Plans for the first segment of the Wallingford neighborhood greenway are the beginnings of something exciting. At an open house December 8, SDOT unveiled some more details, including plans for making the crossings safer and helping people find their way.
First, a factoid that might ease some of your Portland envy: Average speeds on N 44th St are already 20.6 mph without any new neighborhood greenway enhancements. 44th (and many Seattle residential streets) are much narrower than Portland’s residential streets. With parking on both sides of the street and traffic circles at every intersection, natural driving behavior is to go a relatively safe (especially by American standards) 20 mph.
Portland has installed scores of speed humps on their greenway routes in an attempt to get speeds down, so it’s potentially encouraging news that many of Seattle’s future greenway routes will already have more desirable average speeds.
The downside to having super skinny streets, of course, is that it sometimes feels a little less safe than wide-open road (even if, in reality, it is less deadly). Especially when someone want to pass or an oncoming car does not slow down or give you space to get by, skinny streets can feel a little, well, skinny.
Encouraging people driving to give people biking more space is one way I hope the neighborhood greenway treatment can help make roads safer for biking. Sharrows will be painted in the center of the roadway with chevrons pointing in both directions (slightly off-center, representing the desired biking distance from the curb).
People driving on the greenway should only be doing so for short distances (to get the last block or two to their destinations), and people driving should not expect to pass people biking, as the safest place to bike is fairly close to the center of the road. I am eager to see how this works once everything is in place.
Sharrows will also be used as wayfinding and to help direct people (both driving and biking) around traffic circles in the correct direction.
SDOT also has unveiled plans for how it intends to handle smaller arterial crossings (like Latona and Thackary). Small boxes for bikes will encourage people biking to pull up far enough that arterial traffic can see them. The box will also act as a way for people driving to know where to expect a person on a bike. It’s not a crossbikes, but I am eager to see it in action.
It’s exciting to see some of these features about to go into use in Seattle. While this original segment of greenway is not going to immediately reinvent biking and walking in Wallingford (connectivity to the U-District and Fremont, which is outside the scope of this project, is still a challenge), it will change the ease of walking and biking for intra-neighborhood trips, such as getting to school, the library, or the grocery store.
It will also give the city first-hand experience with some promising road treatments, such as the enhanced crossing at Stone Way (see image at top).
Also, did you know that it is illegal to park 20 feet from any crosswalk (AKA street corner)? Nobody follows that law (scofflaws!), but it would make our intersections far safer by increasing sight lines. As part of this project, SDOT installed new signage marking the legal parking distance. They also recognized that in practice those parking spots were real, so they created more parking elsewhere to offset the “loss” (again, not actually a legal loss).
Below is SDOT’s presentation. You can comment on the plans online: