This story is part of a series about Seattle’s young neighborhood greenway movement. In part three, we look into hopes that greenway projects will be less controversial than arterial bike lanes and how that could impact the city’s bicycle infrastructure conversation for better and worse.
For Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and some other neighborhood greenway supporters, one of the biggest appeals of the projects is that they should be less controversial than some of the arterial striping projects in recent memory, such as the extended political battles over changes to Stone Way, Nickerson and NE 125th St.
In order to get the Wallingford greenway realized, the project had to be approved by the Lake Union District Council. This means Tuttle had to convince Fremont land owner Suzie Burke, who has fought against several road diet projects in the area. So how did Tuttle do that?
“The way she got sold on this was to tell her it was a way to get bikes off her arterials that freight is going on and still allow people to go shopping in her stores,” said Tuttle.
The idea of greenways being an alternative to much-needed arterial safety projects has some, including the Cascade Bicycle Club, a little uneasy. At the end of a post on the Cascade blog that was very supportive of greenway projects, John Mauro added this caveat:
One caveat: these facilities are great additions to our network, but really can’t replace urgently needed infrastructure on arterials that serve to get the vast range of those who ride to where they are going directly, efficiently and safely. They sure are, however, great complements to other needed bike infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Bagshaw declined to state a position on arterial projects, such as the NE 125th St project the mayor approved April 22.
“I know there is a big debate about that,” said Bagshaw. “I don’t think [bicyclists] should be in a fight with cars and trucks.” Freight interests are supportive of the greenways approach, she said, and she wants to focus her efforts on greenways.
In this editor’s opinion, given that arterial road diets on roads with excess capacity have proven to slow traffic to speeds closer to the speed limit and reduce the total number of all road collisions, particularly incidents resulting in injuries, it is irrelevant to compare an arterial road diet to a neighborhood greenway. The city has declared that dangerous streets must be calmed and made safe for all road users. We have a complete streets ordinance mandating such safety considerations.
A neighborhood greenway will help these arterial safety efforts by providing an enhanced arterial crossing for people walking and biking that did not exist before. The two types of road projects, neither of which are entirely about bicycles, can compliment each other. However, it would be problematic for one to be seen as a replacement for the other.
To put it another way, an arterial road diet is the most cost-effective way to fix dangerous road design mistakes that were made decades ago. A neighborhood greenway is a way to create a transportation corridor that is new and exciting. Both are important if Seattle wants to take active transportation to the next level.