The Wallingford Neighborhood Greenway is almost here, and SDOT is holding an open house December 8 to introduce it to the community. The meeting will be from 6-7:30 p.m. at Hamilton International Middle School (Densmore and 41st St).
The project competed for and won a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant last year, thanks in large part to the work of Spokespeople. It will be installed on N/NE 44th and 43rd Streets between Latona and Stone Way.
The most exciting part of the project is an enhanced crossing at Stone, which will include a concrete median island to help people biking and walking cross the busy, wide roadway. Motor vehicles will not be able to make a left turn from 43rd onto to Stone or from Stone to 43rd. Motor vehicles will also not be able to continue through the intersection.
So not only will it be safer and easier to cross Stone by bike and on foot (and increase the accesibility of the nearby transit stops), but it should also prevent some of the fast-moving traffic that currently uses the residential street as a speedy bypass when 45th St is backed-up.
Enhanced crossings like this one have a lot of promise to work in many places across the city and could be a key way to increase the safety and ease of walking and biking near your home. Though they are often the most expensive part of a neighborhood greenway, the cost is low considering all the benefits they provide neighborhoods.
The Wallingford Greenway is not complete, however. This first section will help people move around within the neighborhood, but future plans will help provide family-friendly routes to other nearby neighborhood centers. A connection to the 41st St overpass (and installation of a runnel on the stairs there) would help connect Wallingford and Fremont. A safe, desperately needed connection across I-5 (either modifying the 45th St bridge or building a mythical new overpass, as noted in the 2007 Bicycle Master Plan) will some day connect to the University District, perhaps to a neighborhood greenway on NE 47th St.
There is also great potential for new north-south routes, including my favorite idea involving a greenway would connect Green Lake, Tangletown, Wallingford and the Burke-Gilman Trail.
I don’t think the 43rd/Stone part of the project is the most exciting part, just the most expensive. It probably will help inexperienced cyclists make it across by allowing a two-stage crossing, so it’s great. But the most exciting part is that there’s finally a space for bikes here designed with reasonable traffic movement principles in mind. A space where riding techniques are reinforced by the design, not discouraged (as in many bike lanes and trails).
It’s also exciting that this project provides significant impact for relatively little cost, compared to new trail construction. It’s exciting that it goes places where people live, work, and play, and yet doesn’t have major construction impacts. That makes this project efficient and repeatable. We can do this all over Seattle! And people on bikes can follow the example of this project, choosing similar routes all over the city, without waiting for any decision from anyone. And then we (cyclists and neighborhood leaders) can lead the city to help with the difficult parts of our routes (like 43rd/Stone) and publicize them.
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