As neighborhood greenways quickly gain grassroots and political support in Seattle, the city could be on the verge investing in miles of the family-safe residential roads every year.
In a front-page story in the Seattle Times, Mike Lindblom explains the vision behind neighborhood greenways and the funding plan that could make them a reality.
Greenways have become a political selling point for Proposition 1, a proposal to add a $60 annual car-tab fee to collect $204 million over 10 years for transit, pavement, pedestrian and cycling projects. Proposition 1 includes a potential $937,500 a year for two miles of greenway per year in addition to those already planned, according to a city-budget scenario.
“It’s not about getting people out of cars, it’s about letting people who want to ride bikes get out and ride their damn bikes,” said a smiling Eli Goldberg, a University District greenway advocate who encouraged an audience last week to campaign for Proposition 1.
Lindblom also spoke with John Fox, a Proposition 1 opponent, who makes a very half-hearted and ill-informed attempt to paint neighborhood greenways as “short-shrifting” sidewalks.
Proposition 1 opponent John Fox replies that greenways are an OK idea but show misplaced priorities, considering the ballot measure envisions only nine blocks of new sidewalks a year. “It’s inappropriate to put that amount into this (greenways) package while short-shrifting sidewalks, road repair and bridges.”
What Fox may not be aware of is that neighborhood greenways create a pedestrianized atmosphere that make the roadways comfortable and safer for running, playing and cycling in the streets themselves (as shown in this excellent and often-cited StreetFilms video). In fact, in neighborhoods with very few sidewalks, neighborhood greenways and the focused traffic calming they come with could be an affordable alternative or temporary solution to the missing sidewalk problem in many parts of the city. We can create miles of neighborhood greenways far faster than sidewalks. Neighborhood greenways also include needed road repairs to make them safe for cycling (and, therefore, for all road users).
When done right, neighborhood greenways create roads that feel more like trails (AKA “greenways”) than busy streets. By focusing traffic calming on one neighborhood street at a time, the city can create a safe and fast people-powered arterial to connect people’s homes with the places they need to go (schools, commercial centers, parks, transit stops, etc) within their neighborhoods.
Much of the money spent on neighborhood greenways (sometimes half or more) is spent creating new, very safe crossings where the greenway meets a busy street. In the case of the upcoming Wallingford greenway on 44th/43rd, the project includes a new crossing at Stone Way. This will help reconnect the neighborhood long split by this road and make it easier and safer to access the Route 16 bus stops on Stone.
Note also that this safe crossing is only possible because the city redesigned Stone Way a couple years ago. That road diet, which was very controversial at the time, has provided the city with all kinds of tools to increase the safety of crossing the street on foot. In its old four-lane design, the only option would have been to install a traffic signal, which would likely cost more than the entire Wallingford greenway budget.
This is one example of how the city’s past efforts to increase road safety on arterials have enabled even more road safety projects today.
However, the message that neighborhood greenways are about much more than bikes got a bit lost on Q13, which ran a report this weekend titled “Bikes drive Proposition 1 debate: Proposition would add new ‘bike greenways.’” Many parts of the report are good (Anna, the mom with her kids toward the end, hits the nail on the head), but the headline and story framing are a bit off.
It may be true that bicycle advocates have been among the most vocal so far in support of Proposition 1. But that needs to change. Half the funding raised from Prop 1 will go to awesome (though not often sexy) transit reliability and speed improvements, and we need people out there explaining how those improvements work and making transit the center of the Prop 1 campaign.
Bicycle-specific funding makes up only a small part of the proposed Prop 1 spending. Bicycle, pedestrian and freight improvements combined make up only 22 percent of the total proposed funding. This bill is very good for bicycle access and road safety for all users, but it’s also much much more than that once the transit improvements (49 percent) and road repairs (29 percent) are considered.
We should not undersell this proposition by focusing only on the smallest (though, perhaps most exciting) slice of the pie.