Street Stories: Bisset Parobek

Street Stories is an interview series with Providence residents about how they move around the our city by local photographer Brittanny Taylor. Would you like to share your story? Get in touch

Name, age, any personal identities you feel like sharing, neighborhood where you live, who you live with/care for, the school you go to, type of work you do or hope to do.

Bisset Parobek, 31 years old, Korean-American, wife, and mother, living in Providence’s Elmhurst neighborhood for the last three years. I was an elementary/middle school counselor in North Carolina public schools before moving to RI and becoming a stay-at-home mom of two.

How do you typically travel around Providence? Is that working for you? How does it affect your life, your job, your family?

I primarily drive in Providence because it’s hard for me to safely get to my destination with two little children in tow. However, I try to walk whenever possible to nearby locations within a mile radius, such as the library, playground, or the Providence College campus. While I can keep the baby in the stroller, my 4-year-old daughter gets worn out more easily, so sometimes she rides her balance bike to nearby places. My husband encourages me to ride my bike and pull the kids in our bike trailer to get to more places faster, but I don’t feel safe sharing the road with parked and speeding cars. My husband bikes to work every day, and we’re always thinking about what times of the day are safest for him to bike and what he can do to be more visible to drivers. We’d love it if people in Providence were more open to sharing the road with bike lanes, not just for fully able-bodied adults commuting to work but also for young children and people with disabilities who want to get out.

What are your views on how the elimination of Kennedy Plaza as the Central Bus Hub will affect you and the people you know? 

It is hard enough for families to get to doctor appointments, parent-teacher meetings, job interviews, etc. Adding layers of complication like reduced bus accessibility and longer wait times will hurt those who need it the most.

How would you ideally like to get around Providence, and what would need to happen to make that a reality?

I would love to safely ride my bicycle while pulling my kids in the trailer on designated and protected bike lanes. Even in places where there are bike lanes, cars are often parked in them, making it difficult and dangerous for families on bikes to have to swerve around them. I wish my daughter could ride her bicycle without me constantly telling her to “be careful and watch for cars (both parked and moving).” We also need more continuous bike lanes that connect more points of the city.

Do you feel safe when traveling around Providence? Where do you feel safe, and where do you not?

I generally do not feel comfortable traveling around Providence unless I am driving, and I wish I could change that. Investing more in sidewalks is one thing that could make a difference. When we walk outside, my daughter often comments on the broken glass she is jumping over or the broken sidewalks she is trying not to trip on. I don’t feel safe walking with my children when cars zoom past us on 25 miles an hour roads. There need to be more speed bumps in neighborhoods where cars and motorbikes currently race down narrow streets filled with parked cars. We need to slow down in the city enough to observe and protect pedestrians and bikers.

How could the City or RIPTA improve your experience getting around?

We need city planning to think about getting people from point A to point B without a car. Investing in bike lanes and sidewalks that connect important points in the city would help reduce pollution, promote health and exercise and empower those with limited resources.