The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, and the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen have partnered to establish a new bike route to preserve the connection between Providence and East Providence during the Washington Bridge Bikeway closure.
Just in time for Bike to Work Day today, Friday, May 17, 2013, the new signed bicycle route uses the Henderson Bridge and a new extension of Waterfront Drive in East Providence. The Henderson Bridge has bicycle lanes and signage, but no formal route had been identified to connect the bridge to the East Bay Bike Path following the Washington Bridge closure in July 2012.
"We understand the inconvenience the closure of the Washington Bridge Bikeway created for commuting cyclists," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "We are pleased to partner with the Tourism Council and the Wheelmen in reestablishing this vital connection as work continues on the Washington Bridge."
RIDOT and the Tourism Council – a state-designated tourism organization representing nine municipalities in Rhode Island's Blackstone River Valley region – each have completed projects in the past two years to guide cyclists. The Blackstone to the Bay Bike Route uses bike lanes and share-the-road markers called sharrows to connect one bike path to another, forming a continuous route from Woonsocket to Bristol.
The Tourism Council, with funding assistance from the Wheelmen – Rhode Island's largest and oldest cycling club, designed and produced the signs for this new route. The new brown and white signs begin at the end of the East Bay Bike Path where it meets Warren Avenue and follow Waterfront Drive up to the Henderson Bridge. After crossing the bridge, the route follows Angell Street to Butler Street on the East Side of Providence. Final installation of these signs was completed last week by RIDOT's Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division.
"There are a lot of people that used the bikeway on the Washington Bridge to travel between home and work, or for leisure and exercise on a daily basis," Blackstone Valley Tourism Council President Robert Billington said. "Having a signed alternative route now keeps this connection active, and allows riders to more easily travel between East Providence and Providence, and the East Bay to the Blackstone Valley."
"As a community of active cyclists, with many of our members regularly commuting to work by bike, we are grateful for the efforts of the Tourism Council in establishing a formal route during the Washington Bridge construction and are happy to provide assistance to make this happen," said Narragansett Bay Wheelmen President Ted Shwartz.
The Washington Bridge is a key link in the Blackstone to the Bay route and the East Bay Bike Path. RIDOT closed the former bikeway on the bridge to rehabilitate the structure and to build a much wider bike path and linear park. When it opens next year, it will feature a separate bikeway and walking path, scenic overlooks, park benches, flag poles, decorative lighting and landscaped planters. The project also calls for restoration of the historic, multi-arch granite façade of the Washington Bridge and two operator's houses from which an original drawbridge was controlled.
The new linear park is known as the George Redman Linear Park, after the East Providence resident who was instrumental in making the East Bay Bike Path a reality 25 years ago. Redman passed away in August 2012.
Additional information, including links to route maps and Bike to Work Day events in Providence and Newport can be found on RIDOT's website at www.dot.ri.gov/bikeri.
Contact: Rose Amoros 401-222-1362 x4450