Street Stories: Daniel Morris

Dexter Vincent: State you name, age, and any personal identities you feel like sharing.

Daniel Morris: My name is Daniel Morris, I am 29, I currently live in Elmhurst in Providence, I’ve been living there for about two years. As far as identity stuff, I would say something I’ve become big on recently has been being a bike commuter, and using my bike not just for getting to and from work, but also using it to get groceries, see friends, go to the park, basically do everything I need to, on two wheels.

DV: Would you care to state your pronouns?

DM: He/him.

DV: What type of work do you do?

DM: For work I drive a garbage truck for a composting company. We pick up food waste at grocery stores and restaurants throughout Rhode Island, and then we bring them to farms to be composted or turned into animal feed, like for pigs. I love my job, so far. It’s nice knowing that I get to help the planet a little bit, and the smells aren’t that bad.

DV: How is biking working for you?

DM: It’s great. I only started bike commuting about a month ago because I got my job, which is close enough to home to do that. Previously, all my jobs were outside of Providence and I could only drive there. I feel better than sitting in the car in traffic, being able to stop along the way easily to get coffee or to get groceries or something. I don’t have to look for parking anymore which is a time saver. Ideally it is going to allow me and my partner to downsize to one car. Hopefully we’ll get rid of mine at some point, which will save us money – thousands a year.

DV: Any opinion on bike lanes?

DM: The ones Providence has are a mix. I use the Broad Street one when I go to work in the South-Side. That one’s great because it’s big, there are lots of bollards to protect me. But then there are ones by the Flea Market in Olneyville, which are very short and seem not thought out, and the bollards on that one are also missing because the drivers keep hitting them. I would love to see more thought put into longer lanes, like we see on Broadway or Broad Street or Downtown by the Library. Some of the shorter ones just seem like an afterthought rather than an actual design for a mode of transportation.

DV: You’ve touched on this a little bit, but when you’re traveling by bike, do you feel safe?

DM: Yes, actually I do. I have found most Providence drivers to be courteous to me and give me space. There are some sections in the city where I am perhaps too close to cars, and there are some sections where I get a little scared of getting doored. We had, up in Cambridge,  a guy who’s on his bike, had that happen to him and then die, last year.

DV: You said you would have liked to take RIPTA, but how often do you use the bus or walking as a mode of transportation now?

DM: With the bus, not so much, mostly because I do live next to bus stops, but my route, the 57, which goes up and down Smith Street, and which goes to North Providence and Downtown, towards Kennedy Plaza, can be infrequent, and often it’s quicker to just ride my bike. Elmhurst is walkable for recreation, but there’s nothing you can walk to.

DV: How do you think that the city or RIPTA could improve your experience of getting around?

DM: I would love to see more frequent bus service to serve those who work odd hours. I used to work in Quonset Point, where my shift started at 6 AM, and there was a bus that would take me from Kennedy Plaza to my work for free in the morning, but to Kennedy Plaza in the morning would be a challenge. Every morning I would have to leave at 4 in the morning. Only four RIPTA lines began before 5 in the morning out of fifty to sixty, so that’s not enough. I would also love to see more bus-only lanes. We have some of those downtown, and they’re great, but there are some sections of the city where those might be more necessary.

DV: What was the impetus for getting around solely by bike?

DM: A few years ago, I found a Youtube channel called Not Just Bikes, which is by a Canadian Youtuber who moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and experienced what it is like to live in a very bike centric city. He was my introduction to not just bike lanes, but public infrastructure and making streets better, and using the Dutch as a great example of that. I loved his videos on things like say ‘stroads’, which are just very wide roads that don’t do anything besides service cars; they often lack sidewalks, they’re dangerous for bikers, and their only purpose is to serve cars. After watching his videos, I went to a yard sale, I bought my first bike as an adult for twenty dollars. It was not good, but it got me around. Once I got my hands on my bike, I just started using it daily, and one of the nice things about Providence is that everything you need is in a four mile radius,so I found little reason to drive.

DV: What do you think that the best way to attract more people to ride bikes for everyday short trips around the city is?

DM: Certainly bike lanes can help; biking infrastructure encourages use. What matters is that the city can in fact teach people that it might be sometimes quicker to take a bike somewhere. You don’t have to look for parking for example. It’s cheaper, you don’t have to pay for gas, you don’t have to pay for parking. But biking infrastructure is only a part of it. Streets in general just need to be safer. There are a lot of accidents between bikers and cars and pedestrians and cars. Over by me, I think last year, we had a pedestrian on Admiral Street get struck by a car and I think he died.

DV: Can you talk a little bit about why you were so quick to switch from car to bike, particularly what about cars you don’t like?

DM: Sure, so they’re expensive, I’m not a high income earner, so every time I fill up my tank it hurts a little bit; even if my car gets good gas mileage it still hurts. But I think about 75 percent of car trips in the United States are less than 3 miles, and I thought about all the places I was going by car, it just seemed like a waste, because I thought there was no reason to drive one mile to the grocery store.

DV: That’s like a ten minute walk.

DM: The more silly it appeared to me just to drive somewhere I didn’t need to drive in the first place, the easier it became just to bike.

DV: Something I think a lot about is the psychological aspect of driving versus walking and biking, because being in a car irks me on a deep level. I’m wondering how you feel about that.

DM: You know, there’s something annoying, when you’re just stuck in traffic, and you just can’t move, and you see the road in front of you and you think “I can be over there but I can’t”, I’m stopped at a stop-light, there’s a truck in front of me, whatever. It gets really frustrating. But when I’m on my bicycle, I don’t have to worry about that, I have to wait to cross the street, and that’s it. I have nobody in front of me, I have nobody honking at me, I don’t have any fumes being pushed at me from a giant truck in front of me, I feel more in control, I have to worry less about being cutoff, or having somebody T-bone me.

DV: And final thing, do you have anything that you would like to say about your experience as a commuter or about the city.

DM: I am very happy that over the past few years the city has put a lot of effort into traffic calming measures, biking infrastructure, and infrastructure for the bus. Outside my own apartment I got to see a sidewalk widened and curved as a traffic calming measure, and I thought that was great. Then they put down a new crosswalk, freshly painted, and I thought that was wonderful to see my tax dollars at work. That was really cool, so I’m grateful that the city is aware of issues relating to pedestrian and biker safety.

DV: Thank you very much!