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.
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 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.
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).