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Can-Do Neighbors “Daylight” Sidewalks, Show City How It’s Done

Photos and story by Greenwood-Phinney Greenways

In celebration of Earth Day, Greenwood-Phinney Greenways and Licton-Haller Greenways held a lively and well-attended community service event where neighbors were able to “reveal” and clear off a significant stretch of sidewalk along the west side of Greenwood Ave North, between North 120th Street and North 122nd Street, previously buried under gravel .

“Yes, the work was harder than we’d expected,” said Robin Randels, co-leader of the Greenwood-Phinney Greenways group. “We’d thought—shoveling compacted gravel? How tough could that be? Ha!”

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Making a key neighborhood street safer for all

The pay-off for their strenuous effort was palpable: “We saw several people walking or jogging along this stretch, as well as people waiting at the bus stop while we worked. Hopefully, our service will help make this stretch safer and more accessible for all. Additionally, we collected a large garbage bag full of trash, a bucket of recycling, and 3 syringes (disposed of in a proper sharps container).”

Check out these before-and-after photos of the daylighted sidewalk:

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Fixing a cluttered, impassable sidewalk may seem like a small victory, but it points to a much larger issue for many of the neighborhood streets in the Greenwood area: that is, the lack of safe and comfortable sidewalks for kids walking or biking to school, people walking to the bus stops, library patrons, and seniors on scooters or in chairs attempting to get home.

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Numerous hazards for neighbors on foot

Other common sidewalk impediments in the area include large scale, overgrown laurel hedges that block pedestrian right-of-way, apartment building parking, and other vehicle parking that are frequently encroaching on the would-be public walkway.

Local traffic in the area is fast and dangerously close to those walking along Greenwood Ave North.

”We had multiple lanes of traffic to cross during our weekend clean-up—and it was sad to see, there wasn’t a single car that stopped for us,” shared Randels. “But you know, it’s not all that surprising for those of us who live in the area. It’s just very oriented around cars and driving here—and not around people on foot or in wheelchairs.”

More attention and effort needed from the City

Safety enhancements for people who walk along Greenwood Ave N were envisioned in the Move Seattle Levy. While improvements have been made south of North 112th Street, and more are coming north of North 137th Street, this middle stretch between the two is glaringly lacking in even rudimentary sidewalk access—a condition that falls short of Seattle’s own Complete Streets policy.

The Greenwood-Phinney Greenways group, a member group of the Seattle Neighborhoods Greenway coalition, is hoping that the City will step in to “daylight” the existing sidewalks in this part of District 5, and that the overgrown vegetation is cleaned up to provide a temporary solution for pedestrians on this stretch of Greenwood Avenue.

Randels: “Unfortunately, this overgrowth and resulting obstruction are so vast that cutting it back is well beyond the capacity of our group (and likely that of the adjacent homeowners as well). It is a liability for the city and a hazard for our citizens who are forced to walk in the street as a result. At this point, the situation seems overly large and impractical to coordinate with the multiple homeowners along this stretch to get the job done in a timely fashion. Ideally, we need a City crew out there to get it cut back and hauled off just as soon as it can be arranged.”

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Safe and accessible walking routes: an ongoing issue for Greenwood and the City at large

The Greenwood-Phinney Greenways group is continuing to meet with city leaders to discuss ways to fund and implement more permanent improvements to provide safety and accessibility for all users on this important corridor.

A Seattle Neighborhood Greenways citywide priority is the conversation about how pedestrian projects are funded and constructed. The Greenwood-Phinney and Licton-Haller Greenways groups are working on making Greenwood Ave North an example for the city.

Inspired by this community-driven success story? Pitch in to help make more outcomes like this possible.