A 211-page report by the City of Newport concluded that while the city’s historic streets are ideal for walking and cycling, the transportation system “does not currently provide a safe, convenient, or equitable experience in all parts of town, as a result, “driving is often the only option for people traveling in and around Newport.”
The report, produced in conjunction with the Keep Newport Moving initiative and with the help of consultants using both empirical data and public engagement, is the first in a series as Newport prepares to release a master plan. transportation in the fall, the first of its kind in over 20 years.
Due to the pre-revolutionary origin of the city, the streets were designed and built before the advent of the automobile. But over time, vehicles were prioritized as new projects and long-range transportation plans were made in the 20th and early 21st centuries. This lack of holistic vision resulted in a disjointed experience for pedestrians and cyclists, according to the report.
The problem is exacerbated when so many people choose to drive, especially in the warmer months, and parking in popular areas, such as much of downtown, along Memorial Boulevard, Easton’s Beach and Upper and Lower Thames Street, is becoming scarce.
“Seasonal parking demand has people bypassing Newport’s short blocks to find parking just when vehicular traffic is at its heaviest,” the report said. “All of these factors combine to create a frustrating experience for those traveling around Newport by any mode.”
The report also included the results of a public awareness survey which saw 85% identify walking improvements as a transport priority, while 67% named cycling improvements. About 14% of people walk or cycle to work in the city, according to the document.
However, the sample size was a fraction of Newport’s population, with only 184 of the city’s nearly 25,000 residents responding.
Traffic jams were also high on the public’s mind, with 83% identifying it as a top priority for the city. City officials interviewed for the report said parking and traffic congestion had reached a “critical level.”
One of the goals of the Pending Transportation Master Plan is to address the different categories individually and holistically. For example, if the availability of public parking can be improved in key areas at popular times of the year, the resulting decrease in vehicle traffic will lead to better conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.
Newport has approximately 17,000 parking spaces, the vast majority being off-street. Of off-street parking, only around 26% is public and 47% private. Another 27% is on Naval Base Newport property. The public interviewed for the report believed that additional public parking options would help ease congestion on city roads and streets during peak hours.
Additionally, if signage could be updated and improved, the safety of non-vehicular modes of transportation would also be improved. The same goes for increasing transit options and accessibility, according to the report.
There are approximately 3.3 miles of bike paths and seven miles of shared lane markings in Newport. However, due to high traffic volume and narrow streets, many find the frequently traveled routes through the city center uncomfortable on a bike, the report said. The city, while having adequate safety for walking and cycling along its residential periphery, needs to improve accessibility for pedestrians and bikes in its densest areas, according to the report.
“The cycling experience is varied throughout the city,” it read. “Since many existing cycle paths are not connected to each other, some streets do not seem safe and make cycling an unreliable transport option for many. Many stakeholders report that off-season cycling is enjoyable when traffic volumes are low.
“Narrow sidewalks, large intersections, many vehicles and outdated signals pose challenges for people walking. The city’s narrow sidewalks and high volume of vehicles create safety issues on some streets. Additionally, the lack of accessible sidewalks means that Newport is not navigable for many people with reduced mobility.
The results dive into specific areas and neighborhoods to highlight this distinction.
“Outside of the city center, many streets completely lack sidewalks,” the report said. “Beside the streets of Bellevue Avenue are dirt trails made up of walking tourists seeking to visit historic mansions or reach the Cliff Walk. This area is less than half an hour’s walk from the intersection of Thames Street and America’s Cup Avenue, and a 10-minute walk from Bellevue Avenue. The Ocean Drive neighborhood, which is a main route for people traveling to Fort Adams for major events, also lacks sidewalks and dedicated cycling infrastructure.
According to the report, pedestrians and cyclists are the most likely to be injured in an accident. Seventy-nine percent of crashes involving bicycles or pedestrians from 2016 to 2020, the latest period for which data is available, resulted in injuries.
Despite this, the number of accidents involving pedestrians or bicycles declined steadily over this period. In 2016, 20 accidents involved bicycles and 18 pedestrians. In 2020, only five accidents involved bicycles and 10 pedestrians, according to the report. This trend may signal a growing awareness of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and the need to share the roadway, the report says.
For walking, Broadway and the Washington Square area have the highest number of accidents. For cycling, accidents are most common on Thames Street, Spring Street and Upper Broadway, according to the report.
The report does not provide recommendations for the future. This stage of the process will be carried out with the publication of the transport master plan. However, in its public and stakeholder engagement, including city officials, employees and heads of public agencies, the city heard ideas on how walking and cycling conditions could be improved.
Suggestions include installing and improving sidewalks, restricting the size of freight and delivery vehicles entering Newport and providing bike-share stations, more bike racks and safer infrastructure. , such as cycle paths and cycle paths, on major thoroughfares.
Suggestions to improve parking and traffic congestion include designing more dedicated loading areas to increase turnover, creating well-signposted and easy-to-access parking areas that would reduce circles, provide more options for transportation for children going to school, would control speed through design and greater enforcement, reduce speed limits to 25 mph on all city streets, and reduce the use of cut streets in residential neighborhoods and on smaller streets that are not intended to be throughways.
The city is developing a set of recommendations for the public to review beginning in April.