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East Providence council revokes approval of protected bike lane after just one week

Drivers had complained about confusing traffic patterns and dangerous cyclists who don’t obey traffic laws

A rendering of how 1st Street would look with its new bike lane.
A rendering of how 1st Street would look with its new bike lane.City of East Providence

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. —The East Providence City Council early Wednesday morning yanked approval of a new dedicated two-way bike lane on the East Bay Bike Path, just a week into what was supposed to be a monthlong pilot.

The council’s vote, which came after 1 a.m. in the midst of a seven-hour meeting, is sure to disappoint local bicyclers and runners, who had asked the council to keep the pilot program on First Street going for the whole month. Drivers had complained about a new confusing traffic pattern that they said was dangerous. Local businesses also complained, city council members said.

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“We have vehicles who have been endangered,” said Councilwoman Anna Sousa, who introduced the resolution to revoke approval. “The bikers are doing OK, because they’re not even following the traffic laws, stopping at intersections or stop signs, they’re just on their merry way, which is good for them, but it’s not good for the cars.”

The vote was 3 to 2, with Sousa, Ricardo Mourato, and Bob Rodericks voting to revoke approval. Sousa had long voiced opposition to this particular bike lane, saying the new traffic pattern was too confusing for drivers. Councilmen Nathan Cahoon and Robert Britto voted to keep the program going. It was an initiative of the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva, who had strongly supported the bike lane.

“I just want to cut the losses now,” Rodericks said. “It’s no one’s fault. I don’t think anyone intended to cause headaches. It’s not the right spot.”

The dedicated bike lane connected a gap near the beginning of the East Bay Bike Path, which runs from Providence to Bristol, where bikers have to get onto a busy city street before reconnecting with the 14.5-mile path. The lane, running about a quarter mile, protected bikers and runners with curbing, paint, and bollards from Warren Avenue to Veterans Memorial Parkway. For drivers, First Street became a one-way going northbound for some parts and southbound for other parts. The city had said it would see how things went for the first 30 days.

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“Despite all the signs, it takes time to learn to follow the signs and avoid driving the wrong way,” DaSilva had said in a Twitter message. “The goal is to create safer roads for pedestrians, bicyclist and motorist.”

Only a few days after the new bike lane was up and running, though, Sousa had introduced a resolution to remove it.

The order to remove the protected bike lane came despite bikers and runners who asked the council to keep the pilot running.

“We all know change is hard, new traffic patterns are hard,” Providence resident and runner Matt Sheaff told the council before the vote. “It’s a little disconcerting that two days after the pilot started, there was already a public meeting notice to strike the pilot seven days later. Let’s give the 30 days a chance.”

City officials told the council that they had not heard of any accidents in the area, and that people were getting used to the new pattern as the days went on.

The project had cost a few thousand dollars and was paid for with existing city funds.

“I believe it needs more time,” Britto, the council president, said at the meeting Wednesday.

It will not receive more time. The city said it may take a few weeks to actually remove the bike lane.

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Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.