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Goncalves introduces ordinance requiring council approval for bike lane removals

Council approved sending ordinance to Committee, community advocates share concerns with removal

<p>At Thursday’s press conference, several families shared their opposition to the bike lane’s removal, citing safety and noise concerns. </p>

At Thursday’s press conference, several families shared their opposition to the bike lane’s removal, citing safety and noise concerns.

After the City announced plans to remove the South Water Street bike lane in early April, City Councilor John Goncalves ’13 MA ’15 (Ward-1) introduced an ordinance that would require the City Council to authorize the removal of any bike lanes within the city. At a City Council meeting this Thursday, the City Council voted to refer the ordinance to Committee with 14 in support and one abstention. 

“The purpose of this ordinance is to safeguard our bike lanes in the city of Providence and to ensure that City Council approval is required for the removal of bike lanes,” Goncalves said during the meeting. 

The City announced the intended removal on April 3 as a measure to alleviate traffic congestion from the Washington Bridge closure, The Herald previously reported. According to a City press release, when the Washington Bridge closed unexpectedly in December 2023, many drivers opted to travel along local roads rather than the state highway, which led to increased traffic. 

“By removing the two-way protected bike path along South Water Street, we are opening up that road to two lanes of travel which will significantly improve traffic congestion in this area,” City Spokesperson Josh Estrella previously wrote in an email to The Herald. 


“No data or traffic study has been shared by the administration to support why the Washington Bridge closure necessitates the removal of the South Water Street bike lane,” Goncalves said in a press conference before Thursday’s meeting. 

In an interview with The Herald, Founder of the Providence Streets Coalition Liza Burkin said that encouraging individuals to “mode-shift” — or to switch to commuting by bike or bus — would better mitigate traffic congestion. 

“Expanding (bus) route service back and forth between the Bridge is the main solution” to traffic issues, Burkin said.

At Thursday’s press conference, several families shared their opposition to the bike lane’s removal, citing safety and noise concerns. 

Warren Alpert Medical School Professor Naz Firoz has lived near South Water Street for about a decade. “I can tell you 100% that the bike lane has made the intersection 1000 times safer than it was before,” Firoz said. 

Burkin said that she was almost hit by a car on South Water Street before the bike lane was introduced. Since two-way protected bike lanes — like the one on South Water Street — were installed in Providence, pedestrian injuries have decreased by over 50%.

Goncalves emphasized the importance of giving community members a voice in decisions about the city’s infrastructure. “We’re not just fighting against removal, we’re fighting to uphold our values,” he said. “This law ensures that any changes to bike lanes in our city align with the views of our constituents.” 

“The city has been listening to feedback from neighbors and local businesses about the impact the Washington Bridge closure has had on our community, particularly involving the dramatic increase in traffic on our local roads,” Estrella previously wrote to The Herald. Public feedback so far has overwhelmingly fallen in opposition to the removal of the bike lane.

Burkin also emphasized the financial impact associated with removing the bike lane. The City estimated the bike-lane removal and installation of a raised crosswalk on South Water Street would cost $750,000, The Herald previously reported.

At the press conference, Goncalves expressed gratitude for the community’s support. “This is about us, this is about the city of Providence, this is about our neighborhoods. It’s not about the people that are trying to rush out of the city during rush hour,” he said. 


Some of the bike lanes’ youngest advocates kept their support short and sweet. “It’s there for safety!” said Firoz’s six-year-old daughter, Suraya Salganik. “I want the bike lane to stay,” said Bill Thomas’ daughter, Eleanora​​ Thomas.

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Ciara Meyer

Ciara Meyer is a Senior Staff Writer covering the Beyond Brown beat. She is from Saratoga Springs, New York and plans on concentrating in Statistics and English nonfiction. In her free time, she loves scrapbooking and building lego flowers.

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