I can’t say I disagree that neighborhood greenways are front-page news in Seattle. With more and more neighborhood groups forming every week, the political strength and excitement is bringing people together behind safe neighborhood streets in a big way.
If you spy a physical copy of the Seattle Times around town, you will see Madison Park’s Bob Edmiston riding down the street on his over-the-top e-bike setup. Though his motorcycle helmet and mega-reflective clothing might not make an appearance on Copenhagen Cycle Chic any time soon, it’s almost a perfect illustration of how much protection some people feel they would need to ride on some of Seattle’s busy roadways.
The streets are outfitted with signs, speed bumps, greenery and other traffic-calming measures, such as crossings and reduced speed limits. This year, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will build seven miles of greenways — mostly funded by the 2006 Bridging the Gap levy — in Wallingford, Beacon Hill, Ballard and Delridge at a cost of $150,000 per mile.
Residents say they see greenways as a way to deter cars and get more people out in their neighborhoods.
The rallying has gone viral. Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Google Docs and blog posts are devoted to building greenways from Ballard to Montlake, the Central District and beyond.
To Edmiston, the crowdsourcing makes perfect sense. People usually know the best, safest, fastest way to get around their neighborhoods. Compiling that information is critical to building Seattle’s greenways, he said.
“We’re basically trying to harvest all the tribal knowledge within each neighborhood in order to make a new network,” he said.
A few thoughts on the story:
- It’s awesome that it’s on the front page. It does a pretty good job of explaining what neighborhood greenways are and the level of citizen they are aiming to help. It’s obviously not some project for the ever-maligned so-called “spandex crowd” stereotype that people love to hate on and disregard. Instead, neighborhood greenways are for people who live in neighborhoods … you know, everyone!
- Neighborhood groups should find a good way to capitalize on the attention to include some new people who may not have been paying attention before. Maybe a flyer campaign or post on your community blog/forum would be timely and effective.
- Neighborhood greenways are caught in the same trap that any safe streets movement is caught in: How do you promote the idea of safe streets without implying they are dangerous today and scaring people even further away from walking and biking? Bicycling is safe today, but it could be a whole lot safer. The more people who cycle, the safer it gets for everyone, and the more people cycling the easier it is to accelerate funding for projects to make it even safer. We don’t want to smash the egg before the chicken hatches (or some metaphor like that…)
- We need to make sure it’s clear that the most expensive portion of that $150,000/mile estimate is for safe crossings of busy streets that serve people walking and accessing transit stops as much as it helps people biking. The sharrows and wayfinding signs are pennies in road project terms. We are underselling neighborhood greenways if we give the impression they are only for people who bike (or want to bike).
- I don’t have Portland envy. I like Seattle way more. But Portland certainly has the political will to try a lot of ideas before other cities do, and there is no shame in learning for their successes and mistakes to make Seattle a better place. But in the end, our neighborhood greenways are going to be different than theirs due to our often skinnier street widths, our proliferation of traffic circles and all our hills. Seattle’s going to have to have plenty of chances to invent some new solutions for our unique issues.
What do you think?