Category Archive: Editorial

Support Prop 1 for Seattle Parks on August 5 2014

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways endorses Seattle Proposition 1 to fund our parks. We support this stable and Tim Eyman-proof funding source that will allow us to pass down a beautiful and functional park system – not a park maintenance backlog – to our children and grandchildren.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.01.37 PMThe Seattle Neighborhood Greenways community coalition envisions a Seattle Parks system where our kids can safely bike to and through parks for fun, or simply to get home. We envision a Seattle Parks system where grandparents can safely walk and go through as they enjoy staying active. The Seattle Parks ballot measure calls out “Activating and Connecting to Greenways” as a good first step towards this vision.

In order to create an equitable system that serves all Seattleites, parks need to be accessible on foot or by bike. “Activating and Connecting to Greenways” will provide $315,848 per year to allow the Parks Department to work across silos and collaborate with Seattle Department of Transportation to make our parks more accessible to everyone. In addition, “Activating and Connecting to Greenways” will give the Parks Department funding to help provide valuable expertise when Seattle starts to host open streets events (similar to Portland’s Sunday Parkways) that link together multiple parks.

We recognize that equity goes beyond physical accessibility, and park investments should proactively enrich all communities. Proposition 1 will also enhance Parks facilities such as community buildings with drinking fountains and restrooms that will make it easier to comfortably choose to walk or ride bicycles throughout Seattle. We are pleased Proposition 1 will continue to emphasize providing resources to areas of high economic and cultural diversity, so that everyone will have access to clean, safe, green public places.

We look forward to Seattle’s parks being well-maintained and accessible places for people for many generations to come.

Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
On behalf of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Core Leaders

Welcome New SDOT Director Scott Kubly!

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Cathy Tuttle, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Director, Elizabeth Kiker, Cascade Bicycle Club Executive Director and Ed Ewing, Cascade Director of Diversity and Inclusion welcome Mayor Murray’s selection for new SDOT Director Scott Kubly (in yellow tie).

“We’ll give people very attractive choices, so that when it comes time to make a trip, people choose to walk or bike or take transit because it is the most attractive option.” – Scott Kubly, SDOT Director

We are thrilled to welcome Mayor Ed Murray’s choice for the new Director of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Scott Kubly. Hailed by Mayor Murray as “a transportation visionary,” Kubly most recently headed up Alta Bike Share in Portland, and previously had leadership roles in the Chicago and Washington DC Departments of Transportation where he was known to be an action-oriented leader who promoted walking and biking.

In his opening statement at Mayor Ed Murray’s July 2 press conference Kubly said:

I am new to the city, but I spent the last couple of months getting to know the city. I noticed three things. First, Seattle is booming, there are cranes all over the city. The second thing that is readily apparent is that the transportation system needs to adapt to meet the challenges and opportunities that come with that growth, while also taking care of the basics. That means investing in a transportation system that will help us grow, and attract and retain employees. Finally, we need to invest in new transit, in new bike and pedestrian facilities so we can make sure we can move all these new people around the city as well as the people who are currently living here.

While there are many challenges ahead to quickly get to a safe, healthy, accessible transportation system that truly serves us all, we feel totally aligned with the directions being taken by Mayor Murray and his new SDOT Director. Welcome Scott! We look forward to many productive years working with you to build a livable, walkable, safe and healthy city!

What Astonished Us About Bike To School Day Was Way More Than Numbers

JSIS Bike to School Day May 7 2014

JSIS Bike to School Day May 7 2014

Today the Census Bureau released its newest report on commuting in America. There’s been a 60 percent increase in bike commuting in America over the past decade. Portland is #1 at 6.1%, and Seattle ranks #5 at 3.4%.

You need to know the trip to work is all this report tracks and trip to work is the tip of the bicycle iceberg. Almost twice as many of our trips are to the gym, the grocery store, the movie theater, and taking our kids to school.

We don’t measure these trips nearly as well as we should. And because we don’t measure, we don’t build the safe, family-friendly streets to support these trips either. That is about to change in Seattle.

We did do a little measurement on the May 7 2014 Bike to School Day.  It was an awesome display of kid power, family power, and community power. The excitement and pride as reports rolled in from all over Seattle was breathtaking.

Just a little energy from the Walk.Bike.Schools! blog:

  • We counted 136 bikes in the Salmon Bay K-8 Bike Alley, and that number doesn’t even include all of the skateboards, scooters, roller blades, and kids on foot that we saw. Impossible to know for sure, but our full tally is probably around 160 arriving by kid-powered modes of transportation.
  • At Eckstein Middle we have 49 today. We consider that a huge success, as we are still trying to crack the middle school code (how do those brains work, anyway?). If you have ideas, let us know.
  • We’re tracking numbers here at Cascade…up to 1315 so far for elementary and K-8 students and 93 at middle schools.  Shout out to newcomers on the Bike to School scene…Lowell Elementary with 25 students, McDonald International with 120, Pacific Crest with 70, and Whitman Middle School with 36!  SPS Superintendent Jose Banda led one of two bike trains to Alki Elementary this morning with more than 150 people on bikes!
  • I’m pretty sure we had our biggest “Bike to School Day Doughnut Ride” ever at Bryant. Our best-guess count is 200+ riders (parents and kids). That’s a lot of potential mayhem but everything went smoothly and everyone remained rubber-side down. Phew!
  • At John Stanford International School we had a bike train of 91! (That includes a couple scooters). Counting bikes and scooters (tho only a handful were scooters) on the racks, fences, and trees after the bell rang yielded 94, but that doesn’t count the many trailer biked kids and bikes that don’t stick around so probably it’s really a tad higher. Awesome day!
  • With all these students as inspiration, we have 4 Seattle Public School administration bike teams of nearly 10 each, plus individual riders at the John Stanford Center for this year’s bike-to-work month.
  • Whittier had 155 (with about 4 or 5 unicycles)!
  • I’m so jealous!!  We had 7 at Denny!  SO SAD!!!  I am thinking MSP testing and being a Wednesday didn’t help but man I was disappointed :(  But I’m gonna keep trying!
  • Laurelhurst Elementary had 121 kiddos bike/unicycle today. We have about 430 students in the school. They all loved the treats and stickers. What a beautiful day – who ordered the weather for the event?  :-)
  • Stevens Elementary counted more than 100 bikes yesterday! (101 to be exact.) One of them was a tandem, too.

The lesson from Bike to School? We need to keep supporting our kids with ever safer streets for walking and biking to school.

If people riding bikes act as the “canary in the coal mine” as indicators of a safe, healthy city, kids on bikes are the bright song of that canary.

Listen!

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JSIS Bike Train May 7 2014

Stats from Walk.Bike.School for May 7 2014

  1. Bryant K-5                            200+
  2. Whittier K-5                          155
  3. Alki ElementaryK-5            150
  4. Salmon Bay K-8                 136
  5. Laurelhurst K-5                  121
  6. McDonald K-5                    120
  7. Stevens K-5                        101
  8. JSIS K-5                                91
  9. Pacific Crest K-5                 70
  10. Eckstein 6-8                        49

Three Lessons from Riding Every Greenway in Seattle

Originally published April 18, 2014
By Jacob Ostrowsky

Jefferson Park entrance from Beacon Hill Greenway

Jefferson Park entrance from Beacon Hill Greenway

What happens when you ride every greenway in Seattle?  Over the course of several weeks, I did exactly that and came away with a deeper understanding of how far we have come…and what the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) needs to do to realize the full potential of greenways.

First of all, I didn’t just ride every greenway.  I rode them, I walked them, and in some cases I drove them.  I went from one end to the other and back again.  I observed every sign, every speed hump, every pavement marking, and every piece of physical infrastructure, and I took notes along the way.

I took my wife and 11 year old son along for the ride and recorded their impressions, as well.

What did I find?  First of all, it’s clear SDOT knows how to build greenways now.  After a rough start that gave us the Wallingford Greenway — an embarrassment by any measure — SDOT is building greenways roughly on par with current practice in other cities.  Early on, it seemed like Seattle was going to fully recapitulate Portland’s entire painful evolutionary process.  Instead of simply picking up where Portland left off, SDOT apparently needed to re-live their mistakes.  It was maddening to those of us who understood how greenways work.  Fortunately, though, we’re past that and we have nothing but love for our friends at SDOT.  Bygones.

That doesn’t mean we don’t still have things to learn here in Seattle.  So here are three lessons for SDOT that become readily apparent when you ride every greenway.

1.  Break the Silos

Many greenways pass alongside beautiful parks seemingly oblivious to their proximity.  No curb cuts, no park entrances welcoming people along the greenway.  A greenway has the potential to link and extend the reach of Seattle’s park system.  A park should be an extension of the greenway network and vice versa.  Similarly, many greenways pass through creek protection and Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) reduction opportunity areas without addressing green stormwater infrastructure.  SDOT needs to do a much better job collaborating with Seattle Parks & Recreation and Seattle Public Utilities to truly green our greenways.  The portal from the Beacon Hill greenway to Jefferson Park (shown above) is a rare and welcome exception.  It needs to become the rule.

2.  Focus on User Experience

SDOT can be ham-handed when it comes to roadway design.  There is no doubt Seattle’s streets are built to engineering spec but they are not always intuitive to end users.  Many places end up being awkward or puzzling to people like you and me.  A few examples on greenways:

  • The offset arterial crossing at 32nd Avenue NW along the Ballard Greenway forces cyclists to merge into a standard 5’ bike lane at a 90 degree angle.  It may look fine on a schematic but, as a user, it’s puzzling.
  • There are numerous instances of 20 mph signs placed right at the corner of an arterial entrance to a greenway.  Motorists focused on making the turn will likely pass the sign unnoticed.
  • At various locations, you will see pedestrian half-signals installed without beg buttons accessible to cyclists or beg buttons located on the left side of the street only.  I witnessed a woman on a cargo bike fully loaded with groceries struggle awkwardly to activate one of these signals.  It wasn’t pretty.  Do we make drivers park and get out of their cars to activate signals?  We do not.
  • We seem to like diverters made from paint instead of concrete.  A diverter is intended to prevent motor vehicles from turning onto a greenway.  It is possible SDOT is focused on compliance rates but there is a big difference in the perception of safety provided by an actual physical concrete curb versus a painted (and soon to be faded) indicator.

 3.  Err on the Side of Safety

In numerous cases, SDOT appears to err on the side of caution: caution for the need of motor vehicles to flow swiftly.  Just once, they should err on the side of caution for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists ages 8-80.  Examples:

  • The Andover “raised crosswalk” on the Delridge Greenway is intended to protect pedestrians in the crosswalk but the raised portion is barely perceptible.  If we truly want to protect vulnerable users, we can learn a lesson from certain mall parking lots and give people a real raised sidewalk.
  • Arterial crossings along greenways seem to have the minimum acceptable treatment.  Ride the Ballard Greenway and you will wish the crossing at 14th was as good as the one at 32nd.  Similarly, you will wish the crossing at 32nd was as good as the one at 24th and you will wish the crossing at 24th was as good as the one at 15th.  Just once, let’s make err on the side of favoring pedestrians.
  • The same is true for diverters and medians.  At the arterial crossing of Beacon Avenue South at South Hanford Street, a median and pedestrian half-signal were added but the motor vehicle diverter is only sign-based with no physical barrier.  It is unclear why the median wasn’t extended slightly to serve as a physical diverter.  It’s as if SDOT is saying to motorists, “Don’t cross here, but in case you do, we made a nice cut through the median to make it easier to disobey the signs.”

In spite of these gentle observations, SDOT’s trajectory is, without a doubt, solidly upward.  Quality is improving and the results are readily apparent.  These essential greenway corridors, currently scattered across the city, are gradually coalescing into a linked network promising greater safety for those who choose to travel under their own power.  As we continue to work with SDOT, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is dedicated to making this network a reality, one that sets a standard for quality that other cities will strive to match.

 

Take Action and sign our budget petition!

Every year for the past three years, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has submitted an annual list of priority routes and intersections to the City of Seattle. You can review our success in funding our priority greenways here. In 2014, we decided to focus solely on intersections.

Our process

We have chosen to focus on intersections because we firmly believe that family-friendly intersections are the foundation of a well-loved and well-used network of safe and comfortable streets. Kids biking home from school, grandparents walking to the park, parents pushing a stroller, and neighbors propelling wheelchairs to the bus all are limited by safe ways to cross busy streets. This is something we hear from people in every corner of Seattle.

We want to help make sure SDOT has the community support, local knowledge, funding, and political support necessary to build world class intersections as part of world class greenways.

By de-emphasizing mile targets for greenways in 2014, and instead focusing this year entirely on intersections, our priorities are clear. Intersections that do not prioritize people who walk or bike are gaps in our family-friendly active transportation network. We value future City investments in safe ways to get across our streets. 

In the past year, 21 Seattle Neighborhood Greenway groups collectively spent hundreds of hours discussing, researching, and documenting priority intersections in their neighborhoods. Every neighborhood group found many intersections where City investments could be made to increase safety for people walking and riding bicycles. Each local group was asked to select just two or three of the many intersections they found problematic. During a series of meetings and online discussions as a coalition from October through December, we collected and evaluated 73 proposed intersections that local groups had submitted as their highest local priorities.

Then we “prioritized the priorities”.  We voted as a group for just 10 intersections. These 10 intersections are what we will advocate for most strongly in 2014 – but again, all 73 intersections submitted by community groups as part of this process have value as top local priorities. Obviously, there are many intersections that need safety improvements in Seattle!

How did we choose just 10 of these intersections for your consideration?  We evaluated and prioritized our collective selection based on several criteria. The questions we asked were:

  1. Does this intersection connect to a larger network of comfortable active transportation corridors?
  2. Does this intersection reach a broad geographic spread in the city and include places of economic and cultural diversity?
  3. Is this intersection very likely to become a part of a greenway system? Is it a part of the Bicycle or Pedestrian Master Plan?
  4. Does this intersection have a record of pedestrian or bicycle collision reports?

Our map

You can review all 73 intersections that our local groups proposed in the attached spreadsheet and online map. Our map includes descriptions and data for every intersection. We divided our intersection list into three categories: 1) intersection improvements on existing greenways; 2) intersection improvements on potential future greenways; and 3) other intersection improvements that our community members simply felt were of vital importance in order to make active transportation links for people of all ages and abilities.

Our on-line map includes all 73 intersections as well as highlights our top 10 citywide priorities. https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zGIcCaV5R2LQ.kBCzFelP7p80

Our support

We look forward to working with SDOT on intersection improvements throughout Seattle. Every intersection on our map represents significant community support from 21 different neighborhoods. We are happy to help SDOT build additional site-specific support as needed.

To build our collective knowledge base and increase support, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways plans a February workshop with SDOT staff, talented professionals from the private sector, and professors and graduate students from University of Washington to collaboratively find ways to improve and evaluate greenway arterial crossings. We’ll keep you posted on our upcoming “Greenway Hack-a-thon”!

Finally, we will continue to work as a coalition to make sure the public, the City Council and the Mayor’s Office know how important safe and comfortable intersections are to the people of Seattle. We want to continue to provide SDOT with funding and political support to build safe and comfortable streets for all. We hope to work with you to create world class intersections in 2014 that are truly family-friendly.

Children hurry across Rainier at S Myrtle St - a budget priority

Children hurry across Rainier at S Myrtle St – a budget priority

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