't say that this is anything special to bike on. Just a normal street--Note that this block has not been traffic calmed in any way):
But then pretty quickly, the route starts to look like this:
Oh yeah, that's what I like:
Bring me that 1970s orange. You know I like my surface parking lots. . .
Mm mmm. . .
Nothing like a creepy tunnel under the Amtrak train with a razor-wired jail facility on the other side to say Visit the Beautiful Blackstone Valley.
Central Falls is actually a really beautiful city. There's plenty that people could see of it if the designated East Coast Greenway route didn't roll people past the city's backside. And CF residents, the vast majority of which live out of range of this route, would be better served by one that goes on a major thoroughfare, like Broad Street or Dexter Street (probably both).
Is there even a contest between which of these two routes shows the world what is so amazing about Central Falls?
The best way for CF to address this is to put protected bike lanes right on Broad Street.
*These pictures are from Google Streetview, and are not necessarily in linear order of how they'd be approached on a bike trip, but you can also go to Google Maps and check out some of the visuals for yourself. It's about a half-mile long route.