EAST PROVIDENCE — For years, the East Bay Bike Path has had a quarter-mile-long problem: A stretch in East Providence where the protected path ends and briefly becomes a city street.
Bikers who are trying to travel the 14.5 miles from India Point Park in Providence to Independence Park in Bristol often get confused or lost when they pop out on Warren Avenue. They’re supposed to go down 1st Street, then link up again with the protected path at Veterans Memorial Parkway, but if you’re not familiar with the area it’s not very clear how they’re supposed to go.
It’s about to get more clear: The city of East Providence is building a dedicated two-way bike lane on 1st Street, using roadway paint, curbing and bollards to protect bikers as they travel by the Black Duck Tavern on down to where the bike path starts again. Car travel will become one-way on a street that’s often used as a cut-through.
The project is a pilot: They’ll reassess after this summer whether to make it a permanent fixture of 1st Street. Work is expected to be done the first week of June. But it’s part of broader efforts to make East Providence more bike-friendly to Townies and two-wheeled traversers alike.
“It’s like no man’s land,” William Fazioli, the director of planning and economic development for East Providence, said of the current situation on 1st Street. “If you’re not familiar with the area, you’re not quite sure where to proceed to find the East Bay Bike Path. We’re hoping this makes it a lot clearer and a lot safer.”
The project will cost a few thousand dollars and be paid out of existing city funds, Fazioli said. The stretch will become the first dedicated bike lane on a roadway in East Providence, he added. The city is also doing striping on Crescent View Avenue to make it more visible for bike users as part of this project.
It’s been some time in coming: In a 2019 report prepared for statewide planners, this stretch was identified as the top priority for future bike lane funding in the state.
And in January 2020, just before COVID-19 changed everything, the city of East Providence did a study about how they could create an arts and entertainment district in Watchemoket Square. The top concern: Bike and pedestrian safety.
Chris Martin, who’s the executive director of the East Providence Waterfront Commission and who is also on the board of Bike Newport, said the improvements will help people who aren’t as confident on a bike and might not want to venture out into an unprotected city street on a bike.
“We hope this creates a safer path for those who might not be as confident riding on the roads,” Martin said.