By Bari Freeman, Executive Director, Bike Newport
On September 23, 2020, the following message was sent from Bike Newport to all candidates for City/Town Council in the three municipalities of Aquidneck Island: Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. Thanks to all of the candidates who replied for taking the time to share their vision. Their responses appear below in alphabetical order by municipality. For Newport, Ward candidates appear first, followed by At-Large.
Dear Council Candidates: First and foremost, thank you for running. There are few greater statements of commitment to community than the willingness to serve in public office.
We are sending this message to all candidates for City/Town Council in Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. We hope to gain an understanding of your thoughts/ideas related to biking and walking in our community. We are posing one question only which allows you to share your personal vision. Thank you in advance for your participation.
Background: One of the outcomes of the pandemic is a surge in bicycling and walking. Biking and walking provide the opportunity to avoid the confinements of cars and busses, to move about at safe distances, and enjoy the fresh air and benefits of physical activity. There are more people biking and walking for both recreation and transportation, and there are more people who want to bike and walk but don’t yet feel comfortable or safe enough to do so.
THE QUESTION: What is your vision to help people ride and walk safely in our community? What actual steps might you take to achieve your vision?
1M. Terri Flynn
In response to the trend pointed out in the background above, the Middletown Town Council moved the “Drainage Ditch Abatement Program” (Capital Improvement Plan Project #851-2021-001 for Indian Ave, Paradise Ave, Brown’s Lane and Green End Ave) from 2023 to 2021. Even before COVID-19, I would worry every time my bicycle-enthusiast husband was out on a ride, as it has always been difficult to ride a bicycle in the traffic on the Island.
My “vision to help people ride and walk safely in our community” would include short term actions, projects review and a longer term goal.
Community education is action that could start immediately. Make it known that walkers and cyclists are on the rise. In a variety of media, push public service announcements like:
Drivers: share the road, wait behind cyclists/walkers when a vehicle is in the opposite lane;
Cyclists: ride on the right, follow the traffic rules and know the exceptions (like riding on the sidewalks is legal on East Main and West Main when there are no walkers because it is safer), locations of bicycle repair stations;
Walkers: walk on the left;
All road users: be on the lookout for other road users; outline best etiquette for road users to each other; understand mask-wearing and social distance expectations.
Proactive reminders and reinforcement could be put in place as well. Place flashing message boards, speed alerts or photo cameras, especially on at-risk local roads (Turner, Mitchells, Paradise, for example) to increase awareness and help maximize safe behavior. In addition, establish bike lanes or walking paths where possible, and install safety rails where it is not.
There is much information and many current projects that address and impact this issue. Of interest are the “Aquidneck Island Transportation Study” done by the State in 2011 that explores more bicycle accommodation on East Main Road, and “RIDOT Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) Proposals” for 2017-2025. I believe both reports can be accessed through the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. This information along with the knowledge of ongoing infrastructure projects (Newport ramp/North End, West Main/Coddington, West Side Navy land) could embrace a longer term vision of continuous, connected, convenient and safe “Multiple Use Path(s)” (a term proposed by an enthusiastic resident) that run the length of the Island, or beyond. Connecting with the working groups of these projects is critical to understand the conversation and accommodation each project has for various road users and their safety.
Path(s) such as this would be of great value. In a study of the Property Values/Desirability Effects of Bike Paths Adjacent to Residential Areas by the Center of Applied Demography and Research of the University of Delaware in 2006, they concluded that “the majority of studies indicates that the presence of a bike trail either increases property values and ease of sale slightly or has no effect,” (page 11) and that, “The properties within 50 meters of the bike paths show a positive significance of at least $8,800 and even higher when controlled for specific variables” (page 20). Such a path would increase the health and vitality of the area and would also attract more visitors to our area, while providing residents with a healthy, safe alternative to riding on streets we cannot improve in other ways.
In the future, more people may be permanently working from home and bicycling/walking could become a necessary pastime for physical/mental health. Perhaps the future need will be a bike path protected from the weather and/or a “Field House“ for year-round use; something the size of the old Newport Grand or something you would see on a college campus. The facility could support different levels to accommodate different activities: rock walls, pickleball, racquet ball, tennis, wave pool, walking track and maybe even dining and live theatre stage, making it something that could also provide social-emotional support, for a truly holistic health center.
2M. Lawrence Frank – no reply
3M. Thomas Heaney
Thanks for the opportunity to answer this question. Before I address the question I want to say that I am an avid biker and am often ‘cruisin’ the road on the island.
First I’d like to say we need to share the roads.Our island has many narrow country roads and this requires us to slow down and make room for the walker, rider, and driver. I think it’s accurate to point out, due to COVID, there are more people out on the roads recreating. So, slow down and take care when passing walkers and riders.
Secondly, I would ensure the public has access to all our parks and beaches. I believe part of the congestion on the roads is due to the decision to close the parking areas for recreational spaces (beach and park parking areas) during the COVID pandemic. Closing these areas limited the options for residents. The decision literally left the residents no other option than to “take it to the streets.”
Finally, we need a campaign to designate roads (with signs and road markings) around the island as bike and walking routes. Again, due to the nature of many of our roads (narrow country roads) it’s impractical to think we can establish bike lanes in most places. There is simply no room along many of our roadways. However, we can put signage and road markings along the route frequented by riders and walkers. These measures would alert the rider, walker, and driver of the likelihood of encountering each other along these roadways.
4M. Gregory Huet
Thank you for the opportunity to offer my thoughts on my vision for residents to safely walk and ride bikes in our community. I am an advocate for open space and the work that the Aquidneck Land Trust has done and continues to do to preserve open space and make it possible to expand walking and biking trails throughout Aquidneck Island. If elected to the Middletown Town Council, I will work with the Planning and Zoning Boards and all other organizations interested in promoting initiatives that advance these goals. I believe the West side development (Old Navy Lodge property area) provides an opportunity to expand walking and biking trails as well. I think it is important that Middletown work with all parties to help connect existing and future bike and walking trails and continue to preserve and expand open space areas.
5M. Christopher Logan
I will be honest; this is an area that I do not know enough about but my wife mentions the need for safety enhancements to me frequently as she is a devoted walker of our two dogs. I was an avid biker in my youth as it was my primary mode of transportation to work in the summer months. As I have grown older, I have moved farther away from riding. One thing that is very apparent to me is that we have a lack of recreation resources in Middletown. I have been focusing my efforts on understanding the programs we can develop to engage the youth in this community, but I also see the need to put some focus on this matter also. I know that there has been great work done in Newport to enhance biking opportunities and create better safety mechanisms to support riders, but I am unaware of what has been done across Middletown and Portsmouth.
Just recently a young freshman in Middletown, Jordan Brown, raised money and awareness to have two bicycle repair stations implemented at the Gaudet Middle School and at the Middletown Public Library. I commend her for this effort and hopefully this can be used as a launch pad to raise more awareness for this issue across the town, one which I will fully support.
In direct response to your questions regarding vision for people riding and walking safely and what steps would be taken I submit the following. Having lived here for almost my entire life (spent 8 years in the Marine Corps) there has never been a good answer to the safety and accessibility of riders or walkers. This is a huge problem for me as the safety of the citizens must be addressed. I have seen some projects get underway regarding the implementation of sidewalks, but it is not enough. We still have areas where sidewalks are not in place, take a look at Aquidneck Avenue. This is unacceptable especially as that throughway sits between our middle and high schools. This is not the only place where this is an issue as the lack of sidewalks across all of Middletown creates a safety issue for both pedestrians and motorists.
I am still unaware of any bike lanes in Middletown also. I see that as a major opportunity especially down in the Atlantic Beach area. We also have some of the finest open space areas across the east side of Middletown that are barely wide enough for two passing cars, let alone a cyclist.
I think we have an opportunity across all of Aquidneck island to install a bike/walking path along the west side of the island. It is open, scenic and can facilitate the space necessary to accomplish this goal. Major question on this is how do we pursue the land needed to make that a reality and are there any current ordinances preventing us from moving a project like that forward. Obviously, we would need to explore funding a project like this also whether that is through community donations or potential open space grants.
As you can see, I do not have all the answers for this issue, but I am more than willing to do the work to learn more about these needs and support initiatives that make our community more accessible, safe and inviting. I look forward to working with members of the community and Bike Newport to develop and execute a plan to support these initiatives.
6M. Audrey McLeod Pfeiffer
I think bike trails, walking trails and sidewalks are important as they foster physical exercise for all ages and as a RN I support their development and accessibility for that reason. I believe if we had more sidewalks and bike trails kids would be able to SAFELY self-transport to school. What can town council do to promote bike trails and sidewalks? I would support using an allotment from CDGB funds and possibly Park and Recreation funds for their development, where road width allows create bike lanes and sidewalks, new developments such as the West Side Master Plan should have a bike lane and the repurposing of the Navy Lodge land should include a walking trail. The Aquidneck Island Land Trust has provided walking trails in many of their land parcels, perhaps they would be willing to do some bike trails (for non-motorized bikes as to not disturb the wildlife).
It is something to think about and thanks again for bringing it to my attention.
7M. James Miller
If I am elected to Middletown Town Council I will push to make our community more livable. We must have the ability to walk safely anywhere in town without having to choose a drainage ditch or an unimproved shoulder as our pathway. In areas where we have sidewalks I will be an advocate of the elimination of obstructions, too many sidewalks have mailboxes and utility poles planted in the middle of the path. These sidewalks need to accommodate all our citizens and be safe for parents with strollers.
Bike access is an important part of making the island and Middletown more livable. As we rehabilitate our roadways and make the town more resilient we have to make room for cyclists where possible. The Connell Highway bike path is a start and must be continued along “Burma Road”.
We should include bike access into zoning changes and make it required to have Bike Parking with the ability to lock our bikes.
Middletown can improve pedestrian and bike travel but it has to be included in our planning process. COVID 19 has increased the desire of people to bike and walk instead of driving. I think making it easier for them to do it makes sense.
8M. Paul Rodrigues
I would suggest several initiatives. First I would like to see all the gutters piped in on the heavily walked, jogged and bicycle roads like Paradise Ave, Green End Ave and Third Beach Road. I would also like the town to continue to perform traffic studies on our roads to enhance safety for cyclists, walkers and joggers.
I believe that we need to work closer with Aquidneck Land Trust to come up with a master plan to extend our walking trails all the way to our beaches. This is something that would not happen over night but this vision needs to become a reality to enable walkers and joggers to have a safer place to to use without the pressures of vehicle issues. I would also like to see Middletown work with Portsmouth and Newport to create a plan for an Island wide bike path like the one in Bristol. This would greatly improve cyclist safety. These initiatives could be partially or fully funded thru grants and in kind services that the town should apply for yearly. We would also need to get our Congressmen and Senators involved to help get funding to make this a reality.
9M. Theresa Santos
Everyone should obey the rules whether you are walking or riding a bike. Please, Please obey the rules. The life you save may be your own. Hoping that this message gets out there.
10M. Robert Sylvia – no reply
11M. Daniel Titus
Walking is a daily part of my life. Not only for exercise, but for solace in the morning before my day begins. In Middletown, where do we go? Gaudet track? The Greenway? The beach or Sachuest Point? Maybe a neighborhood if you are lucky enough to live in one that is safer to walk in. Biking is a little more difficult. For a vast majority of the time you are in the saddle, you are sharing travel lanes with motor vehicles.
As a prolific walker and occasional bike-rider, the town should consider, and I would support, alternatives to motor vehicles.
First would be making sure our roadways are in good repair and clean, including the “gutter” areas that bikers and walkers tend to use. Repairs and patches that seem insignificant to a car, can be significant to a bike.
For walkers, high traffic roads that have enough room should have curbing, sidewalks, crosswalks, and lighting for safety.
Designate shared lanes with highway-style markings. Where enough room exists, at the minimum, stripe an independent bike lane.
On the particularly congested roads that have the room, create barriered bike lanes.
Require all road refreshes to evaluate the feasibility of enhancements for bike and pedestrian safety.
I am not opposed to making streets one-way to shape traffic and increase safety of all.
The larger, more congested roads like East/West Main, Aquidneck Avenue, and Valley Road should be evaluated for bike lanes.
I would support the addition of a bike lane to the railroad right-of-way, that could connect to the new Connell Highway bike path, allowing walkers and bikers access to a long, safe, and beautiful path.
Education of bikers and walkers is also important. Some people think that since they are walkers or bikers that they have some immunity to common sense and traffic laws. How many times have I seen people walking with their backs against traffic wearing dark clothing and, worse, ear pods? Or bike riders ignoring traffic rules doing whatever they want? Using our roadways, regardless of the mode of transportation, has responsibility. If vehicles are cited for ignoring or breaking the law, so to should pedestrians and bicyclists.
Forcefully police vehicular traffic for speed, distracted driving, and cell phone use.
Sadly, on my short 3.3 mile commute to work, I pass 2 white bicycles. That is 2 too many. I would love to be able to safely ride with my family across our town, and island, without worrying about injury.
The most important thing is we try something – anything, even if it is a pilot and temporary in nature to help people ride and walk safer. I do believe we as a community can find solutions for these problems.
12M. Dennis Turano
Biking on the Island: I think it’s important that the island communities get together and put together an island wide safety program. The number one issue I hear from citizens is, bikers need to follow the rules of the road and or change the law or classification of the bike. I think an open forum attended by all would be a great expertise. Thank you.
13M. Kathleen Ventura
My vision is to have every road be updated with bicycle lanes, curb extensions or paved shoulders. I would also want to put side walks on more roads for people and strollers. This would also require more crosswalks and intersection treatments. The steps I would take to achieve this would be to budget properly for it. Every time a road needs to be paved or resurfaced, build into that project’s budget the necessary funding for one of the aforementioned pedestrian / bicycle improvements. We could use the civic appropriations that are typically paid out to state wide or national organizations like the American Red Cross, and put that money to use for the benefit of Middletown and use it for community development.
14M. Antone Viveiros – no reply
15M. Barbara Von Villas
There are really 2 issues. First, I have heard many complaints about bike riders who do not obey the rules of the road. You might conduct a campaign that would promote safe and responsible biking. That being said, I would support the painting of bike lanes and, perhaps, even signage where the width of the roads permits.
16M. Arthur Weber Jr.
For walking I would recommend supporting the land trust existing trail system and expand it where possible.We need to have a real bike path and symbols painted on the roadway. A parallel to the railroad tracks has been an option for a long period of time.
17M. Thomas Welch III
My family are all cyclists. A few years ago, my oldest son and I rode from Newport to Washington DC and experienced a myriad of bicycle friendly sections and many that were not. Born and raised in Middletown, cycling was a prominent method of transportation. Increases in traffic have made the safety of riding much harder.
For commuting or exercise the ability to safely navigate the island are especially difficult when trying to access Jepson Lane from the south and Middle Road to the north. The addition of a dedicated bike lane on Coddington Highway is an exciting piece of the puzzle. I would like to incorporate similar accommodation during the development of the Middletown owned “Navy land” section of West Main Road, perhaps with continued access to Burma Road.
The rail section on the west side of the island is a complicated undertaking. With enough input from stakeholders and a continued push from advocates, I think it holds tremendous potential as a bike/walking trail like Bristol and others up state.
The governments of the three island communities need to work together to develop common goals and a strategy for implementing a comprehensive plan that will benefit everyone. I would like to promote an island wide committee to work toward this end.
1N: First Ward – Hugo DeAscentis
Thank you for including me on your e-mail list and thank you to Bike Newport for their interest in my campaign for Newport City Council 1st ward.
Regarding my interest and vision for biking (and walking) within our communities:
I have been biking on city streets for more than 60 years. To a young child growing up in Newport, a bicycle was the best way to cover large distances. Not only did it save time, and provide an easier way to move about, it also provided a young child with gratifying feeling of independence. I feel strongly that today’s child should continue to have the same opportunities and experiences. My goal and focus is clearly on providing a safe cycling environment for all (young and old). As an older cyclist I see issues to address regarding safe cycling connections between all the Newport County communities. Safe dedicated pathways are needed to connect Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Jamestown, Tiverton, and Little Compton. BTW the new Sakonnet bridge was done right! Analysis of any bike path will show their tremendous popularity for recreation and physical activity for both cyclists and pedestrians – year round! The best approach to developing this infrastructure is to work simultaneously with all local public works departments and RIDOT and RIDEM. With enough momentum, cycling will be enhanced and communities will be connected – safely.
2N: First Ward – Angela McCalla
I envision a space in which all forms of transportation would co-exist equally. Newport is small enough to consider pilot programs that explore different ideas for transportation and to be an example for other similar cities. Traveling through Newport using different modes of transportation enhances the experience of our city, whether walking, biking, driving, or utilizing public transportation.
While on council, I supported more bike parking and increasing bike lanes. I also drafted a resolution on traffic calming measures in areas that have experienced increased levels of vehicular traffic, particularly commercial vehicles, and increased reports of speeding incidences at a time when there are also increases in pedestrian and bicycle activity. Additionally, the city began drafting the Master Transportation Plan last November to address topics such as parking, traffic, public transit and ridesharing, accessibility opportunities, and active mobility options. In addition to assessing the City’s existing transportation infrastructure, the Transportation Master Plan also provides an opportunity for the community to establish a shared vision to equitably address the transportation challenges facing the city, as well as to set achievable and measurable goals that will shape Newport’s long-term mobility strategy and inform future development. During this time, the drafting of the RFP has been done and has signed off with a Memorandum of Understanding with the state and I expect that the RFP will be released sometime in the near future. I also supported the resolution of Green and Complete Streets that promote more walkable areas and provide mechanisms that would promote slower modes of transport.
3N: Second Ward – Charles Holder
There has been so many great improvements over the last decade for the biking and walking community in Newport. From the increased bike-only and shared lanes on the streets to the updated Broadway streetscapes that allow for safer pedestrian travel are just a couple to mention.
People are looking for ways to lead healthier lifestyles. In large part to the present pandemic, biking and walking have become a much safer way for many to get around. A continued effort in improving the sidewalks, especially in residential areas, will be an important step. I think of the new sidewalks on Gibbs Ave near Memorial Blvd. as well as the streetscapes of Broadway as perfect examples.
My vision goes even further than just the physical aspect of making safer roads and pathways. A very important and often overlooked idea is the actual educating of bicyclists and pedestrians. There needs to be better signage and information available on the proper rules of the road for all to abide by.
Where I work on Lower Thames St. I too often see bicyclists, joggers and skateboarders going the wrong way on one-way streets, weaving in and out of traffic and hopping on and off curbs with a reckless abandon. Even pedestrians will walk blindly into traffic paying no attention to cars or bikes on the road. I have seen too many accidents and know that we can do a better job of enforcing our local rules of road travel.
Here are the steps I will take to achieve safer streets:
- Create better and more visible signage
- Work with Newport Police and Parking Attendants to enforce proper rules by issuing warnings and citations to those who break the rules
- Work with Bike Newport and all bicycle and moped rental businesses to make sure that proper literature is being issued to those who are renting daily.
Funds created from the citations can be put into an account to be used to help fix sidewalks, curbs and fill potholes where needed.
All in all Newport is a tremendous place to ride and walk.
4N: Second Ward – Kim Salerno
Walking and biking in Newport gets people out of the car, and allows them to experience the high quality of our built and natural environment. These activities have multiple benefits across different areas of interest. I would like to see the recommendations from the 2017 Newport Open Space plan transformed into reality. The plan makes the case for an equitable, connected, open and resilient recreational system. It recommends the development of a walking and a cycling route system (including a rail trail and harbor walk) as it strives to connect Newport’s parks and open spaces. The completion of these elements will create an immeasurable quality of life improvement for residents and visitors alike. Walking and biking promote healthy lifestyles, relieve traffic congestion and provide inexpensive means of transportation. These activities build equity in a community that has income inequality. Two actions could assist the creation of and improvement of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. First, the upcoming Transportation Master Plan should emphasize these modalities as primary, rather than alternative, modes of transportation. Newport should promote pedestrian activity to protect our historic assets and to enhance tourism. Second, the state’s new “Take it Outside” campaign (round 2-which provides relief from Covid restrictions) offers potential grant moneys to purchase much needed infrastructure, including bike racks. Grants and other seed money could support further delineating bike routes. Planners should take the next step and put existing pedestrian and biking goals into action by seeking the money to make this happen.
5N: Third Ward – Kate Leonard
City Council has implemented the recommendations of RIDOT which follows National Best Practices. Also, I recommend, if not already the case, that Bike Newport’s Education Director should be applying safety practices due to all the near accidents due to cyclists not following the road rules.
6N: Third Ward – Paul Marshall
As an avid road biker, around town errand rider, and an e-bike-with-my-child casual cruiser – I generally find myself more on two-wheels than four. Newport and the surrounding communities are a perfect place to enjoy biking and walking. The City should be encouraging both activities as they provide health, economic and equity benefits to the entire community.
But due to Newport’s natural and historic landscape, biking and walking are not always the safest or most convenient option for residents and visitors alike. Much like my campaign for 3rd Ward City Council, which leans on 4-E’s – Equity, Education, Environment and Economy, there are 4-E’s toward improving the vision of bike and walk safety in our community. These 4-E’s are Engineering, Education, Encouragement, and Enforcement.
We as a community need to invest in the bike and pedestrian infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, traffic signals, bike lanes, bike racks, signs, etc.) that affect the operation and movement of traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians. This takes Engineering. Then as a community we need to collaborate with organizations to Educate on bike and pedestrian safety. We also need to incentivize private, public and non-profit partnerships to Encourage and promote alternative modes of transportation. Shifting behavior and motivating the public to see alternative modes of transportation has a compounding positive impact. Lastly, we need to Enforce community-based measures and regulations related to bike and pedestrian safety.
In order to execute this vision, we as a community need to utilize the experience of our residents and data-driven methods to produce positive results. As a member of the Planning Board, I have already helped push-forward a Transportation Master Plan that will incorporate vision, logistics, and actionable items to improve bike and pedestrian usage and safety. With this Plan the City can execute Goal T-4 of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, “which is to design bike and pedestrian facilities into street improvement plans and link these into the larger regional network of bike, pedestrian and transit systems.” In the in-between-time, we as the City should continue to be looking for creative and dynamic solutions to improve bike and pedestrian safety.
7N: At-Large – Jamie Bova
I believe strongly in the philosophy of Green & Complete Streets – building a city that is safe and inviting for all road users. We need separated and protected bike lanes in as many areas of the City as feasible; it is dangerous and intimidating to bike in many sections of Newport. We also need to build new or replace damaged sidewalks across the City; it is unsafe to lack sidewalks or have them not be ADA compliant. Currently in development is a Green & Complete Streets ordinance for Newport. The Master Transportation Plan is also in the works and will be the most comprehensive traffic study done in Newport in decades. It is pivotal that both of these projects are successfully accomplished.
There needs to be more than just plans, though. I am committed to actively working with the City Manager, local non-profits and organizations, and other partners to find funding sources to accelerate the work and construction needed to make Newport streets safe and inviting for all road users. We need to be constantly committed to the upgrading and improvement of our streets and sidewalks – I’m in this for the long haul!
8N: At-Large – Lynn Ceglie
This is such a tough question to answer because Newport’s infrastructure of roads and sidewalks is already built. The North End – being Newport’s final frontier in the way of development, has the opportunity to be more bike friendly. I am very hopeful that the Pell Bridge realignment will give bike riders safe passage from the North End to Downtown. The same vision has to be applied to all the developable land.
Certainly more safe cycling opportunities should be an element in our master transportation plan. I do believe we need fun, safe places for kids to ride without the threat of cars. Perhaps carving out areas in larger parks could be of benefit to young people.
Bike Newport has approached safety in many ways including community information campaigns and education and I look forward to their guidance and professional input.
9N: At-Large – Elizabeth Cullen
This question is near and dear to me. Having lived on the north end of the Point neighborhood since 1991, I’ve been hoping — and prodding the city — to improve the safety and aesthetics of the mile that separates the Point neighborhood from the Connell Highway shopping district. As president of the Point Association from 2010-2015, I encouraged city leaders to improve the rail corridor, the crossings, and complete a bike/walk path. It’s essential to connect our neighborhood with those to the north and help area kids access downtown. The North End area has been ignored, to the point of blight, for too long. Newport needs leaders who are ready to take action, have the time to devote to working with all stakeholders — local, state, and national — and are capable of making needed connections to get the job done!
The time has come to take action and finally implement what has been on the table for years. As an elected city official, I would prioritize three plans that have been verbally batted around for too long:
1) Complete Streets:
This concept has been mulled around for years. Our nation passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Our city was too slow to react. Several unfortunate accidents, resulting in deaths, have occurred. The time has come to move forward with the resolution that Bike Newport proposed. Newport leaders are notorious for talking the talk; let’s start walking and biking our way to the goal.
To add context to the need for a greater sense of urgency, some “complete streets” history:
Bike Newport in 2010 first proposed a resolution (which passed unanimously) to enact policies that would ensure plan and operate roadways with all users in mind – including bicyclists, transit riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
In 2011, city officials proposed this transportation plan to the state: http://www.planning.ri.gov/documents/tip/Newport.pdf
Items on the list include, the Goat Island Causeway and Connell Highway. Close to ten years later, we await action.
In 2015, Scott Wolf, Executive Director of Grow Smart RI, said,
“We’ve worked with a number of municipal officials in pursuing what we call “complete streets” planning to include design elements that improve mobility, safety and economic growth in our urban and town centers”, he said, adding “We’re very pleased to be involved in improving quality of place in Newport, as we continue our commitment to helping Rhode Island capitalize on its strengths and assets.”
2) Transportation Master Plan:
More good ideas that are vulnerable to our city’s chronic insufficient follow-through.
Without the benefit of a proper strategic plan, our city leaders are left drifting in a sea of well-meaning proposals, resolutions, and untethered plans. If elected, one of my top priorities will be to convene a meeting to set a concrete way forward for an actual Strategic Plan. Without it, all other plans have nothing to hold them to account.
Recently, bids went out for the development of another master transportation plan. The request for proposals allows a 21-month window for completion. I fear, like so often the case in our transactional political cycles, the momentum will again be lost.
3) NBBJ’s North End Urban Plan:
From their first meeting in January 2020, I’ve closely followed the work of NBBJ. They have proven to be top-notch professionals, up to the task. Let’s move forward as a community to accomplish what they’ve laid out for us. Their plan is the ideal North Star, let’s follow it!
“…dense, diverse development at a range of development scales to create lively street life enjoyed by the public. New housing options, recreational spaces, and connectivity will be designed to meet the needs expressed by Newporters.
Landscape architects will plan for stormwater management and flood mitigation with green and open spaces, and increased resiliency in this low-lying coastal area. Options for renewable energy generation will also be explored through this process.”
As someone who has watched the can get kicked for 30 years, I would work with my city council colleagues to set in motion (and finally complete) the batch of perennial plans that take root on city hall shelves. Newport needs a hardworking caretaker prepared to dig in, seed, and purposefully cultivate our colorful garden to fruition, for the benefit of all our citizens.
10N: At-Large – Elizabeth Fuerte
I envision a city where we all do our duty to reduce emissions and our visitors are walking more through our streets. Where our citizens and visitors explore our city’s rich history, great food, and shops to really see the beauty and all our city has to offer, that can best be experienced up close and on foot. That visitors respect our city’s desire to reduce the toxic fumes from vehicles and take up on our invitation to walk our streets and paths because they are safe and friendly.
If elected to the City Council, I look forward to working with residents, city staff, Bike Newport, and RIDOT in applying for grants and also look within our own budget, to make all main streets (city owned and state owned) walkable, bike friendly, physically-challenged scooter safe, for all users. The city is looking to hire a consultant to develop a Transportation Master Plan, I will also ensure that all Park-n-Ride or Parking Lot, to be constructed within a short walking distance to the closest pedestrian and bike paths, to encourage drivers to park their vehicles and use our friendly paths and future shuttle system into the city’s downtown area.
11N: At Large – Kevin Michaud
First, I would like to thank the Bike Newport Board of Directors for their outreach to candidates running for City Council this year. I applaud your efforts in this community to reach all ages and communities to create a safer biking environment. You have proven to be a huge asset to our community.
My vision of a successful City council will not only include resident input, but also seek knowledge and expertise within the community. Bike Newport needs to continue to have input on traffic, accessibility and safety to help people ride and walk safely. I believe Bike Newport has reduced traffic by providing bikes, increasing education and advocating for more accessible infrastructure.
Going forward I envision the city, Bike Newport and other businesses working together to create safe biking conditions. I hope these city partnerships can complement your work and help expand biking as a preferred choice of transportation by providing rental bikes in city or private lots. I hope to work with Salve University and its students to encourage biking on campus and when leaving campus.
A somewhat small concept with potential great impact to bike safety includes increased signage for bike lanes, possibly a different color as I have seen in other cities where florescent green is used to highlight the white lettering on the ground. This would help road sharing and create a more comfortable environment for biking by choice.
While increased bike use during the pandemic has been great for the city it has also resulted in an increase of accidents and incidents involving bikes. Although there has only been a few cases of serious injury, the city needs to continue improving and enforcing safety and traffic laws for motor vehicles and bicycles. One of my visions is that of a successful traffic enforcement unit within the Newport Police Department. The city’s Police Department should provide adequate resources to deal with traffic issues, including enforcement of parking in bike lanes, vehicles overtaking bicyclists on the right and many other issues. This unit should also encompass crosswalk safety into their mission. I envision a dedicated traffic unit with Officers on bicycles, motorcycles and on foot solely tasked with enforcing traffic and parking regulations in the city.
I look forward to working with Bike Newport and believe your work is making Newport a safer and more accessible biking community. Please feel free to reach out to me for any clarification or follow-up questions.
12N: At Large – Jeanne-Marie Napolitano
I continue to work with Public Services and DOT, to ensure best practices are used for newly constructed roads. When possible, bike lanes should be installed if there is proper footage to do so safely, or in the case of Broadway sharrows to accommodate bicyclists. We have also made our sidewalks bigger to accommodate pedestrians, carriages, and handicap-accessible. Admiral Kalbfus will have sidewalks and bike lanes which lead to a separate bike path on the rails which lead into the City near the Transportation Center.
When and if the North End Urban Plan is completed it should have all of these features.
13N: At Large – Susan Taylor
I’ve been working with the community since my first campaign in 2016 to improve safe and attractive options for bicycles and pedestrians in Newport. I worked with an array of community organizations to sponsor and promote the effort toward a Green and Complete Streets ordinance, and to develop a Master Transportation Plan for 2020 and into the future. I’ve worked with RIDOT to advocate for lessening the impact of increased traffic on our residential streets with the Pell Bridge ramp redesign, and with both RIDOT and NBBJ to be sure they understood the desires and needs of Newport’s bicyclists and walkers. I am working to include a process for Community Benefits Agreements in the North End Urban Plan, and in subsequent zoning changes arising from that.
I support the mission of Bike Newport to train kids to ride with safety in mind and to maintain their bicycles with that goal. Newport is a city that is already attractive for walkers, and I am working with Bike Newport to advance the goal of creating pathways that are attractive and easy for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel.
1P: Daniela Abbott
I envision a network of connected bike and pedestrian routes that give people a safe way to get around our community by foot or bike, while also integrating with public transportation routes. I will continue to work on pushing priority projects to “close the gap” between bike route segments and push for off-road options that can accommodate pedestrians and cyclists of all abilities. My ultimate goal is to have a separated multi-use path that connects Aquidneck Island from end to end!
I have already taken several steps to help advance this vision, and look forward to continuing this work. The first step includes collaboration with RIDOT on a Road Safety Assessment for East Main Road and consistent communications regarding the status of TAP projects that are already included in the STIP and how to advance them. The second step was the introduction of a resolution requesting that the Town of Portsmouth draft a Green & Complete Streets Ordinance. The resolution was adopted (5-2 vote) in September 2019 and we are now in the process of reviewing and collecting feedback on the draft. A priority for me is to help the Town of Portsmouth pass a Green & Complete Streets ordinance in early 2021!
2P: Kevin Aguiar
My vision would be to identify roadways or rights-of-way, including local, state, and government, within Portsmouth that allow all users including pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles to use roadways in a safe and efficient manner. Ideally, the roadways and multi-use paths would provide a network for continuous connection to our neighboring towns of Middletown, Bristol, and Tiverton.
Support for the Vision: I believe some of the initial groundwork has begun with collaboration between various stakeholders such as Town of Portsmouth, Town of Middletown, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, and Bike Newport. As a member of the Town Council, I will have the ability to engage with the various stakeholders and agencies during the planning and decision processes to support alternatives that serve in the best interest for all users of the roadways and or multi-use pathways.
3P: Michael Buddemeyer – no reply
4P: Keith Hamilton
Thank you for your inquiry. Walking safely is easier than biking safely in a developed community. I would like to continue to help preserve open space to provide walking trails safely off the roads. Biking will be harder but first and foremost we must slow traffic. PPD and MPD have worked together to help slow traffic. I believe all three departments should apply for RIDOT grants for to increase patrols in the short term. In the long term I would like to pursue the westside bike trail alone the railroad corridor.
5P: Len Katzman
My vision for Portsmouth is for our community to have spaces for walkable, bikeable, accessible living and lifestyles. My vision includes having such spaces to serve both recreation and transportation needs.
That vision can be realized by adopting the concepts articulated in “Complete Streets” design principles. I have long been a supporter of Complete Streets.
My support for Complete Streets environments predates the current surge pandemic-related interest by many years. In 2005, I was a champion for the “Town Center” plan that would transform the “downtown” stretch of East Main Road into a pedestrian-welcoming area. The Town Center effort was conceived a few years earlier, before the term “complete streets” was coined and adopted by national advocacy organizations like America Bikes and the National Complete Street Coalition. The Town Center plan is consistent with modern Complete Streets policies.
During the current council term, I voted to support efforts to work with RI DOT to evaluate safety issues on East Main Road and explore possibilities for implementing improvements to that transit corridor, including Complete Streets design implementations. The Town of Portsmouth is in ongoing cooperation with RI DOT on those efforts.
Recently, the Town Council held a workshop meeting to discuss Complete Streets implementation scenarios. Some folks at that meeting voiced a preference for the council to only adopt a “policy” or issue a “resolution” supporting Complete Streets design principles. But was clear at that public meeting that I am in favor of the Town of Portsmouth adopting a Complete Streets ordinance.
This is an important point: policies and resolutions would show support for Complete Streets, and perhaps foster inter-departmental cooperation to support some Complete Streets elements. But policies and resolutions are not binding local law, they are just aspirational position statements. They can be ignored (or more likely simply forgotten) by future councils and town administrators. By contrast, an ordinance would be binding local law.
Because an ordinance is a law, it is necessary that it is drafted with great precision and care. Every paragraph, every sentence, must be drafted so as to implement both a strong degree of required compliance and a reasonable degree of intelligent flexibility to account for specific circumstances of any given road project.
To carefully craft such an ordinance will take time. One of the advantages of adopting a policy or resolution is that it can be done immediately – we get instant gratification for having done something. But I am willing to forego that fleeting “accomplishment” in favor of taking the time necessary to adopt an ordinance. Adopting an ordinance means we must go through a required process. I voted to start that process – moving the Complete Streets draft ordinance issue to the Planning Board to perform its required review and analysis.
I look forward to seeing the Planning Board’s results and acting to implement a Complete Streets ordinance. But town government is not a solo endeavor. I hope you will support me in these efforts – show up, speak up, and work with me to see this vision for Portsmouth be realized. Thank you for your time, and I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact me any time.
6P: Andrew Kelly – no reply
7P and 8P: Mark J Ryan and Linda Ujifusa (joint statement)
We must have streets that support the health and safety of all users, no matter their modes of travel or abilities, and that also help protect our environment. In Portsmouth, we are in the process of developing a Complete and Green Streets ordinance.
Our thanks to all of the candidates for their commitment to community, and to all those who replied for taking the time to share their vision regarding improvements that support more bicycling and walking.