Speed bumps on Blackstone?


Old trolley shelter on Blackstone Boulevard. (trailsandwalksri.wordpress.com)

Speed bumps punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty.

Most people do not speed down Blackstone Boulevard. I know. I’ve been behind many of them in my time. People who obey the law are the ones who suffer unjustly when a city enforces the law by making things difficult for everyone rather than by, say, ticketing lawbreakers.

Speed bumps and other tools of “traffic calming” have been proposed for Blackstone Boulevard, the long parkway between the Pawtucket line and the eastern precincts of College Hill. Twenty-four speed bumps and 19 raised crosswalks (wider speed bumps), 43 obstructions in all, are planned.

This is a bad idea. Speed bumps amount to state-sanctioned potholes. It’s a good example of nonexistent municipal expenditure seeking a nonexistent problem. The East Siders who are pushing this plan, when so many real problems bedevil the city, should be ashamed of themselves. They are expressing the hubris of activism.

An informational meeting is scheduled for this evening at 6:30 in the auditorium at the Nathan Bishop Middle School. “Battle Over Blackstone Boulevard Speed Bump Plan Heats Up” is Kate Nagle’s comprehensive report, with city illustrative maps, about the traffic-calming proposal.

If they put speed bumps on Blackstone Boulevard, many drivers, myself included, will take to the side streets. To block the bumps I would swallow all the other types of traffic calming, such as sidewalk bumpouts (which are also tedious but not as bad, and merely serve to reduce parking).

I would even accept a reduction in traffic lanes.

But wait a minute! Traffic calming was instituted on Blackstone seven years ago when its lanes were indeed cut in half, with the lost lanes given over to bike and parking lanes. I guess traffic calming didn’t work then, did it? So let’s rattle the cages of the innocent again, that’s the ticket!


[8:25 p.m.] About 200 people showed up at Nathan Bishop. To my surprise they were overwhelmingly against the city’s proposal. And they were angry about it. At the end of a shockingly unpersuasive presentation by the city and questions from the audience, a show of hands revealed that fewer than 10 people supported the plan as described.

Figures cited above from GoLocalProv.com about how many speed bumps there will be are more extreme than the figures cited by the city official. He said there would be a total of 25, not 43, “lumps” or “raised crosswalks.” The city’s numbers did not mollify the neighborhood, however. It now seems, if the city is serious about paying attention to public input, very likely to be abandoned.



About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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11 Responses to Speed bumps on Blackstone?

  1. Pingback: Get rid of all speed bumps | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: Roses and raspberries, 2015 | Architecture Here and There

  3. anonymous says:

    Activism might be better applied to reducing our number of politicians and the retinue each has that we the voters and taxpayers support. It is to rich for tax base.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I think a better use of activism should be placed into reducing the number of politicians we have,. They are expensive. The retinue that work for each politician is even more expensive. Top down reductions might rationalize a system out of control. Can we start there?


  5. Anonymous says:

    In your bio, This blog BEGAN. xx


    • Are you saying the “this blog was begun” is ungrammatical or just wordy? Technically, it did not just begin but was the beneficiary of outside influence (that is, me) – that is, it was begun. I don’t believe that is incorrect usage, but I am open to persuasion and I value your interest in the matter.


  6. Tim Murphy says:

    The city has collected data and 90% of the traffic drives over the speed limit, the highest numbers ever seen in the city are on Blackstone Boulevard. The plan that has been proposed is for 5 speed lumps, which was the city traffic planner’s idea and is not supported by the residents, plus 20 raised cross walks, not 24 speed lumps. The raised cross walks permit traffic to cross at 20-25 mph. It is doubtful that anyone would prefer Cole or Grotto, which have several stop signs.


  7. Speed bumps are foolish. The reason people go fast on Blackstone is the 12′ driving lane plus 7′ bike lane gives the illusion of a highway. To slow traffic down, rebuild the Blackstone with the bike lane along the curb, add a 2′ buffer of rough pavement, then the parking lane, then a 10′ driving lane. Safer for the bicyclists, slower cars, no broken suspensions, and no broken snowplows from hitting the speed bumps.


    • Excellent diagnosis, Peter, assuming that more than a bit of real speeding takes place, and a sensible cure, too, assuming the expenditure can be justified by data such as those requested below by Nancy.


  8. As with everything, the data tells the story – what is the data that shows speeding is a large enough issue for such dramatic steps? Where is the data that shows these invasive calming methods work? Where is the data as to how it will be paid for? Where is the data that shows how many cars will simply drive into the little side streets – causing much more potential for injury and harm – or do they then intend to have elaborate “do not enter” zones created? I imagine these bumps and humps will not go into the bike lanes – and for those runners or bikers that venture out of them – even by a few inches – well – I hope they’re all wearing their helmets.

    What a foolish proposal – does this group really not have other things to focus on to improve the East Side? How about cleaning up Thayer Street?


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