City on track to build 5.4 miles of neighborhood greenways this year

2014-Work-Plan-MapThe city’s neighborhood greenway plans are moving ahead on schedule, with 5.4 miles of improved residential streets ready for construction in 2014 and another 18 miles in the planning stage.

Meanwhile, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways continues its work inspiring neighbors across the region to change the transportation conversation where they live.

While there are no south end routes ready to be built in 2014, the city is in the process of planning several ambitious routes in Rainier Valley and West Seattle. Hopefully, these will be shovel-ready in 2015.

Several of the 2014 projects are very short, but three are more than a mile long. Below is a look at the details.

Central Area

I have written much about the Central Area Greenway, a so-called parallel neighborhood greenway that is part of the high-budget 23rd Ave Corridor Project. The city will build the 1.7-mile first phase of the project this year, traveling on streets east of 23rd Ave between Jackson and Columbia, then west of 23rd from Columbia to John.

The improved neighborhood streets will be great, but I maintain that this is a missed opportunity to dramatically improve bikeability on 23rd through a part of the city where biking is already very popular (and, full disclosure, where I live). It also sets a terrible precedent for so-called “complete streets” projects by suggesting that bike facilities can be skipped on busy commercial streets in lieu of a neighborhood greenway a block or two away.

Future phases planned for the next couple years will extend the project as far north as Roanoke St and as far south as Rainier Ave. Neighborhood greenway groups in Central Seattle, Montlake and Madison Valley teamed up with Cascade Bicycle Club recently to hold a community biking and walking event to determine the best (or, perhaps, least bad) greenway route at the hilly north end of the project area connecting Montlake to Capitol Hill/Central Area.

During the Silly Hilly, community members tried lots of different routes and came up with one that is as good as possible. But the Silly Hilly also pointed out the need for routes on both sides of 23rd/24th. And, as I have argued, points out the need for protected bike lanes on 23rd/24th, a currently-dangerous street that provides the flattest and most direct route.

You can watch the city’s presentation on the 23rd Ave Corridor Project and the Central Area Greenway here.

Olympic-Hills-Web-MapOlympic Hills

The second-longest route planned for construction in 2014 reaches the city’s northernmost border.

The Olympic Hills Greenway travels 1.3 miles through the disconnected street grid in the city’s north end to connect NE 125th Street to the city’s border at NE 145th Street using mostly 25th and 27th Avenues NE.

Lake City Greenways has been working hard to promote this and other road safety projects in the area while building community around the idea that Lake City can be a place where people of all ages and abilities can walk and bike to get around.

They have also been helping to establish new green space along the route, which has not happened along other routes in the city.

U District Map v6U District

The 1.1-mile neighborhood greenway along 12th Ave NE in the University District will connect Ravenna Boulevard and Campus Parkway.

Importantly, the project will improve the notoriously dangerous crossings at NE 50th Street. Half of all collisions that occur on this stretch of 12th happen at 50th.

We reported previously that UW construction on Maple and Terry Halls will include a pathway to the Burke-Gilman Trail, but that may not be true, at least for people biking. If not, the city will need to look at a protected bike lane on Brooklyn to complete the connection.

This would be a worthy project either way, since the crossing of Brookyln and Campus Parkway continues to be dangerous for people on bikes.

The connection to Ravenna Blvd will also need some creative work.

Wedgwood Greenway MapWedgwood Extension

The 39th Ave NE neighborhood greenway is getting an extension to NE 89th Street, including new spurs to connect to area schools.

The city is also going back to the original stretch and adding speed humps and stop signs that probably should have been part of the original design.

With funding from Seattle Children’s, 39th Ave NE was among the city’s earliest neighborhood greenways and was the first to really show what neighborhood greenways can do for Seattle neighborhoods. However, they had not yet perfected the design elements, so now they need to go back and do some touch-up.

McGilvra-MapMadison Park

Among the city’s shortest neighborhood greenways, this 0.3-mile neighborhood greenway in Madision Park will add traffic calming along streets leading to McGilvra Elementary.

It would also connect to a potential north-south greenway route in the neighborhood.

Hiawatha Greenway Map RecommendationsHiawatha

The Hiawatha Greenway will also be a short 0.3-mile route in Jackson Place the connects Dearborn and the I-90 Trail. Already well-used by people biking between downtown and the trail, the upgrades will slow the sometimes scary cross-traffic on this short street that passes behind the Artppace Hiawatha lofts (home to The Bikery).

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20 Responses to City on track to build 5.4 miles of neighborhood greenways this year

  1. Andres Salomon says:

    Next up: maybe we can connect the 12th Ave (UDistrict) Greenway across I-5 to the Wallingford Greenway* on NE 43rd/44th. That would be some awsome connectivity.

    * With some updates to bring the Wallingford Greenway up to spec with every other greenway.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      Where? This is why I didn’t like the 43rd-44th greenway to begin with…

      • Andres Salomon says:

        A bridge across I-5? A protected bike lane across NE 45th?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        There’s an essentially useless lane on the existing 45th Street bridge over I-5. The northernmost lane ends just a couple blocks west of I-5, and the only people who use the lane either don’t know the lane ends or are speeding to pass someone on the right.

        This lane could easily be transformed into a two-way protected bike lane. Or the lane could be eliminated and the space used to create one-way lanes on both sides of the street. This could also be a chance to improve safety at the awful and dangerous intersection in front of Wine World (4th Ave NE).

        We could do this today. It would be a very low-cost way to dramatically improve bike access between the U District and Wallingford, and it would help actualize the Wallingford greenway.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Here’s what it could look like mid-span, facing west. Those double-turn lanes are heavily used, but only one through lane is needed since it bottlenecks down to one just west of the bridge, anyway.

        This would also set the stage for protected bike lanes through the U District…

        http://streetmix.net/seabikeblog/31/ne-45th-street-near-and-over-i-5

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Or this alternative provides good access to NE 47th Street, which is a great candidate for a bike/walk upgrade of some kind. Likely a mix of neighborhood greenway with stretches of protected bike lanes for the commercial parts.

        http://streetmix.net/seabikeblog/32/ne-45th-street-near-and-over-i-5-alt

      • Jessica says:

        Yay! I like those ideas. I like the one with bike lanes on both sides rather than a two-way bike lane on one side, which would be hard for connectivity (I think of 45th street as a connector where people need to go through for a mile or several, and I imagine it would be hard to get several miles worth of two-way bike lane in this area). That northmost lane is really just a right turn lane, and isn’t really needed for cars, and the pavement cracks are so bad that they will hopefully have to do something with it soon anyway, so this would be a really nice change.

  2. Van says:

    I’m excited to see so many greenways in progress! As a frequent Lindan Ave greenway rider I’ve seen how much it can impact a neighborhood, especially for people in wheelchairs who do not enjoy dodging strollers and other pedestrians with armloads of groceries. Its also changed the demographic of who I see cycling, not just Lycra clad speedsters (who echew the greenways, for various reasons), but kids on training wheels, dads with cargo attachments, moms with seats on the back, and friends on their way to see other friends.
    I believe Lake City and Olympic hill greenways are important for commuters and just making it safer for regular riders. While the dedicated lanes in Lake City are nice, they merge at intersections in the most confusing way possible and I never feel very safe on my bike in that area (possibly because of almost all the flat tires I get are in Lake City). It’d be nice to see that green “safety square” at all intersections, and I’m pretty sure drivers would appreciate it too.
    Wedgewood and Madison Park are important too, but I am firmly against speed bumps. They always seem like a good idea until you need to get an emergency vehicle some place. There’s better options, (traffic circles, curb extensions, chicanes, LED lights), but because speed bumps are so cheap people keep installing them! I remain unconvinced they work since I watch people speed up to bumps, slow over them, then race to the next one. Or if they are the kind with gaps to allow cyclist through you get to watch cars aim for them as they speed past (or if you’re terribly unlucky you end up in front of a honking SUV who resents you going through the gap). Then there’s the fact they delay emergency vehicles unless they are the kind that activate due to speeding. The cheapness of a speedbump means nothing to me as well, since they need maintenance and upkeep to be effective and rarely receive them.

    And may I say, about time for the Hiawatha Greenway! It makes me so happy to see commutes improving for everyone on two wheels.

  3. Al Dimond says:

    The part of the Dearborn-to-I-90 route that really needs improving isn’t Hiawatha itself, it’s how Dearborn’s eastbound bike lane ends into a two-lane right-turn channel at Rainier.

    So, naturally, the map of Hiawatha greenway improvements shows standard greenway improvements on Hiawatha itself and no indication of improvements or need at Dearborn/Rainier. Was the project simply designed by drawing lines on a map that look like they connect without bothering to create an actual connection on the ground? Were people that actually ride here consulted and their needs ignored? Or did they somehow find a constituency that rides here but somehow doesn’t think Dearborn/Rainier sucks?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      This highlights the need to accelerate the Dearborn/Rainier protected bike lanes noted in the Bike Master Plan. I would bet that what the intersection needs is a redesign far beyond the scope of a neighborhood greenway.

      However, I think we should push hard to make Dearborn/Rainier a top-tier priority for protected bike lanes. I think aiming for 2015 or 2016 is an achievable/bold goal. After all, Rainier Valley will never be connected to central Seattle until this project happens, and it would be a great way to set the stage for all the bike projects needed in SE Seattle.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Neighborhood Greenways aren’t, at their core, about being cheap. After all, stop signs and speed bumps aren’t cheap when perpetual maintenance is factored in. They’re about the community process of taking stock of our assets (especially existing low-traffic streets) and unmet needs (especially continuity of low-traffic bike routes), then designing projects that allow us to leverage our assets to meet our needs.

        Dearborn/Rainier is, by its location, probably within the scope of any greenway that uses Hiawatha. When that greenway continues down Dearborn to Rainier with the explicit intention of connecting to the bike route on Dearborn west of Rainier, its scope includes this intersection beyond a shadow of a doubt. If we can’t afford to design improvements to this intersection then we cannot afford to build a Hiawatha greenway. It becomes a meaningless line on a map, a “connection” someone can take credit for, though it will take little effort and achieve no additional connectivity.

        The Wallingford and Central Area Greenways, the Burke-Gilman Trail, the Interurban Routes (north and south), the I-90 trail, and the 520 trail are bike routes with significant gaps or unceremonious ends. But they also made (or will make) significant improvements even in their incomplete state. The Hiawatha Greenway will not. We shouldn’t be undertaking projects like this when so many meaningful ones await all over the city.

    • Gary says:

      I don’t think it sucks, and I ride it everyday. So that must mean I’m just used to the abuse. Or else traffic is so bad here that two lanes “turning left” which never happens because they are always backed up, is why it doesn’t bother me. But yeah, for a newbie rider, getting across that intersection is no fun at all.

      However if you ride through the international district up King Street to 12th and catch the trail there, you can avoid the whole Dearborn/Rainier intersection. It’s just not obvious that this is the “low traffic” route.

  4. BikerDad says:

    The trick will be getting the bike routes to connect to the next piece. So often in Seattle a great bike route will suddenly end and dump riders into awful traffic. Some routes come so close to connecting but then some intersection seems to be too difficult to thread a bike lane through so it just doesn’t get done. What will make a truly great network of routes will be when it becomes a real network and not just linear. It is great to have progress and I can imagine it all coming together some day.

    • Richard says:

      yep. The broadway cycle track is a great example on both ends. Obviously the north end gets lot of attention so I won’t rehash that — but look at the south end, too. It ends just barely north of the I-90/Mountains-to-sound trail, but the only way to get there is 12th ave. I personally ride 12th ave all the time, but there’s no way my wife or son would be willing to. We’re so close to connected, but the gaps are just not feasible for some levels of ability.

  5. Gary Anderson says:

    It’s nice to see more infrastructure put in place to support safer cycling. I’m not sure where the money comes from to do this but it must be from a different bucket than the maintenance budget. I just rode the BGT and parts of it are just horrible due to roots and dips in the pavement. Paint would be cheap to at least mark these hazards, a grinder would at least make the root bumps less jarring, and repaving would be ideal but most expensive.

    • Jessica says:

      yes, I was really surprised when I rode the waterfront trail last weekend and it WASN’T all bumpy and rooty… I’d gotten so used to the tooth-rattling bone-jarring bumps on the Burke Gilman. If I ride my bike to work every day, I’m not tired by the end of the week, but I am sore from the bumps and need the weekend to recover :( Maybe should get a mountain bike instead of my road bike.
      They painted some of the worst roots near UW earlier this year, which I was hoping was to tell the maintenance crews which ones to remove, but turned out to be just paint that has now faded.

  6. Pingback: What We’re Reading: Hop On the Bike Train and ST’s LRP Update | The Urbanist

  7. Becka says:

    Can you speak to what changed with the 12th ave bike connection to the Burke-Gilman? It seems ridiculous to designate 12th as a greenway and not connect to the most important bike trail, especially since that area is under construction anyway!

  8. Pingback: More details on planned improvements at Rainier and Dearborn | Seattle Bike Blog

  9. Pingback: In 2017, central and south Seattle could be covered in neighborhood greenways | Seattle Bike Blog

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