Open house Wednesday will discuss the U District’s first neighborhood greenway

U District Open House Folded Mailer PRINTThe U District has car ownership levels on par with Manhattan. This very dense neighborhood depends on transit, walking and biking perhaps more than any other in the city.

And while the stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail that runs through the neighborhood might be among the most heavily-used stretches of bike trail in the nation, there are no truly comfortable north-south bike route options.

The city and University Greenways aims to change that. They are holding an open house to discuss a potential neighborhood greenway on 12th Ave NE. Details:

6 to 7:30 p.m., November 20, University Christian Church

Today, 12th Ave NE does not meet up with the Burke-Gilman Trail, but a planned development starting next year could connect the street and the trail:

The University of Washington is starting construction on the Maple and Terry Halls January 2014. The site is the former location of the old Terry Hall and 1101 Café and Center Building and sits at the south edge of the 12th Avenue and NE Campus Parkway intersection. The design considers connections to Central Campus, the University District and the Burke Gilman Trail. One prominent feature is the creation of a pedestrian corridor between Maple and Terry Halls, which will also function as an open space for social gatherings and community and campus events. This corridor will link to Lincoln Way and 40th Avenue NE on the south side and 12th Avenue and NE Campus Parkway  on the north, making it important that thoughtful design be given to the treatment of connections like the proposed greenway on 12th.

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16 Responses to Open house Wednesday will discuss the U District’s first neighborhood greenway

  1. Chris Mealy says:

    Everybody likes 12th, I guess because there’s nothing on it and it offends people in cars the least, and probably has the least opposition. I think Brooklyn Avenue would be a better street. There’s actually interesting stuff on it, it’s only a block from the Ave, you can ride it all the way down from 65th to the water, and in eight years it’s going to have two light rails stations. It’s not like there’s a lot of car traffic on Brooklyn now anyway. Put diverters for cars every two blocks and it’d be really lovely for cyclists. Oh yeah, and it’ll link up to the cycle track on 65th, ha ha.

    Like Tom says, the University District has low car ownership, so it shows a disappointing lack of ambition to claim the dullest street in the neighborhood for bikes (also, 50th and 12th is a really dangerous intersection). On the other hand, a greenway on 12th and on Brooklyn would be excellent.

    • RTK says:

      I second the motion for Brooklyn. Makes a lot more sense to me.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Good, I hope people bring that up at the meeting!

        Note that Brooklyn is classified as an arterial by SDOT. The question of putting a greenway is a big one, and has a bearing on UGreenway’s other important N-S greenway proposal: 17th Ave NE. The Bike Master Plan specifically left out 17th Ave, and I suspect it’s because of the arterial classification.

        The law might not be on our side in this case; we might not be able to get a speed limit of 20mph without a full traffic/environmental study. If SDOT’s answer is, “we would only put a cycletrack on an arterial”, we need to figure out what the process is for getting a street reclassified.

  2. Eli Goldberg says:

    Thanks Tom!

    While I am no longer really involved in U-District greenways advocacy (since I moved out of the neighborhood over frustration at the slow pace of change), and was not involved in the planning of this meeting — I just want to add some clarification on the back story on 12th. I was one of the people who originally proposed and advocated for it as a greenway in 2011-2012.

    Chris nails it exactly. We were pushing for 12th because it felt like a project we could get done in 2012-2013 and have immediate progress with relatively controversy, and bypass the construction on Brooklyn. I know I would rather have the route be one block closer to the business core if that were possible. David Amiton (who first proposed 12th) may have a different and more complete memory.

    I would expect SDOT to be open to evaluating Brooklyn and 12th equally — after the Ballard community uproar, I thought their outreach process is now supposed to model Portland’s process: start with an open-ended outreach process to understand community needs rather than to bring a preferred route. If 12th is the correct route, the community feedback will lead to the same conclusion anyway.

    And if they’re not doing that tomorrow night, we should be kindly but assertively holding them accountable for it.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Thanks for the background, Eli!

      I agree that I wish the first meeting were more open-ended on route options. However, I also see the coming development and chance to finally connect 12th to the Burke is a special opportunity.

      Brooklyn is an interesting street because it is sort of a commercial street, but not really. And it’s going to have a very heavily-used light rail station. It seems vital to make sure that it prioritizes walking and biking going into the future. But how that looks, I am not sure. Should it have protected bike lanes? Should it be a neighborhood greenway?

      I think we should also be looking long-term to consider what should happen to the Ave. It needs more space for people. It’s shocking how much of that street is dedicated to cars when almost every person there is on foot. And since 15th Ave was recently repaved at massive cost without really adding any biking or walking improvements, I think it’s fair to focus automobile movement there.

      • David Amiton says:

        Eli has the background pretty much right.

        Another big thing that 12th has going for it over Brooklyn, is that it will actually remain open to people on bikes for the next half-decade+. Brooklyn, on the other hand, is going to be closed during light rail construction.

        I’d also add that when we initially pitched 12th as a greenway over Brooklyn, it wasn’t as an either/or scenario. I firmly believed then – as I do now – that both 12th AND Brooklyn should favor people on bikes and on foot. I just felt that 12th was a better greenway candidate, whereas Brooklyn was a better candidate for buffered bike lanes or a cycle track. There are some good reasons for this, too:

        - Brooklyn has many more automobile trip generators than 12th. These include large parking lots/garages at the southern end (Fisheries, University Transportation Center/West Campus Garage, UWPD, and Stevens Ct), gobs of parking between 45th and 47th, and basically an entire intersection at 47th dedicated to services that cater to cars (two gas stations and a drop-off cleaners). Some of this will likely change over time, but those parking garages and lots probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, which means…

        - The automobile volumes and speeds on Brooklyn are much higher than on 12th, and probably will remain that way. Even after light rail construction, even assuming the arterial designation could be changed, even if traffic calming/diverters could be added, people will still need a way to get their cars to those parking facilities. The model for greenways from Portland has always been that it’s easier to take a street (like 12th) that already has low speeds/volumes and try to reduce those marginally, than it is to take a street (like Brooklyn) that has speeds and volumes well above greenway thresholds and try to reduce them substantially. Don’t get me wrong; the latter isn’t a bad idea, it’s just much harder to implement effectively (see: Lincoln/Harrison and Clinton greenway attempts in Portland). That’s why I’ve always felt that buffered bike lanes or cycle tracks are a better solution for Brooklyn, because those facilities can coexist with the volume and speed of car traffic that Brooklyn is likely to see.

        - 12th is actually a really charming street! When I worked in the University District, I almost always preferred riding on 12th to Brooklyn. It has fewer signal-controlled intersections that forced me to stop, much less car traffic, more greenery, and it’s more “neighborhoody” (which is a really rare quality in the U-District).

        Lastly, I want to revisit the 12th/Brooklyn either/or subject because it’s a hang-up for a lot of people. I’ve long-argued (and not just because it was my job to do so) that neighborhoods like the University District are fundamentally different than other parts of the city, and should be treated as such when we plan the type and density of bicycle facilities (just like we do when we plan for transit). The current rate of bicycling at the UW is THREE times the city average, and their short-term bicycle mode share goal is 20%. So, while a single greenway might be appropriate for other parts of the city, the U-District could easily support a more fine-grained density of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

  3. Scott says:

    How about 20th Ave. NE? It runs from Lake City Way, all the way over the old closed bridge in Ravenna park and down to the University. Just an idea…

    • Ints says:

      20th AV NE is one of my favorite routes to ride and is an excellent connector to Roosevelt and Maple Leaf. However, it doesn’t get to the heart of the u district as does 12th. Actually, 20th is my go to route from u village north and provides a nice connection to NE 65th. Together with a corridor along 12th AV (or nearby), the 39th AV NE greenway and some east-west connectivity (65th and ?), a solid network of cycle ways is taking shape in NE Seattle.

    • Roger Dodger says:

      20th north of Ravenna Blvd maybe. But Between 45th and Ravenna Blvd there are too many conflicts. For starters, it serves as the connector between major arterials NE 45th & NE 50th, with a lot of Greek Row and rental unit drivers. It’s also a critical transit route. All three roadways feed the steep hill at NE 54th, which is hairy enough for drivers. That hill leads to the “crazy scramble” intersection at the foot of NE 54th. Whenever there’s a football game or an issue with the NE 45th viaduct, traffic gets diverted to NE 54th and that stretch of 20th.

      (Sidebar: Circa 2005, SDOT’s original plan for the “crazy scramble” intersection was rejected by the neighborhood. In 2010 they came back with essentially the identical plan. At the 2010 meetings, neighborhood residents again made numerous suggestions how to improve the plan. As usual, SDOT listened, said thank you very much, then made none of the safety improvements we suggested. We now have a solitary crosswalk at the foot of Ravenna Blvd that literally juts out into oncoming traffic, around a pedestrian median that could have been curb cut.)

      Besides all its other issues, I agree with Ints. 20th just doesn’t get close enough to the heart of the U-District.

  4. Matt says:

    This is great news! I work on 43rd and Roosevelt and I bike in everyday from Magnolia using the Burke (obviously). There is A LOT of stuff on Roosevelt and putting it on Brooklyn is far enough away that many people coming from the west would not use it. The other thing to keep in mind is that coming down Roosevelt it’s nearly impossible to get to the Burke safely. Putting the greenway only a block or 2 over would help a lot. Although Brooklyn is a safe street, it does already easily connect to the Burke. I’m just writing this as someone that bikes here every single day. Maybe I’m not the average rider but I really do not enjoy going all the way over to Brooklyn to get around to 12th and Roosevelt and will even take a more dangerous but quicker way. I’ll admit I might not be the average rider but at 27 I’m not too far off from the university students.

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  6. Andrew Squirrel says:

    I would like to echo everyone saying Brooklyn is much better suited for conversion.

    As someone who lives on Ravenna/Brooklyn I almost never use 12th despite it being relatively safe and quiet. There are likely many reasons but primarily I would say I avoid 12th because it doesn’t connect to anything useful. No Burke connect, only half of Ravenna connection. Any time I have ridden on it I never see any other cyclists (probably because of dangerous 12th/50th intersection).

    Brooklyn on the other hand seems to be a catch-all for cyclist, I didn’t realize how many people commute on it until I moved there.

    I may also be slightly biased living there & really wish there was some traffic calming devices installed. So many drivers really gun it once they turn off Ravenna.

    • RTK says:

      I commute almost daily northbound on Brooklyn in the late afternoon / early evening. For an arterial there is little traffic on the street at this time. I’m not sure why it doesn’t a minimum of painted bike lanes at this time from 50th south. The street is very wide, they could just paint them in an leave all the parking. It’s funny how I can ride somewhere all the time, but it was only because of this thread that I really looked around last night at how wide the road really is.

      • Becka says:

        It’s crazy how wide Brooklyn is! We could paint a wide bike lane on the uphill direction and still leave parking along both sides.

        Removing parking on one side would allow a buffered cycletrack – I hope that’s what happens, although even a painted lane would be better than what we have. I hate going uphill from 42nd to 45st because there is no marked spot for bikes, luckily car traffic is extremely low.

  7. Dave says:

    Brooklyn is not a good candidate for the Greenway. During morning and afternoon commute hours, and during big University events, Brooklyn is as busy and backed up as 15th. Brooklyn serves as a relief valve to 15th, getting cars to and from 45th, 50th, and ultimately I-5. It is one of only two north-south throughways in the neighborhood (the Ave doesn’t count, and should be turned into a pedestrian mall.)

    • RTK says:

      I must admit that when I first read “Greenway” I just thought bike / walk improvements. You are probably correct about it not being a good candidate for a Greenway. I can’t see any reason why 12th can’t be a Greenway, and Brooklyn improved for cyclist that want a quick straight forward route to/through this area.

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