City delays Ballard Neighborhood Greenway on NW 58th Street

Well, so much for 2012 being the year of the neighborhood greenways in Seattle. One of the city’s strongest proposals for installation this year just got pushed back for more studies, meaning the city will fall well shy of its stated goal of seven miles of neighborhood greenways by the end of the year (11 counting the Seattle Children’s Greenway in NE Seattle).

The Ballard Neighborhood Greenway met with some opposition from a few project neighbors, whose concerns seem to represent a failure of communication and explanation than a failure of the project. For example, a couple neighbors were concerned about the noise from having an endless parade of people biking past their homes on NW 58th Street, which suggests that they do not understand the effect reducing motor vehicle traffic will have on making a quieter, people-oriented street (and, joyfully in my mind, overestimate the immediate success of the project).

In general, the open house presenting the project idea did not go well (according to people who were there, as I could not make it). SDOT’s outreach process is lacking, in large part because outreach is expensive and SDOT is understaffed. But the project was essentially a community project, driven by Ballard Neighborhood Greenways. There were community walks and bike rides, public meetings and more.

Obviously, there could have been more public outreach. But at a certain point, the city needs to say, “This project has strong community support, so we are going forward on schedule.” The city should make changes to address reasonable concerns, but they shouldn’t just delay the project at the first sign of a couple angry people (if I have learned anything following community and transportation news, it’s that every project—no matter if it’s public art or a new small business—is going to find somebody who is mad about it).

I hope that this delay is genuinely to address issues and come back in the spring with a better plan. Ballard already has one stalled biking and walking project, and I wouldn’t blame residents if they felt their work in favor of this greenway was futile. Is it really wise for the city to burn out residents working for positive changes in favor of appeasing a couple angry people?

From SDOT:

As you may know, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented plans for a Neighborhood Greenway on NW 58th Street at an open house on July 26th, 2012.  At that time, some NW 58th Street residents and property owners expressed concerns about the proposed greenway and how the changes could impact the neighborhood.  Because of these concerns, SDOT will seek additional input from impacted residents and local community groups over the next several months and will reevaluate the proposed plan.

SDOT is also planning to host another open house during Spring, 2013, where staff will provide an update and additional information about Neighborhood Greenways.  Invitations to the open house will be mailed to residents approximately two weeks in advance.

We are also preparing a written response to the questions and concerns we received, which will be available on the project website later this month.

Again, thank you for your comments and feedback.  We hope you will continue to be involved in the development of this project.  You are also welcome to send additional comments or questions at any time to [email protected] or by calling 206-684-7583.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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22 Responses to City delays Ballard Neighborhood Greenway on NW 58th Street

  1. Julian says:

    If you’re a glutton for punishment or suffer from low blood pressure, a scan of this comment thread about sums up the “concerns” raised:

    I’m beyond discouraged. This administration is going to get booted out of office in no small part because of a *perception* that they’re in bed with bike nazi’s or what have you, when the reality is we’ve got little to show for it but sharrows on arterials and crappy infrastructure like the door-zone bike lanes downhill on Roosevelt.

    If you’re going to be a 1-term perceived-as-excessively-bike-friendly administration, then f-ing do it already! Jeanette Sadik-Khan style. FFS.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That post is a great example of what happens when you don’t ban trolls. There were some honest concerns and questions from neighbors, but any responses or attempts at conversation were drowned out by one poster. Luckily, there were subsequent walks and events for non-trolls to learn more about the project and weigh in on how it could be improved.

    • another mother on a bike says:

      Julian, I had no idea the vitriol SDOT must have heard. Those comments are atrocious and shameful. Some of them are so outside of reality, I wonder how people function in the world. They sound dangerously imbalanced, and I’m sad and angry that our department of transportation listened to them instead of the level-minded, thoughtful, calm supporters.

      I support Cascade, Greenways and the Bike Blog. I’m not a nazi, a member of the mafia, a zealot or a car-hater. I just a middle-aged mom who wants to ride a bike with my family around the city sometimes. I didn’t realize that made me such an enemy.

  2. Chuck says:

    As a Ballard Greenways member, I am sad to hear this news. Rolling over at the first sign of conflict does not show much support from the city.

  3. WavePhysics says:

    So upsetting and disappointing. In some ways, I was hoping the 58th St greenway would make up for some of the disappointment regarding postponing the Missing Link once again. Having a thoroughfare on 58th that could get you to 8th (at which point a short downhill ride could bring you to the BG trail) seemed like a great alternate route to the whole Shilshole/missing link mess.

    Now, my partner and I and the kids will have to continue biking through the crappy railroad tracks Missing Link region where cars whiz by us at unsafe speeds and where there are few amenities (even sidewalks) for slow-moving traffic like us.

    And don’t even get me started on having all those ridiculous sharrows printed on 65th. Those are the most useless and UNSAFE markers that lack any sort of clarity in intent. What family cyclist would want to bike on a road with a density of vehicles regularly going above the 30 mph speed limit? Utterly ridiculous. If we want more people to ride, we need safer routes!

    I am so angry and disappointed in the city right now.

    • Al Dimond says:

      You can still bike on 58th. They haven’t closed the road. The greenway improvements are small, and even a delayed, cancelled, or unfinished greenway project is typically a fine bike route as it is.

  4. Law Abider says:

    I support the 58th St greenway, but I live on 59th St, so it’s probably just out of selfishness.

  5. Joel S says:

    Noise???!!! Really? Put a SPL meter out there and see how much louder the average motor vehicle is compared to the average bicycle while passing. Answer: a lot. You’d have to be hootin’ and hollerin’ something fierce to be louder than a few of the badly muffled cars that go by on the street.


  6. Matthew says:

    The thing that’s so mind-blowing about this is that it’s not like a greenway is even that big of a deal! It’s not like they’re bulldozing people’s houses to build a giant bike highway. They’re adding a few stop signs, preventing dangerous cut-through traffic at one intersection, and improving an arterial crossing at one additional intersection. And it’s a public street! What’s to study? What’s to re-consider? What’s to review?

    In both this case and the missing link, it’s a very small minority of short-sighted, loud people who are whining about not getting their way and setting back progress in this city. Why the city won’t just grow a pair and ignore those people is beyond me.

    I’m reminded of this wonderful comment posted on this blog by Jeremy a week ago:

    And where is the modern-day Norman Rockwell to paint “Rosie the Reviewer,” symbolizing the can’t-do complacency of a we-bet-all-the-chips on cars culture?

  7. Kirk from Ballard says:

    So disappointing. Sounds like just another gaff from the SDOT, a lack of information for the neighbors that have objected. In reality, this project would be very mild, and hardly affect the neighborhood at all. The only changes would have been:
    -Signs and pavement legends along the greenway
    -Stop signs to control traffic crossing the greenway at certain intersections
    – Widen sidewalk on Seaview Avenue NW to access Burke-Gilman Trail
    – Median island at 24th Avenue NW and NW 58th Street
    – Diverter for eastbound traffic at15th Avenue NW and NW 58th St (at St. Alphonsus School)
    – Additional bicycle parking at destinations along the route
    Seriously, just freakin’ do it. These are the type of easy improvements that can make biking better for the masses, not sharrows and bike lanes on arterials. In light of the lack of progress on the Burke-Gilman Missing Link, this should be a top priority. To delay it for another year is ludicrous.

  8. Clark in Vancouver says:

    It’s so frustrating sometimes but these kinds of things can be expected and are pretty normal. Anytime there’s anything there’s always somebody threatened by it.
    I guess the thing is to listen to them and address their concerns but them being “grumps” they tend to be more interested in the conflict than solutions so at some point you have to set limits and be connected to reality.
    If they have a stupid concern then you thank them for it, quickly respond and move on to more useful discussion.
    (And some of the stuff really is crazy, stuff like there supposedly a conspiracy against cars. Or that bikes make more noise than cars. What planet are they on anyway?)
    At some point in the future, when they are strolling down their nice street, those opposed will wonder why they were ever so against it, (or they’ll sit and bitch about it for decades to come while the rest of the world passes them by.)
    Vancouver has many greenways and nobody is opposed to them when they’re announced anymore, they welcome them. I think because they’re something that’s known and not an unknown. People can go have a look at another one in town, see how mundane and non-threatening it is and chill out about a new one. If Seattle manages to do even just one of these, and do it well, then it can be the example for others.
    In the meantime, the City can prepare. Or it could do it in sections/phases. Do the parts where people haven’t objected and get on with that. Then those who have objections can go have a look at the parts that were done and see if they still oppose the rest.

  9. basketlover says:

    The noise issue stems from people screaming WHEEEEEEE at the top of their lungs while enjoying some simple means of going from one place to another.

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  11. Morgan Wick says:

    Where were greenway supporters at this meeting?

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  15. Snack Cakes says:

    “Just freaking do it” and the hell with what people who will be impacted think, huh, Kirk? It’s people like you that give cyclists a bad name. I actually live on 58th – I’m assuming you don’t – and think it’s the wrong location for this. The street is just two narrow. It’s already effectively a one-way street when vehicles are parked on both sides, as they usually are, so I can only imagine what it would be like trying to drive down the street when there are cyclists and oncoming traffic. A much better choice would be 59th, which is a lot wider than 58th.
    As a property owner on 58th, I have as much stake in this issue as any of you who would like to see this shoved down residents’ throats.

    • MplsTransplant says:

      I will have to check out 58th personally, but a narrow street is a positive for a bike route. The problem, and danger, of biking with traffic on larger streets is that cars can move too fast. Faster moving, two-way traffic is the problem. Cars are more worried about hitting/getting hit by other cars to notice pedestrians.

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