Making Our Streets Something More

The following was submitted to the Providence Journal as a Letter to the Editor on September 8, 2020:

COVID-19 has brought an enormous amount of change in its wake, including an increase in traffic fatalities and serious challenges for small businesses. Among the adaptations to counteract these problems is temporarily blocking off streets to car traffic and handing it over to pedestrians, shoppers and diners. Or, in other words, people. 

We’ve seen it on Atwells Avenue on weekend evenings, with overwhelming popularity. We’ve seen it on a block of Westminster downtown on Saturdays and more recently on Richmond Street. Even individual businesses — Askew and Oberlin come to mind first — have had their adjacent streets temporarily converted to plazas.

Why limit this to a pandemic response? Streets make up 13% of Providence’s total land area. Let’s use some of that space for something better. Let’s make it normal to prioritize socializing, dining, shopping and walking — enjoying life — over moving and storing our vehicles. 

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