Yesterday, we reported on an expansion to the 23rd Ave complete streets and repaving project, making the case for safe bike lanes from Montlake to the Central District.
But the primary focus of Wednesday’s open house is a planned neighborhood greenway near 23rd Ave through the CD. The main question is whether the east or west side of 23rd is a better option for a neighborhood greenway, according to planner Maribel Cruz.
The meeting goes from 5:30–7:30 p.m. at Nova High School Auditorium in Miller Park.
This project is near my home, so I am rather excited about it. Even though I live on 20th just west of 23rd, I think a neighborhood greenway on the east side of 23rd is more useful, with easier access to more neighborhood businesses, schools and community centers.
The Central Seattle Walking Map also shows another problem with a neighborhood greenway on the west side of 23rd: steep grades make some of the most important 23rd Ave destinations relatively inaccessible. (Note: The yellow lines denote blocks steeper than 10% in grade, which is too steep for many people).
Promenade 23 shopping center and Douglas Truth Library are two major destinations not served be a route on 22nd or 21st, for example.
Another idea would be to simply build greenways on both sides of the street, with the east greenway destined for Madison Valley and the Montlake Bridge while the west greenway heads toward Interlaken Park and the University Bridge. Both routes would meet on the I-90 Trail near the future light rail station on 23rd Ave.
Below are some routes I could see working the best (green line shows my favorite sections, give or take a block or so):
The challenge is that neighborhood greenways and Seattle’s commercial drags accomplish very different transportation and place-making goals. A neighborhood greenway can create or improve biking and walking routes that follow desire lines where there currently is no arterial, busy street. For example, a route connecting Judkins Park to Volunteer Park or Interlaken Park. Or Beacon Hill’s neighborhood greenway, which connects the I-90 Trail to Jefferson Park to Georgetown.
But Seattle’s main busy streets are often built along regraded routes chosen for their preferable grades and directness. They are also the streets where the front doors of destinations are located.
A neighborhood greenway is simply not a replacement or alternative to building safe bike lanes on commercial streets. These commercial streets should be places that bring neighbors together, not walls that split a neighborhood in half. People should be able to walk and bike safely from their homes to the doors of neighborhood restaurants and cultural centers. A neighborhood greenway might get you a block or two away, but that’s a block or two short of the goal.
So yes, let’s build a great neighborhood greenway (or two) in the Central District. But let’s also keep working to make sure investments in the city’s planned remake of 23rd Avenue put neighbors first.