Central Seattle Greenways looking for family-friendly routes, grant opportunities

The city plans to build 11 miles of family-friend walking and biking routes every year, and Central Seattle Greenways (CSG) wants to make sure the central neighborhoods are not left behind.

About 40 people squished into Central Cinema February 9 for the first CSG meeting. Residents from Capitol Hill and the greater Central District neighborhoods put their heads together to come up with some potential family-friendly walking and biking route ideas and discussed ways to promote them.

Neighborhood greenways are basically low-traffic neighborhood streets that are designed to prioritize walking and biking as a way to connect homes and important neighborhood destinations. They include traffic calming to slow motor vehicle traffic and safe crossings at busy streets so that walking and biking is easy, safe and efficient.

The Seattle Times created an interactive map showing bicycle-involved collisions between 2007 and 2011. Though bicycling has increased significantly since 2007, the number of collisions has stayed constant. This could mean that the more people bicycling, the safer it becomes. The map shows that the Central District streets with the most collisions are 12th Ave, Union, Cherry, Jefferson and Jackson.


360 image of February 6 meeting by Adam Parast

Central Seattle Greenways (which, full disclosure, I am part of) has the goal of providing routes for walking and biking that are further away from heavy car traffic. The group is now working to apply for a small Neighborhood Matching Fund grant, which can provide up to $20,000 to selected projects. Grant applications are due March 12, so a lot of work needs to get done before then.


To keep updated on those meetings and participate in other planning discussions, you can join the Google Group email list. Central Seattle Greenways also has a website, Facebook and Twitter.

To get an idea of what routes might work as neighborhood greenways, people split into three groups. Each group had a big map on the table, and people highlighted important neighborhood destinations — such as schools, big transit stops (present and future), parks, churches and commercial centers. They then drew on the maps to highlight neighborhood streets that could connect these destinations (see below).

Several CD route needs became clear. There was strong support for a route on Columbia Street connecting the First Hill Streetcar stop at Swedish First Hill to Madrona — stopping by Seattle U, Swedish Cherry Hill, Garfield and the Cherry Street commercial areas along the way. There were several good options for a long north-south route connecting Volunteer and Judkins Parks. People also supported routes parallel to 34th Ave in Madrona and routes to help connect Montlake with Capitol Hill and Madison Valley, to name a few.

From the Melrose Promenade Facebook page

The group is not starting completely from scratch on Capitol Hill. Mike Kent of the Capitol Hill Community Council presented planning work already under way for Melrose Ave. The Melrose Promenade would redesign the road, particularly north of Denny, so that it is more comfortable for walking and enjoying the excellent views. CSG embraced the plans, and general consensus was that the group should do whatever it can to move the plan forward.

On Capitol Hill, there are several good options for an east-west route somewhere between Madison and Volunteer Park. All groups agreed that all of Federal Ave would be a good option, though it needs to be repaved (which could be costly).

The next step is to decide the best grant ideas. $20,000 is not really enough money to build a route (which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000/mile). However, it could be enough for design planning (a requirement for the Melrose Green Street project, for example).

Or it could be an opportunity to bring more people in the community together. One idea discussed would be a big cross-neighborhood street party, where a loop of neighborhood streets is turned into a big park for a few hours one weekend day. Organizations and individuals can host parties, music, exercise classes, food, etc along the way. Car traffic is limited, and police or volunteers are on hand to help people cross busy streets. Similar ciclovia-style events have been increasingly popular around the world (and, in fact, the idea has origins right here in Seattle with Lake Washington’s Bicycle Sundays).

The next two meetings will be about grant planning (6:30 p.m. February 27, location TBA) and a route-scouting neighborhood bike ride (2 p.m. March 4, meet at the Judkins Park Tennis Courts).

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37 thoughts on “Central Seattle Greenways looking for family-friendly routes, grant opportunities

  1. I think it is sort of strange the Jefferson is not included as a candidate for greenway improvements on the conceptual plan attached to this post, as:

    (1) Jefferson will serve as a connector route from the CD to the First Hill streetcar on Broadway;

    (2) a substantial amount of bike commuters (from the CD, Mercer Island, and Leschi use Jefferson to go west through the CD where the can head north bound on 12th into downtown,

    (3) Jefferson feeds into Garfield High School and is a major route for students (on foot and bike).

    I wonder if there was representation from Garfield High School students in this process, I cannot imagine that there was – or Jefferson would have likely been included.

  2. I am trying to maintain a positive attitude about this latest incarnation of bicycle-related road improvements (after all, I like Bicycle Sundays along Lake Washington). I understand the desire to have pleasant greenways for pedestrian and bike use on “low traffic neighborhood streets”.

    Imagine my surprise when I see on your map that you have identified 31st Ave, south of Jackson, as one of the streets. This is an arterial and (the only nearby) bus route! Is this where you propose additional calming? Why not 32nd, which IS a quiet neighborhood street only a block away, has similar hill configuration as 31st, already has traffic circles, etc.? How do you expect this project to have wide support if you don’t build credibility from the start? Did you set up any guidelines for street selection before the group starting marking up the map? Identifying an arterial as a potential greenway seems to set up conflict between drivers and bicyclists from the start. And Metro is poised to make improvements that promise faster, more reliable service – and now you propose slowing down traffic on this bus route?

    There are several reasons why Prop 1 (transit funding) was turned down last election cycle, and at least part was perception that too much resource is going to bike improvements. Now that we have had many arterials put on “road diets”, we are told that it didn’t solve the bicyclists problems and we need this new idea. Will the lanes taken away by the road diets be returned to motor vehicles when the greenways have been constructed? Or will bicyclists want this thing and that thing, too?

  3. Or even 30th Ave S. That is a nice, tree-lined street that juts over to a beautiful view to the east. Follow that and end up by I-90 lid park and the bike tunnel. This map is super blurry to me – so I can’t tell if this was a proposed route….

  4. This isn’t a plan or a proposal. Sorry if that was confusing. This was brainstorming activity. Any lines drawn on the map are just lines someone at some point drew in the midst of discussion. I just thought it was interesting to see where they lined up. Yes, 31st wouldn’t seem like a road that meets the low-traffic criteria.

    This was more just an exercise to get people talking to each other and get the conversation moving.

  5. Jefferson probably has too much traffic for a “neighborhood greenway.” Not to say there’s no way to make it better, but it’s a little different from what this group is looking at. I probably could have explained that better.

    Getting Garfield students involved is a great idea. We are looking for ways to get all kinds of community groups involved. This was just a (sizable) crew of people who showed up after we announced the meeting.

  6. Sorry, Tom, the official looking title “81242224 Central District Greenways” fooled me. But if you publish a map with things that look like details, people are going to respond to those details if they feel they might be affected by them.

  7. there may be funding available from the Safe Routes to School program – administered by the State – (assuming it still exists after the next Transportation Bill) for improvements associated with increasing bike and pedestrian capabilities from the neighborhood to the school –

  8. That’s a good point. Finding ways to get kids to and from school is one of the coolest things about a project like this. Bike trains and walking school buses are a lot easier to organize and pull off if routes like this exist. Portland has used Safe Routes to School money for projects like these.

  9. What do the colors on the map mean?

    BTW 20th Ave./Ave E. is an excellent N/S route (goes right past my house), I use it Northwards to get to Interlaken and Southwards to get to I-90 (with a stop at the bakery outlet!). Unregulated crossings of arterials are generally OK. Road surface not perfect, but much better that many streets round here.

    BTW: bike route through arboretum looks suicidal (at least until the rebuilt 520 eliminates the ramp to/from 520, if it ever does).

  10. Actually, SRtS is looking pretty good. Clibborn’s budget proposal added $2 million in new funding, and I think the Republicans are going to be hard pressed to argue against it given tremendous statewide demand (only 1 in 4 desired projects statewide was funded for 2012).

  11. I wasn’t able to make the meeting, but I would echo the concern raised about transit routes. Unless we can scrape the dollars and political will together to do cycletracks or Dexter-style bus islands, I don’t see families with kids on bikes and 60′ articulated buses (or even 40′ non-articulateds) mixing real well.

    I get these are just lines on a map, just want to register the concern.

  12. I totally suuport the concept and will get behind virtually any bike plan so long as it is stand alone and not rapped up in something for everyone proposals like Prop 1.

    I would love to see 20th street closed to all but local traffic. Parking reduced to one side. Thru routing for bikes only. Cars would have to divert to 19th or 21st every second block. Repave and improve parking strip plantings to a mix of green and actual parking.

  13. I think it’s cool that this group is starting this and obviously it will have a lot of interest! It’s interesting to see that two streets right near our house do seem to reflect existing use- lots of bikes on 27th and lots of people heading east-west on columbia (I assume those are two of the colors used). When I walk downtown or to madison valley I use these routes for the reasons you mentioned – they’re relatively direct but without the car noise and exhaust. I notice people bike 27th a lot, probably beause its flatter and quieter than MLK. I’m interested I’m how this goes!

  14. I agree. Most transit routes also happen to be on busy streets, except for the random block here or there (33rd and Spring, 21st and James, etc). So there are actually few direct conflicts. However, with added safe crossings at busy streets, neighborhood greenways can make transit access easier and safer. For example, trying to cross 23rd on foot is dangerous and, depending on the time of day, takes forever. If you add a way to cross easier, then getting to the 48 stop on the opposite side of the street becomes that much easier. There are no crosswalks between cherry and union, but think about how many people use the 48 and live between those two blocks (me). A safe way to cross somewhere between those two streets would make life a lot easier and make using the bus a lot more attractive.

  15. 20th is actually my favorite route, too. However, that might be because I live on it :-)

    I see that a route that stays on top of “the ridge” along 20th/19th/18th/17th can be beneficial to more people. But 20th is a better route to connect between Judkins Park and Interlaken (which are sort of bike portals to other parts of the city/region). We’ll have lots of opportunities to talk about this stuff. Stay tuned and we’d love to have your thoughts. I learned so much from all my neighbors who went to that first meeting and have started to change the ways I get around. There’s so much “local knowledge” I wish there were a really great way to document it all.

  16. Great to hear that. Anecdotes like that are super valuable, since a lot of this is looking at the reasons people walk and bike on the streets they already do, and seeing if there’s anything we can do to make things safer/easier/faster.

  17. There are no marked crosswalks across 23rd between Cherry and Union, but actually all non-signalized intersections are crosswalks. That said, discretion is sometimes better than valor. I usually find a break in traffic or can intimidate a driver, but that can take time, and I wouldn’t do it when darkness makes me invisible.

  18. 21st would not be a good thruway for diverted traffic. It is fairly narrow with quite a few families and residential. Even now traffic backs up due to business traffic at 21st and E. Union. I forgot to say I live there and don’t want more cars backed up spewing CO2 into the air while they wait to turn onto or cross E. Union.

  19. Nobody is talking about changing 21st street. I’m talking about ten of your closest neighbors passing by your house somewhat more frequently. A very small concession for the greater good. The greater good being that more of your neighbors will be on bicycles. Therefore traffic on 21st would remain the same or possibly lower. General noise and pollution in the area would be less.

    It is incredibly frustrating how so many Seattlites cannot bend in the slightest degree from their selfish and petty self interests. You should be ashamed of yourself fighting against virtually any improvement in our transportation systems. Jeeeeez. How is it that I am percieved to be the negative one.

  20. Having just crossed at 23rd/Spring this morning with the kids I know exactly what you mean, Tom. Arterial crossings are going to be a key part of any greenway projects.

  21. I agree that it would be safer for all involved. I am not against new ideas. First a study of the streets and the projected impacts would help all of us move together.

    Yes, 19th is definitely not a good option for the bicycle only street. 22nd, for instance, might be since there is little traffic there, and it is near 23rd as is 24th. Traffic might be more likely to be pushed onto what is already a major arterial. 22nd may otherwise have a few more challenges due to design as it crosses the larger arterials. Yes, some traffic might be pushed onto my street 21st, not much. I was not able to attend the meeting. While the bike lanes work in some areas, along E. Union heading east downhill from 18th, the speed of the bikes combined with some of the obstacles to getting a clear view at the cross streets poses some real safety concerns for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

  22. It is already fairly narrow. However, planning would have to work the businesses at 21st and E. Union to ensure no negative impacts. I think that might be an obstacle.

  23. I ride 20th a lot also. It’s already lined with parked cars on both sides, where are people going to park? Don’t expect people to sell their vehicles. No, I don’t live on 20th street.

  24. Ah, ten of your closest neighbors? Really? Where does that number come from? Kudos to Joanna for being honest and speaking up for her interests. Don’t criticize here as no one wants more traffic passing in front of their house.

    Grumbo, do any of your suggestions actually affect you? Just curious as it’s easy to provide solutions that only impact others. No, I don’t live on 21st either so I am not negatively affected here.

  25. BK, these don’t remove parking. Parked cars actually slow traffic, so it’s a good thing. Sometimes parking is pushed back from the corners to make it easier for people to see each other at intersections and traffic circles, so maybe a spot here or there will disappear. But technically, the law states that you can’t park 20 feet from a corner (a rule that is NEVER enforced, and one that I think few people even know exists).

    In Wallingford, they actually added parking for the upcoming neighborhood greenway project.

  26. These plans don’t make any streets bicycle-only. But they are designed to encourage people driving to use other streets, like 23rd, if they are simply passing through the neighborhood.

  27. Central Cinema is actually a huge supporter of neighborhood greenways. They don’t have tons of parking, so they count on neighbors walking and biking to the theater. But I agree, the needs of local businesses are an important consideration. If done right, increased foot and bike traffic could be a great thing for small neighborhood business.

  28. I like to bicycle in mainly car-free areas and so obviously do not use it as a main source of transportation and have not studied it either. Yes, added foot and bike traffic is great for many small businesses. Better than the cars whizzing by.

  29. Well we agree on the core principle. Creating a network of safe pathways. This 20th high road is great for those of us in the West CD heading to points north like Montlake and beyond.

    It sounds to me like people need to thing more about the old saying – nothing sacraficed nothing gained. Here I go into some hypothetical points just for discussion – not argument. One person doesn’t want any extra traffic on their street. Another doesn’t want to lose any parking (I know that’s not the way you said it – but somebody would). Somebody else will say that they don’t want all the speeding bicycles that don’t obey stop signs. Pretty soon we will have 1000 Seattlites against bicycling in the CD – not in principle but in effect.

    What I would suggest is that repeating these small sacrafices in your life will make you a better person in a better world. No need to be an monk or a priest, but, having a smaller car that actually fits in your old garage and cleaning all the piles of stuff out of your garage would be good thing.

  30. That is relatively obvious from your attitude…. I do use my bike for transportation, as well as my feet and even occasionally a car. IMHO the choice of street one makes is the same any other traveler does. If you want to get somewhere quickly it is better and safer to take an arterial. Going fast down a side street that has unregulated crossings (ie traffic circles) is suicidal – I feel the need to limit my speed to about 15mph (and that is actually regardless of whether I’m in a car or on my bike.) If you are feeling relatively relaxed and don’t have time constraints, side streets and if this happens resulting greenways, are fine. Funny enough as a cyclist I’m not really for them – or at least stress the pedestrian and traffic calming aspects… I think mentioning cyclists just get some people too riled up and also into the thinking that we aren’t allowed anywhere elsewhere except where facilities are installed. As a homeowner OTOH I’d love my street to be one… *please do* install traffic calming measures – I’d even be totally up for my street to be one way…

  31. I’m an advocate for bicycling down 19th vs. 20th, but really, 18th, 19th, and 20th already work pretty well. Seattle.gov currently recommends 19th for bicyclists in the CD (map attached). I see bicycle commuters on just about every north south avenue in the CD (except 23rd).

    Columbia is an interesting idea- They already have a street beautification project up an running- the butterfly path (sp?). But Columbia seems very different than 44th Ave (the one successful greenway I’m aware of). Columbia has HILLS. Not very inviting for the casual rider?

  32. Yeah, hills are an interesting challenge in Seattle. N 43rd/44th in Wallingford has several hills (though not quite as steep as the hills up to Broadway or to Madrona). There are no east-west routes in our neighborhood that don’t have hills, but people obviously still need to to travel that way. Finding routes with as good a grade as possible might be the best we can do, especially since that will help people walking or people with mobility issues who would like a more direct, pleasant route. It’s definitely worth an on-going conversation.

    19th is a good biking route south of Union. But north of Union, it’s too busy for the kind of project we’re talking about here. I agree that people biking already use just about every n-s street in the CD (even 23rd, though I definitely don’t prefer that). I think that if we concentrate on one route and make it as family-friendly as possible, then a lot more people will feel comfortable giving it a shot. If it’s safe for an 8-year-old, then it will appeal to a lot of adults who want to bike, but are scared. That’s what happened in Portland, anyway.

  33. Sounds good to me Tom- just tricky. That 8 year old is gonna be walking her bike up Columbia!

    I gather that the work group at Central Cinema focused on finding Greenways that link up with destination points, but maybe another way to look at it would be to find Greenways that link up with existing bike trails? The bike trail at Sam Smith park for instance can get a determined 8 year old from the Jose Rizal bridge all the way out to Mercer Island without having to ride next to a car. I think 26th Ave links up with that trail?

  34. Of course they affect me. I want to ride my bike from my home in the CD to various locations and at present the rides are dangerous and menacing to my tires. Where do I want to go? On weekends I want to ride up 20th to Montlake and then get on the Burke Gilman for my ride out to Samamish Trail and return via I-90 and the tunnel. Also in the summers I will look to ride up to Marysville cutting off from Burke Gilman and heading up north from the lake to Broadway (Everett) and then try to get across the Snohomish Safely. I hate that crossing. I would like to see a Bike/Pedestrian suspension bridge crossing the flats West of I5. That would be nice, with a Bikeway cutting along the ridge through Everett and South. Also, I want to Bike from CD to Kent. With the new bike path through the Beacon Jungle to Holgate I have a good start. But then I am stuck with Airport Way and such until I get to the Interurban in Tukwila. Something I’m not willing to do regularly. So, yes, I want to ride alot more. But I’m not suicidal. And I want to enjoy the ride – not wobble around on our horrid cobbled streets that nobody ever paves. What the F does SDOT do with my money. Oh, I know, We get new yellow fiberglass panelled wheel chair ramps to replace the concrete ones. And then we tear them out and narrow the street and put in new ones, and somehow after spending half a million dollars on two blocks (18th)- the street still isn’t paved and there is a big pothole so the wheel chairs can’t pass anyway. And the street is two narrow for a bike and a car to pass, so, I have to go two up to twentieth street to ride.

    Yes, these things affect us all. And most of it is dumber than hell.