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Big neighbohrood greenways meeting in Phinney tonight + Car Free Days jumps on board

Remember, there is a big neighborhood greenways meeting 6:30 tonight at the Phinney Neighborhood Center (6615 Dayton Ave N). SDOT leaders will be there, and it will be great chance to get involved and meet some of the people behind the citizen efforts that have taken off all around the city (and growing all the time).

Speaking of neighborhood greenways, the people behind one of Seattle greatest family biking resources — Car Free Days — has jumped on board. They have documented the struggles and joys of biking with kids in Seattle over the past several years. They know what families need in order to make family biking more appealing as a transportation option, and they think neighborhood greenways are the key:

Greenways fit with the kind of riding we do (parent and kid-powered transportation), and c0uld really be the key resource for making it safer and easier for kids all over this city to skip the minivan and ride bikes or walk to school!

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So here’s where we get to the good part. Seattle communities and neighbors are wicked-strong and quite adept at killing projects. Examples? The Montlake/Madison Park neighborhoods blocked 520-bridge improvements for the last 30 years. The Laurelhurst community puts fear into the hearts of Childrens and UW planners. All over the city, neighbors have picked causes and marshaled their forces (time, energy, will) behind (and admittedly, usually against) them. The hands of the people hold a lot of power in Seattle.

And now Seattle neighbors are turning their attention to our streets. Instead of blocking something, we want to create. We’ve decided it’s time to take a sliver of our public space currently dedicated to cars and make that space safe for children and families.

Imagine how great it would be to have just onestreet within a few blocks of your home where you could walk with a friend, and know your kids could ride their bikes or safely play soccer with neighborhood friends. Yes, it would still be a street with cars and all, but the scale of the place would be different. Slower. People would be the priority, and cars, 0n this one street, would know they are visitors.

Now imagine how much better the whole city gets when we stitch together many these slower streets. Each street is focused on the needs and character of the neighborhood, but strategically connected to make a city-wide transportation network, allowing neighbors to safely and easily ride from say, their  house in Laurelhurst to the Ballard Locks. Or from Beacon Hill to Madrona. And from anywhere to Greenlake!

For a much more curse-ridden neighborhood greenways story, Cienna Madrid at the Stranger has written it for you:

The swiftness with which activists have spurred the city into action is commendable, sure, but the real shocker is that no one’s complaining about it. “There seems to be widespread support for enhancing biking and walking on low-speed non-arterial streets,” says Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan, who reports that his office has received absolutely no angry emails or bitchy voice mails about the projects.

That’s a big fucking deal in a city where residents have been known to bitch about their neighbor’s flower gardens being too bright. (Really.)

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4 responses to “Big neighbohrood greenways meeting in Phinney tonight + Car Free Days jumps on board”

  1. Thanks for love, Tom. Very humbling. We’re really excited to be on board. Especially since Greenways are so much cooler than those damn overly bright flower gardens! ;-)

    That idea of “enhancing biking and walking on low-speed non-arterial streets” does seem to resonating *much* than the previous message about “traffic calming and road diets.”

    I was at the Hawthorne Hills Community Council meeting last night listening to Paulo from Children’s present an update to their “Liveable Streets Initiative.” Hawthorne Hills is directly impacted by Children’s construction, and while they aren’t as hostile to *anything Children’s* as some of the Laurelhurst folks, they do tend to be guarded.

    And for the most part, I saw a lot of nodding (gray, white & blue-haired) heads while he spoke about the Greenways plans. I take that as a really good sign that a demographic that isn’t normally pro-bike, can maybe agree (at least on some level) that some of our non-arterial neighborhood streets can be made safer for all users.

  2. Michelle

    I do think my neighbor’s front flower bed is a bit garish, but I’m a fan of the idea of Greenways. However, I didn’t vote for the tax that would pay for them when they were last on our ballots, because I thought the funding mechanism was wrong, and the bill had too many other problems, like not including enough funding for sidewalks or pothole maintenance.

    I want Greenways, but I still need to be convinced that they are worth paying for instead of sidewalks, because the elementary age kids on my street walk to school in the middle of our road, which has cars zooming down it way above the speed limit just about 30 seconds during rush hour. There is only so much money to go around, so I invite the Greenways advocates to convince me that Greenways should be high on the priority list.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Great questions, Michelle. I’ll let others jump in with more reasons, but the biggest is that a single mile of sidewalks can cost in the neighborhood of $2 million. Given the incredible amount of streets without sidewalks in the city (especially in the north and south ends), it would take a great deal of money to complete them.

      Neighborhood greenways, on the other hand, cost only about $150,000 per mile (depending on how many busy streets they need to cross, which consumes most of the cost). That might sound like a lot, but in streetwork terms, its cheap (see: sidewalk costs above). So the city could get many more miles of them in exchange for the investment.

      Also, it’s not yet know what a neighborhood greenway on a street without sidewalks looks like. Does it include the addition of sidewalks? Would the traffic calming measures be even more extreme, with the goal that only cars parking nearby would be there? I don’t know. But these are detail that need to be worked out soon, and it would be great to have your thoughts when these questions come up (I’ll definitely be following the discussion here).

      Also, the greenway budget does not detract from the existing (and pitifully small) sidewalk budget. In fact, there are discussions about the need for targeted sidewalk repairs along the routes (for streets that have them). That way people can depend on neighborhood greenway routes to have curb cuts and few or no bumps in the sidewalks. Obviously that doesn’t address your concerns specifically, but the needs for people walking are central to the conversation.

    2. Bruce Nourish

      Michelle, is the street you refer to classified by SDOT as an arterial street? (If you’re not sure, you could just tell us the street name.)

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