STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi was a panelist in a discussion on the importance of constructing and connecting bike paths in Rhode Island at GrowSmartRI’s 2016 Power of Place Summit.
The summit, held June 28 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, brought together 400 thinkers and doers committed to shaping a stronger, more vibrant Rhode Island by ensuring the state accelerates the pace of revitalization in a way that has lasting impact for this and future generations.
Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), a longtime ardent supporter of bike paths and community design that encourages biking and walking, was part of a panel discussion entitled, “Paths to Progress: Why and How Rhode Island Should Complete and Connect its Bikeway Network.”
The group discussed how Rhode Island’s 60 miles of bike paths, though popular with residents and visitors, are disconnected from one another, dead-end or don’t connect with the growing network of bike paths in neighboring states. Closing the gaps and expanding the network throughout the state would realize their full economic, health and transportation benefits and expand tourism, healthy recreation and alternative transportation opportunities statewide, the panelists said.
Representative Tanzi and her fellow panelists were all founding members of a coalition called “Paths to Progress,” which formed last summer to advocate for the expansion and connection of bike paths in the state, including the completion of the South County Bike Path. The path currently runs from West Kingston to Wakefield, but was designed to continue through Narragansett to Narragansett Town Beach. The panelists each spoke of the region they represent and then led break-out groups to discuss in greater detail the opportunities and challenges of biking in the areas. Participants included town planners and staff of state agencies as well as avid cyclists.
The coalition is advocating for passage of Question 4 on November’s ballot, which will authorize the state to offer $35 million in bonds for green economy projects, $10 million of which would go toward designing and constructing bikeways, including the completion of the South County Bike Path.
“Bike paths are both healthy recreation and safe transportation resources for people of all abilities and skill levels. While Rhode Island has some beautiful and well-used paths, the state has never fully committed to completing them or connecting them in the ways that were originally planned. This bond finally gives us the opportunity to look long-term at creating a plan to bring our bike paths to their full potential. Developing a vision for the state will give Rhode Islanders and tourists alike the opportunity to travel and enjoy the natural beauty of our diverse landscape,” said Representative Tanzi. “Whether or not you personally use the paths, completing and connecting these paths will have clear economic benefits in terms of increased tourism dollars and reduced health care costs, a true win for our state.”
IN PHOTO: Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), center, discusses plans at the Power of Place Summit. At left is Chris Witt, principal planner for transportation at the Statewide Planning Program