(submitted to Newport This Week on 8/12/11)
I was just putting finishing touches on a response to Tom Shevlin’s insightful article City Moves to Ease Traffic Crunch (Newport This Week 8/11/11) – suggesting the obvious-to-some solution of combining our efforts to ease Folk and Jazz Festival traffic in Newport with our efforts to improve and encourage bicycling. And then the America’s Cup news hit – We’re getting the America’s Cup World Series finale!! Woohoo!! Fabulous news!! Great news a long time coming …
A few minor edits later … This news really drives home the argument for integrating bicycle routes into event planning in Newport. We’ll be hosting top-tier international racing visible in large part from the shoreline and harbor. We can start planning now to provide easy access and travel for bicyclists. Faster, cheaper, happier, healthier, low-cost and SMART – using the roads we have and good planning, we can encourage and direct a gentler mode of transportation. A mode of transport that boosts local economies in tourist destinations across the country and around the world.
The Newport Folk Festival saw a big increase in bicycles this year. Had the weather been better, we likely would have seen more bikes at the Jazz Festival as well. But here’s the rub: getting TO the festivals by bicycle is a big improvement to the car – faster, easier and without the hassle or expense of parking. But LEAVING the festival is another story. The traffic does not allow comfortable distance from the cars and riding north on either Spring or Bellevue in bumper-to-bumper traffic is dangerous at best. Let’s plan to use bicycles to decrease summer festival and America’s Cup traffic and make it better for cycling at the same time:
1) Improve signage directing visitors to major events, starting from Jamestown – as noted in Tom’s article.
2) Set up:
- “Park and Ferry” option in Jamestown
- “Park and Shuttle” and “Park and Bike” options on the Newport side of Pell Bridge.
3) Provide Bicycle Rental at the “Park and Bike” site.
4) Identify Bike Routes to and from key Festival and America’s Cup destinations. There will certainly be a steady stream of cyclists when such a route is promoted. Fort Adams and the shoreline are not three miles from the center of town and the roads are nearly flat. Think of how many more would leave their cars parked given an easy cycling option.
Bicycling will provide a big easy improvement to the traffic flow and the visitor experience – that much closer to the history, sites and sounds of our Newport summer. And here’s the best part – bicycle solutions are inexpensive – a fraction of the cost of other solutions. Cheap, healthy, easy and much gentler on our beautiful city. Win, win, win, win.
We are facing several extremely expensive challenges – water, sewer, schools and roads. While we address those looming problems, let’s make progress on this low-cost solution that directly benefits tourism, business, productivity, preservation – and our health and quality of life to boot.
Bari George, Founder, Bike Newport