Well, so much for 2012 being the year of the neighborhood greenways in Seattle. One of the city’s strongest proposals for installation this year just got pushed back for more studies, meaning the city will fall well shy of its stated goal of seven miles of neighborhood greenways by the end of the year (11 counting the Seattle Children’s Greenway in NE Seattle).
The Ballard Neighborhood Greenway met with some opposition from a few project neighbors, whose concerns seem to represent a failure of communication and explanation than a failure of the project. For example, a couple neighbors were concerned about the noise from having an endless parade of people biking past their homes on NW 58th Street, which suggests that they do not understand the effect reducing motor vehicle traffic will have on making a quieter, people-oriented street (and, joyfully in my mind, overestimate the immediate success of the project).
In general, the open house presenting the project idea did not go well (according to people who were there, as I could not make it). SDOT’s outreach process is lacking, in large part because outreach is expensive and SDOT is understaffed. But the project was essentially a community project, driven by Ballard Neighborhood Greenways. There were community walks and bike rides, public meetings and more.
Obviously, there could have been more public outreach. But at a certain point, the city needs to say, “This project has strong community support, so we are going forward on schedule.” The city should make changes to address reasonable concerns, but they shouldn’t just delay the project at the first sign of a couple angry people (if I have learned anything following community and transportation news, it’s that every project—no matter if it’s public art or a new small business—is going to find somebody who is mad about it).
I hope that this delay is genuinely to address issues and come back in the spring with a better plan. Ballard already has one stalled biking and walking project, and I wouldn’t blame residents if they felt their work in favor of this greenway was futile. Is it really wise for the city to burn out residents working for positive changes in favor of appeasing a couple angry people?
As you may know, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented plans for a Neighborhood Greenway on NW 58th Street at an open house on July 26th, 2012. At that time, some NW 58th Street residents and property owners expressed concerns about the proposed greenway and how the changes could impact the neighborhood. Because of these concerns, SDOT will seek additional input from impacted residents and local community groups over the next several months and will reevaluate the proposed plan.
SDOT is also planning to host another open house during Spring, 2013, where staff will provide an update and additional information about Neighborhood Greenways. Invitations to the open house will be mailed to residents approximately two weeks in advance.
We are also preparing a written response to the questions and concerns we received, which will be available on the project website later this month.
Again, thank you for your comments and feedback. We hope you will continue to be involved in the development of this project. You are also welcome to send additional comments or questions at any time to email@example.com or by calling 206-684-7583.