Vehicle traffic of all kinds raising concerns

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 6:30pm

There is the perception this summer that the roads of Block Island have seen a discernible increase in traffic, which has made driving more challenging, while potentially making them more dangerous.

A Google maps snapshot of the island’s roads on August 14 indicated that the island was experiencing traffic jams. The photo was posted on The Block Island Times’ Facebook page.

The subject was discussed during the public comment portion of a recent town council meeting.

Town Manager Ed Roberge raised the question. “From a perception standpoint, because I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this: do you see this year being any different from any other year” with regard to traffic?”

The consensus from the Town Council and the public at the meeting seemed to be that there was more traffic on the roads.

“It’s much worse,” said resident Chris Blane, who broached the subject at the meeting. He said that reckless bicycle activity caught his attention.

“It’s a discernible difference this year,” said Roberge. “The intensity: people, cars, and bikes.”

Blane asked the Town Council if it intended to do anything about the issue. “It’s bad,” he said, noting that bicyclists are passing on the right at stop signs in front of cars. “Stop at any intersection and take a look,” he said.

Councilor Martha Ball echoed Blane’s comments; noting “that bikes passing on the right” are an issue. She said some bicyclists who collided in front of the grocery store, got entangled in the middle of the road. “I don’t know how no one got hurt.”

Councilor Sven Risom agreed that bicyclists are an issue, “especially at Bridgegate Square.” Risom suggested that the Town Council add the topic as an action item on a future agenda for discussion with Vin Carlone, the New Shoreham Chief of Police.

Resident Cindy Lasser said parking is an issue in Bridgegate Square, leading to traffic issues. “Cars are parking in places that they shouldn’t be parking, and that pushes everybody into the road,” she said. “It’s so much worse, and it’s so dangerous.”

“There are no no-parking signs there,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste, who noted that it’s a “public safety” concern.

“We can install signs, and we have,” said Roberge, referring to the town’s use of temporary signage. “Permanent ‘no-parking,’ from my perspective, is a council policy decision.”

Roberge said the town is focusing on examining the island’s parking issues, beginning with New Harbor. “We’re going to focus on New Harbor this year, and Old Harbor next year,” he said. “I think it needs to be in the front of our minds. It’s clearly a challenge.”

Blane said part of the problem is cars parking on the shoulders of the roads, which disrupts pedestrian traffic. “The cars are in the road,” he said, noting that those vehicles should, and probably do, receive parking tickets.

Councilor Chris Willi said putting up signs and writing tickets is not going to solve the problem. “It’s going to involve a larger discussion,” he said. “You see the issue in New Harbor. For two months it’s bananas, but I don’t think putting up signs is going to solve anything.”

Willi said the town couldn’t tow any illegally parked vehicles because there is no impound lot. That subject has been bandied about at various meetings with Pete Mott, who runs the only towing business in town.

After the meeting, Lacoste told The Times that the issue is there are lots of cars on the island during this time of year. “Renters bring over three or four cars,” he said. “Can rental properties be encouraged to limit the number of cars per week?” He also noted that it’s been “great weather” this year, and that, “Workers downtown need a place to park or be encouraged to bike it or carpool.”

“Going forward can the town create municipal lots in Old and New Harbor commercial areas? When venues expand should they be held accountable for increased parking demands? There are lots of questions that need to be asked and answered,” said Lacoste.