For first time, two neighborhood greenways will connect later this year

Ballard_NGW_FactSheet_May2015-mapThe city has built stretches of neighborhood greenways in Ballard, Northeast Seattle, the Central District, Delridge, Beacon Hill, Wallingford, Olympic Hills, the University District and Greenwood, but they are all sort of floating in space with limited usability because they lack connections.

While one strategy for creating a quality neighborhood greenway network would be to create a lot of connected routes in one part of town and grow outwards from there, Seattle decided to start separate networks in many parts of the city. This means the initial building of greenways has been a little underwhelming. But it also means that the groundwork has been laid to finally start making a lot of high quality connections fairly quickly.

For the first time, two neighborhood greenways will cross each other once the 17th Ave NW route is completed in Ballard this fall. The route will stretch from Soundview Playfield near Whitman Middle School to the Ballard business center, crossing the NW 58th Street neighborhood greenway on the way.

So, for example, once complete you’ll be able to bike or walk 2.7 miles from West Woodland Elementary to Whitman Middle School only using neighborhood greenways. The number of homes and destinations within range of the Ballard Neighborhood Greenway network will increase dramatically.

Unfortunately, the connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail may remain awkward and possibly dangerous due to the neverending legal wrangling over the Missing Link. If that trail had been completed by now, this greenway project could easily connect to it, activating the Ballard network. But instead, that connection remains elusive. The project fact sheet notes, “Later in 2015, we will study how best to connect the neighborhood greenway to the Ballard Bridge and bike lanes on NW 45th Street.”

The design details include one traffic maintainer (AKA “diverter”) at NW 57th Street to prevent cut-through car traffic on 17th Ave NW. There is an existing similar maintainer on the NW 58th Street greenway at 15th Ave NW, and hopefully the two of them combined will mean low traffic volumes where the greenway routes intersect. The new maintainer will look vaguely like this:

Ballard_NGW_FactSheet_May2015-57thFor more details, see the project website and this project factsheet (PDF).

For a look at how the city’s neighborhood greenways will quickly start turning into networks, here’s the city’s workplan as of October:

2014-2019 Work Plan Map v3_avg10mi

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27 Responses to For first time, two neighborhood greenways will connect later this year

  1. kptrease says:

    Huh. I feel like if they just kept going straight down 17th, instead of making that turn to Dock, they could get really really close to the trail stub there. Since we have no idea how long that’s going to be the terminus of the trail, would be nice to have that connection now (then they could fix when the trail is extended some day).

    I wonder if the Leary crossing was just too hard that way, so making that turn makes it easier?

    • Kirk says:

      Yes, the crossing at 17th and Leary is a huge mess, and the Dock street crossing is much easier.

      • 47hasbegun says:

        Hopefully it won’t take them too long to fix up the Dock/Shilshole area. I know turning from 17th onto Shilshole is one of my least favorite things to do during the day since the traffic is free-flowing.

      • Kirk says:

        If I’m heading southbound, I’ll take Russell over to 15th (the “exit ramp” from I-15, by the Dirt place), and cross Leary with the light. Much easier. That route can also make a pretty good connection to the bike lanes on 45th.

    • Ben L says:

      Agreed, and the irony is that there are two bike companies at the Leary crossing with Peddler brewing just to the East.

    • Law Abider says:

      I will say it again: 95%+ will continue to use 17th south of Dock Street. Only a few people who get lost will take the Dock Street diversion. I can’t think of a single wayfinding route that would necessitate going east in this situation.

  2. Kirk says:

    With the 57th Street greenway actually connecting to the Burke Gilman Trail to the west, this 17th Avenue greenway comes close kind of connecting the Missing Link. It would be great to really work in a great connection to the protected bike lanes on 45th with a greenway treatment. A stop sign on Shilshole and 45th, a bike lane up to 17th and over to Dock Street on Ballard Way. BOOM, connected. At least for bikes…

  3. RDPence says:

    Does anyone have objective data on actual bike ridership on neighborhood greenways?

  4. ws says:

    While I strongly support the idea of neighborhood greenways, their implementation has been disappointing. This one on 17th seems to be suffering the same fate.

    The single most important component of a good greenway (or bike boulevard, to use the Portland parlance) are diverters at EVERY major cross street. Here, we get one diverter for one traffic direction over the entire length of the 17th ave greenway.

    Drivers are smart. It doesn’t take them long to realize that the greenway represents a great alternative to a nearby traffic choked arterial. The lack of stop signs benefits them just as much as cyclists. The 58th Ave Greenway is full of speeding cars that willfully intimidate cyclists (or this cyclist, at least) in an attempt at avoiding traffic on Market. The 26th Ave greenway in West Seattle is the same – cars avoiding traffic backups on Delridge drastically reduce the comfort and safety of the greenway. And those are just the ones I’m familiar with.

    For these to truly work, there needs to be diverters at most (and ideally all) major arterial crossings. If built well (http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4116/4785584284_98dc30d59d.jpg) these diverters can reduce traffic and also aid cyclists and pedestrians in crossing the street. Even those built less well (but more affordably) will still keep all but the most oblivious/aggressive drivers out (https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3948/15427847450_904c2ab826.jpg).

    In their current incarnations, these greenways are just handy neighborhood cut-throughs for cars.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I completely agree. The “please turn” traffic signals on Fremont Ave in Greenwood don’t work. People just go straight anyway. Same with 12th Ave in the U District. The same will happen at Market. City needs to get in the diverter game. That’s really the whole point of these greenways: To be low-traffic.

      This is especially true in Seattle where our neighborhood streets are so narrow. The narrowness slows cars a lot, but each car is more intrusive on the experience. That’s not a problem for someone confident, really. But these greenways are supposed to be safe enough for an eight-year-old to ride alone, no sweat. We aren’t there yet with design. I think maybe we’re at 12 or 13?

      Diverters every couple blocks or so would make it so the only people driving there live there (or are visiting there). Car access to greenways should be very much a limited local-access-only kind of situation. I think that’s a pretty cool vision folks can get behind, even if they don’t bike.

      Whether the diverters are at major intersections, like 58th/15th, or at residential junctions like on Capitol Hill (16th/Prospect is a good example, except imagine better bike access), the jury is still out. Likely both have their place and should be implemented on a case-by-case basis. But we need to get more bold about using them.

      • ws says:

        Your point about making greenways local-access is really good. That should be a way to sell them to homeowners on the route. If the city wanted to put a greenway on my street right now, I’d probably fight it, knowing that it’d likely bring more through-automobile-traffic to my street. And that’s as a cyclist who should be considered a direct beneficiary. (side note: has SDOT published any data on motor vehicle traffic volumes on greenways before/after the stop sign flips and other changes? Am I wrong that it also increases auto traffic?)

        But, if people knew that a greenway meant that the overall auto traffic volumes would decrease dramatically in front of their house, any rational person would line up behind the idea whether they bike or not.

        I really think this is more than just a small detail. This is a fundamental failure in the design of Seattle greenways that almost completely negates their value.

      • Law Abider says:

        Diverters are good in some situation, but bad at 57th. It’s in the middle of a three stop sign gauntlet, so speeding cars are not an issue at this point. I’ve heard the excuse of cars cutting over to get the mailboxes at the post office, but I’ve never seen or heard of this being an issue and I bike 17th every day (I live very near the crossroads of 58th and 17th). And anyways, the southbound drivers are the ones that would be cutting over, and they are not being diverted.

        What this will do, is force drivers that live north of 57th to make a dangerous left turn across Market, or take a long, roundabout route up 20th.

        I don’t drive and I think this is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea that some graduate intern cooked up, who neither lives nor bikes in Seattle. I have written SDOT again and again to NOT put in the 57th diverter. Maybe it’s time to take it further up the food chain.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      This PARK(ing) Day, we want to do pop-up diverters on our greenways, based on existing traffic circles. Start thinking about where those diverters could be!

      • ronp says:

        Pop up diverters would be great. I really was not familiar with the diverter concept. Looks great to me! I have ridden on the NE Seattle greenway several times and it is awesome, car traffic control doesn’t seem to be too big an issue there, but diverters could help make the streets even friendlier for bikes.

    • sdv says:

      I agree with this. I rarely ride on the 57th St Greenway despite it being conveniently located for me. Between the speed bumps and the volume of cars, it’s just not actually a good bike facility. I occasionally ride two blocks of it between 20th and 15th Ave to take advantage of the 15th Ave crossing, and every time I am the only bicyclist in a sea of cars. The last time there were 18 cars on those two blocks and only one cyclist (me). That is not a bike facility, it is a car facility.

  5. Al Dimond says:

    In fairness to the connectedness of the greenway network thus far, if we look at the wider cycling network, even just at the major trails, many of the greenways aren’t so isolated. The Beacon Hill Greenway intersects the I-90 Trail; the 39th Ave NE Greenway intersects the Burke-Gilman; and the Fremont Ave Greenway is part of the Interurban Route. These connections are among the defining features of these routes and allow them to fill in gaps in the wider network (at least in official terms). The U District Greenway should gain a similarly important connection to the Burke once some construction finishes up.

  6. Josh says:

    “the initial building of greenways has been a little underwhelming.”

    Really?

    I seem to recall a local bike news source covering greenway bike traffic increases that blew the doors off separated bike lane projects….

    “On Ballard’s NW 58th Street, for example, average daily April bike counts increased 805 percent in just one year”

    http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2014/07/23/do-neighborhood-greenways-increase-cycling-oh-yes/

    Not to say an interconnected greenway system won’t be game-changing, but eight-fold increases in bicycle traffic year-to-year aren’t any sort of “underwhelming” in my book.

    • Bob Hall says:

      He’s saying the number of miles of Greenways that SDOT has built is underwhemling, not the results of them.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      You’re right, Josh. I didn’t mean to disparage the very real impacts of the existing greenways.

      To expand on what I was trying to say, but was kind of clumsy about: A single neighborhood greenway floating in space is only cool if you happen to be going to that way anyway or if you live on it. It’s glorified traffic calming, which is awesome in its own way.

      But connected neighborhood greenways start to become an actually usable and reliable transportation network. So if people were expecting Seattle’s neighborhood greenways to work as well as Portland’s network, they would be disappointed by what we have so far. Because it’s Portland’s network that makes them so great. You can go really far really easily just by sticking to neighborhood greenways. Seattle has nothing like that. Yet…

      • Tracey Pierce says:

        I agree Tom. I can take two greenways to work but do not. The first — the Fremont Ave greenway– is a door zone all the way up with only a single lane for traffic. It’s too close in many areas for cars and bikes. Also goes right past the boys and girls club, so too many parents are pulling in and out. I take Dayton Ave N which runs parallel and has great visibility and no door zone. I also don’t take 17th ave to Ballard, taking 20th instead, with its marked bike lane and high vis. Cross traffic always stops as well, since it is such a busy road. Greenways should eliminate the door zone and low visibility/sightline problem for bikers.

      • Al Dimond says:

        There’s also this way that Portland is laid out very differently from Seattle. I don’t know if you followed city council candidate John Roderick’s release of a “plan” to cover Seattle in a network of street rail, and keep costs down by avoiding costly bridge crossings, failing to realize that you can’t build a network worthy of the name in any part of Seattle without crossing any bridges.

        So it’s striking in the map of proposed greenways that only one planned greenway crosses I-5 in the whole city, on King Street. None cross the Ship Canal and none cross the Duwamish. While this is fatal to Roderick’s transit plan (because switching vehicles at every bridge crossing takes a long time) it’s OK for the wider cycling network, as long as we take care of what matters: making sure the greenways connect to the bridges and trails, and that the bridges are accessible to everyone even if they aren’t greenways.

        In some parts of town this stuff is in progress. The Fremont Bridge is alright but connections from the north are lousy; the U Bridge is great but connections on either side are tough; the Montlake Bridge is fine with connections on either side under construction. I-5 is high enough over the Ship Canal to give a few easy crossing opportunities there. The low bridge into West Seattle is OK, and the west-side connections are getting some official attention. But in other parts of town the connections are really missing. Routes across I-5 everywhere except right around the ship canal are a particular weakness. Without work on those bridges and the arterial roads they carry we’ll never be able to make crosstown trips without mixing it up in traffic, no matter how many greenways we build.

  7. Clark in Vancouver says:

    Another thing that works is to make two blocks one-way for cars and have these facing each other but opposite directions. They would be two-way for bikes.
    Have a look at how York Avenue was done in Vancouver. Between Vine St. and Burrard St. you can see alternating one-way streets. One section near a school even has a two-way separated bike lane on one side. (This connects to a path through a park and from there to a bridge.)
    People who live there can still park in front of their street.
    http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/York_Bikeway_proposed_design.pdf

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