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Seattle Neighborhood Greenways gets Federal award for safe streets work

Tuttle rocks a game of post-car mini-golf during Park(ing) Day 2013
Tuttle rocks a game of post-car mini-golf during Park(ing) Day 2013

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will recognize Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Director Cathy Tuttle with a Lifesavers Public Service Award. Yep, the Feds have noticed the work of this humble grassroots safe streets organization, organizing neighborhood-by-neighborhood to develop bike routes and safe streets that everyone can feel safe using regardless of age or ability.

“[This award] reflects the fact that not only are the changes we’re seeing on the West Coast happening at a higher rate, but it’s a national priority as well,” said Tuttle. She will receive the award along with Greg Raisman, who works on safe streets and neighborhood greenways at the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Tuttle points to work at the Federal level to shift traffic engineering standards to embrace safer multimodal design and USDOT’s Safer People Safer Streets challenge as signs that grassroots work in cities like Seattle and Portland are starting to align with a national “cultural shift” away from just safer high-speed roadways to safer streets for everyone.

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“NHTSA has long been concerned with keeping people safe on high speed, high capacity roads by engineering safer highways and demanding safer vehicles (the organization grew out of Ralph Nader’s work in the 1970s),” Tuttle said. “Engineers were put on this earth to solve problems. Through NHTSA-funded programs, they’ve done a terrific job at making safer highways and cars. NHTSA may be setting engineers a new range of problems to solve.”

For our nation’s sake, I hope she’s right and this cultural shift has legs. Because the Feds work in dollar amounts unfathomable to even wealthy cities like Seattle (our nine-year Move Seattle levy would be a rounding error in the Federal transportation budget). Just a little piece of this funding directed towards safe streets would change everything. If the Feds went all-in on safe streets, it’s hard to overstate the potential to create healthier, better connected and more sustainable communities all across the country.

More details on the award from SNG:

Honored to receive an important award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). We were chosen as the national recipient of the Lifesavers Public Service Award in partnership w Greg Raisman of Portland Bureau of Transportation for our work on Neighborhood Greenways and safer streets ‪#‎VisionZero‬

The Award reads:
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG) ..volunteer coalition representing many neighborhoods across Seattle who plan and advocate for safe, equitable, and comfortable streets..

SNG recently received the Transportation Team Award from Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) for a team of citizens that who help to advance SDOT’s mission, vision, and goals: http://seattlegreenways.org/…/greenways-receives-major-sdo…/

SDOT credits SNG with changing, and improving, the way Seattle Department of Transportation works with community partners in doing outreach and public engagement.

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23 responses to “Seattle Neighborhood Greenways gets Federal award for safe streets work”

  1. Elizabeth_Kiker

    Cathy is a model and leader for so many people; I have found her to be inspiring, kind and transformative. What a well-deserved award!

  2. Rob

    Well deserved, Cathy recently has helped us organize a Memorial Ride for a Yakima rider who was killed on February 6th, 2016. We hope to use the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways as a teaching tool here in Yakima to promote safer streets for all. Yakima Bikes and Walks is only beginning (2 years) but we have had positive effects already. Our Memorial ride for Ron Knowlton is on Saturday the 27th:

  3. Mark Foltz

    Fantastic. Congratulations to Cathy and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways!

  4. Law Abider

    Greenways were a good idea, but they’ve been hijacked by the typical public process that plagues every Seattle project. The 17th Ave Greenway turned into an overengineered project with features that nobody asked for, but exist because they had to spend money on something.

    1. Andy

      Wait, what features of the 17th Ave greenway did ‘nobody ask for’?

      1. Law Abider

        The traffic island at 57th that is blocking the wrong direction (northbound). I have been repeatedly told that the “community” requested this, but can’t find a single community member that requested a traffic island at 57th, let alone one blocking northbound instead of southbound. It should be blocking southbound traffic for it to actually do any good.

        The intersection at Dock St. People going south on 17th want to cross Leary at 17th, not be routed the opposite direction they want to go. Plus the reangled intersection has made that intersection extremely awkward and more dangerous. Cars coming up or down 17th come to the intersection out of a bend, which gives them little sight distance before having to negotiate the intersection. I was told that SDOT chose to cross Leary at Dock St rather than 17th Ave, because “the freight community had concerns about encouraging bicyclists and pedestrians to cross Leary Ave NW at 17th Ave NW.” A load of horseshit if you ask me.

        And I know what happened with the 17th Ave Greenway. SDOT was given money to do improvements, but no time nor money to do ANY traffic studies. So a bunch of designers in an unlit SDOT basement somewhere, with neither cycling experience nor a stake in the neighborhood, chose some “safe cycling feature” out of a book, slapped them onto 17th and called it a Greenway.

        Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the features are nice: the crossings at 85th, 80th and 65th, plus the plethora of cross traffic stop signs. But for other things, it was kind of disheartening for the process to basically be “these changes are happening, no matter what!”, which little to no input from people who actually use the Greenway.

      2. Going slightly out of the way to cross Leary at Dock is for the best. Dock crosses Leary at a nice right angle, yielding a nice compact intersection with short crossing distances and good sight lines. 17th crosses Leary at a goofy angle in the middle of a curve. It’s geometrically impossible to build a reasonable intersection there.

        Forget about going through at 17th. If there was no other option than a bad-angle intersection then we’d have to build one — there are plenty of bad-angle arterial-to-arterial intersections as precedent, they’re pretty much all lousy, but some are necessary. As it is, there is a better intersection a block away. So, like with a lot of bad-angle arterial-to-side-street intersections, the best thing to do is to break going through completely, curve the side street to meet the arterial at a right angle, shorten the crossing distances along the arterial, and ban left turns.

      3. Bob Hall

        +1 What Al said.

        The sight-lines at 17th & Leary are terrible. Also, 17th had very high traffic volumes South of 50th due to folks who use that stretch of road to get from Leary to the Ballard Bridge.

        Going slightly out of the way to cross at Dock & Leary isn’t a big deal since it’s a much nicer crossing now. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t offer a good connection to the BGT, since doing so was out of the scope of this project, sadly.

      4. Andy

        re: 57th:
        I’m a community member and I requested it, so now you’ve found one. So did the majority of people at the community outreach events I attended.
        It’s not a good configuration right now, because the federal government is taking forever to relocate the drop box, but it is the right long term choice.

        Every cyclist I ride with crosses at Dock St. Al is correct, it’s unambiguously the superior choice, and any experienced cyclist realizes it. Encouraging inexperienced cyclists to make better choices by routing the greenway to Dock is ideal. It’s also better for pedestrians, so win-win.
        Phase 2 of the project to connect it to the BGT is still clearly lacking, but it’s pretty obvious why that was outside the scope of this project, and again, nobody currently connects to the BGT at Shilshole anyway because it’s so terrible crossing Shilshole.

        The weird new traffic island where the deviation to Dock is problematic, but better than before, and easily improved by removing a few parking spaces to improve sight lines.

    2. sdv

      It’s the speed bumps that get me. I actively avoid Greenways because of the speed bumps.

  5. Law Abider

    @Bob The sightlines are absolutely horrible, yet cyclists cross there, continue to cross there with the Dock St configuration and will likely continue to cross there, even when the light at Dock and Leary goes online. And the sightline problem becomes moot, because the traffic light at Dock and Leary should have instead gone in at 17th and Leary.

    And the terrible options to connect Dock St to the BGT compound even further the terrible choice to put the Greenway down Dock St. I bike 17th from south of 65th and can pretty much see the BGT (or at least the giant building adjacent to it) my entire ride. Any person with intelligence would say “Gee, I think the best connection to the BGT would be a straight shot down 17th!”. The connection would be within the scope of this project, because once you cross 17th, the connection to the BGT is pretty much in place and pretty safe (minus crossing Shilshole, which you have to do anyways at Dock St).

    Instead we get the Dock St deviation that nobody asked for. I keep hearing justification similar to yours “it isn’t that big of a deal, although it kinda sucks, since it doesn’t take us where we want to go”. This kind of shrugging is why we keep getting crappy “solutions” like this.

    1. I’m not shrugging about the Dock Street deviation, and I don’t think it “kinda sucks”. I think it’s unambiguously the right way to handle the way these two street grids come together. I hope we see many similar treatments as the city looks into Denny Way in coming years: consolidating intersections and shrinking crossing distances as much as possible.

      1. Law Abider

        I’m curious how this is “unambiguously the right way to handle the way these two street grids come together”, when people want to continue following the N-S street grid along 17th to get the BGT, not deviate in a non-cardinal direction the opposite way they want to go.

        There’s going to be an accident at either Dock St/17th due to the awkward intersection reconfiguration or an accident at 17th/Leary due to the failure to make the long established route safer. Unfortunately, that’s what it’s going to take to undo this terrible social engineering failure, since they didn’t listen to users of the existing infrastructure.

      2. “Non-cardinal” is relative to which way you hold your map. Rotate it to the left 45 degrees if it makes you feel better.

      3. Law Abider

        100% of cyclists will be coming down 17th at this point, so I’m assuming cardinal directions are those which align with Doc Maynard’s street grid and are parallel or perpendicular ± 16° to magnetic north as defined by NOAA at the beginning of 2015.

        Assuming a different origin and/or cardinal direction still won’t explain the fact that the built Greenway deviates approximately -45° off the established cyclist route.

    2. Andy

      I actually explicitly asked for it at two of the public meetings, because it’s superior for both cyclists and pedestrians.

      1. Law Abider

        Explain how a northbound traffic island @ 57th is superior to a southbound traffic island, when most of the cut through traffic is southbound?

        Also explain how a reconfigured Dock St. intersection to direct towards Leary is superior to crossing Leary at 17th, where 99% of bike traffic has crossed, continues to cross and will continue to cross.

        You were probably the “member of the community” that is constantly referred to when SDOT defends these unsafe obstacles.

      2. Andy

        Could be! What an honor.

        It’s not about cut through traffic, it’s about unsafe use of the post office box.

        Bike traffic doesn’t cross Leary at 17th because it’s terrible, don’t know what you’re basing that on. Everyone uses Dock because it has way better sight lines, and anyone who shouldn’t will now know to do so.

      3. Andy

        No edit function!
        Should be: anyone who didn’t previously use Dock will now know to do so.

      4. Law Abider

        @Andy See, the problem is, when people going southbound use the mailboxes (nobody ever used the mailboxes going northbound, unless we’ve become Britain recently), they now still cut across 17th, then turn waaaaay out onto 17th, leaving a blind spot for cyclists, it’s happened to me a dozen times since that accursed traffic island. So they didn’t eliminate anything, just magnified the existing problem.

        And as far as 17th and Leary vs. Dock and Leary, I’ll attribute it to having biked 17th daily for 5 or 6 years. And since they reconfigured 17th/Dock six (?) months ago, I still see ~100% of cyclists, daily, continuing to/from 17th/Leary (finally, I’ve found a use for Google Goggles!). We’ll see if that changes when the signal goes online, I’m not holding my breath, as 17th still takes them where they want to go.

        Again, if you have other experiences, please share.

      5. Andy

        Oh, I think you may have missed my comment above.

        I agree that the current configuration at the post office is bad – it apparently takes a really long time for the post office to move the drop box to the other side of the street, but that is (according to the public meetings) the plan.

        I’ve been riding here since the mid 90’s, and the intersection of 17th and Leary has *always* been terrible. Northbound it doesn’t matter, but when heading southbound, especially in the winter, the sightlines at 17th are just too dangerous. 100% of experienced cyclists I know use Dock, and have for decades.
        Again, it won’t be great until a connection to the trail is made, but it should be pretty obvious why that phase of the project is being done separately.

      6. Law Abider

        @Andy Well, I guess we can agree that what we’ve seen as far as 17th vs. Dock for crossing Leary is different. Be it different times of day or whatever.

        Also, from what I understand, they are moving the mailboxes to the traffic island, making a terrible situation worse.

  6. Well deserved, Cathy, for changing the dialog, for re-framing the debate, for changing the culture, for power to grass roots neighborhood groups. Not LOS. Not speed. Not us vs. them. Safe streets. All ages. All abilities. Men, women, children, fast and slow. People on bikes. People walking. People using wheelchairs and scooters and skateboards. People driving. People taking buses.

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