North Delridge Greenway plan will turn 26th into a bicyclists’ utopia

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“Imagine your neighborhood, knitted together with quiet residential streets where children and adults safely walk, ride bicycles, play and run. Imagine these streets are close to where you live and connect you to the places you want to go …”

Those are the words and hopes of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a volunteer coalition advocating for an extensive network of “greenways” in Seattle. The idea is you take non-arterial roads, ideally of the straight and level variety, and turn them into a bicyclists’ and walkers’ utopia with pavement markings to alert drivers to their presence, improved arterial crossings, stop sign priority given to the self-propelled travelers, signage specifically for greenway users, speed bumps and other traffic disincentives to keep large volume of automobile commuters off the road. The obvious side benefits are less traffic stress in a city already stressed during commuter hours, better health for those who use the greenways, and more “eyes on the street,” leading to a “safer and friendlier community.”

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is not alone in their vision, as it is one shared by the City of Seattle and their Bicycle Master Plan drafted in 2007 with a 10-year goal of “making Seattle the best community for bicycling in the United States.”

The implementation of that plan rests with Seattle’s Department of Transportation, and one of their early pilot-projects for the potential wide-spread network of greenways is right here in West Seattle, on 26th Ave S.W. in the North Delridge area.

SDOT presented their plans to Delridge residents at a Nov. 14 meeting and reserved the second half of the presentation for feedback from the crowd.

John Vander Sluis from SDOT was the presenter and, after explaining the safety and health benefits of a greenway system, he showed a video (imbedded above) of the program’s inspiration: Portland, OR, where an extensive greenway network is already in place.

Vander Sluis made it a point to define the difference between residential greenways and bike lanes found on major arterials throughout the city. While adult riders can confidently navigate the chaos of busy roads, he said he would never want his niece trying to do the same … and that is part of the plan: making safe pedestrian and bike travel available to all ages and ability levels.

The cost ranges anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000 a mile to convert roads to greenways, according to SDOT, and the city has set aside $60,000 to make 26th a greenway connecting to the West Seattle Bridge trail.

Residents living on 26th in attendance were behind the plan, but were concerned about the lack of sidewalks along certain portions of the roadway (like south of Brandon). Vander Sluis said SDOT’s budget constraints make that a difficult order – they have the money to repair sidewalks, but not build many new ones.

Heavy east-west cross traffic at Brandon and Genesee was another concern, and SDOT said they would look at altering the traffic patterns and signals at those crosses to make the greenway safer.

Some attendees said, through personal observation, that 21st Ave S.W. has much more bike traffic than 26th and wondered if that might be the better pilot location. SDOT said they hope to have greenways on both the west and east sides of Delridge Way S.W., and hope to start planning for a 21st Ave conversion in 2013.

Vander Sluis said SDOT only puts 2.2 percent of their yearly budget into bike riding improvements, so a key to further expansion of the greenway program is the people showing their elected officials how important it is. They will also monitor how heavily the pilot greenways are used (in West Seattle and other neighborhoods) to determine prospects for the future.

To read more on the meeting, check out the North Delridge Neighborhood Council recap at www.ndnc.org. To get involved on the advocate side of things, visit Seattle Neighborhood Greenways at www.seattlegreenways.org or Spokespeople West Seattle at www.spokespeople.sustainablewestseattle.org.

Another meeting will be held in Delridge in January:
January 15, 2013, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW. Presentation starts at 6:40 p.m.

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