Routing a Greener Path

By Erin Acacio

In the coming months, quiet, narrow streets alongside hectic thoroughfares in Wallingford and Ballard will undergo a major face lift – with a ton of yellow paint.

Greenways are a network of neighborhood streets and trails identified by the city as specialized routes for recreational activities. The goal is to make it easier for non-motorized vehicles, such as bicycles, skateboards, or even pedestrians, to navigate around neighborhoods. Cars are still allowed to use neighborhood greenways, but they’ll be discouraged by speed bumps and traffic circles. Greenways are currently under construction in North Seattle neighborhoods.

Not only will greenways make it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to get by, but it will also reduce major traffic congestion for frequent drivers, especially along Northeast 45th Street in Wallingford and the University District.

As traffic congestion in the city worsens, North Seattle neighborhoods are looking at bicycle greenways as part of the solution. Video by Jacob Rogers.

Wallingford is the first North Seattle neighborhood to have a new greenway built. Its construction is scheduled to begin in January 2012. Ballard is already planning to have greenways built in its neighborhood with Laurelhurst being another possible area added to that list.

Wallingford resident Adrian Ozinsky is joining in on Wallingford’s new-found greenway community as cycling is a part of his daily routine.

“I’ve been cycling to work and I’ve got little kids who are now seven and ten years old. They’ve started riding bikes and I needed to ride with them too,” Ozinsky said. “Cycling is an amazing way to get around if you can live close enough to your work and wherever you need to go. It’s a healthy, cheap, and hopefully safe thing to do. So I think everyone should be encouraged to cycle.”

Jennifer Litowski, a Ballard resident, is a part of Ballard’s greenway community. She also bikes to work and loves riding with her young son by her side.

“It has the potential to add a great deal to the community. It makes it easier for us to get around, easier for us to visit our friends and go to some of the local parks, schools, libraries and some of the local businesses,” Litowski said. “I think it would add a great deal.”

As a parent, Litowski is concerned about cars speeding through neighborhood streets and embraces the positive aspects of the greenways on her son, along with other families.

“Greenways do a lot to calm traffic, discourage fast ‘cut-through’ traffic and make the whole street and neighborhood much safer and much more welcoming for all of us,” Litowski said.

Infographic by Ravi Venkataraman

Furthermore, the University District would also be a great place for a greenway because of the high student and resident population. If a greenway is built in the University District, it would reduce traffic congestion near the University of Washington campus and it would better help those who drive on Northeast 45th Street. Ann Gant, a resident in the U-District neighborhood says that this would be a great addition to the area.

“It could be a fantastic greenway and it would serve the numerous students and residents that live in the area,” Gant said. “It would be great for a pedestrian and bike entry way.”

U-District resident Eli Goldberg also agrees with creating a U-District greenway. Goldberg went to graduate school in Holland, where 40 percent of people get around on bicycle. When he moved back to the U-District, he started attending greenway meetings to voice his concerns about the difficulties getting around within the U-District. Besides relieving traffic congestion, Goldberg also encourages a U-District greenway to make it easier to access “the ave” or University Village.

“One of the beneficiaries is going to make “the ave” or the central core into a destination for everyone who lives within a three to five minute bike ride to make it a place where even though parking is limited, all these people can get there in just a few minutes. They can go shopping; go for a quick meal, and to make that be successful as an opportunity of building greenways, were going to have to make the core of the U-District be a place where everyone can walk and everyone can bike safely,” Goldberg said. “That’s going to be a challenge right now.”

Although bicyclists and other greenway committees are happy that this project is currently underway, there are facing numerous challenges, including costs and drivers who do not like bicyclists on the streets. People are anti-greenway because they believe bicyclists are spoiled with bike-friendly devoted routes, the funding should go towards something else other than greenways, or simply because they see bicyclists as insignificant.

Jennifer Litowski believes that if a greenway is built in Ballard, it could potentially end up being the fastest, most efficient way to get around from one part of the neighborhood to another. She is inspired by the idea of how much friendlier and safer streets can become with greenways. Hopefully, other members in her neighborhood greenway community will get closer to a finalized greenway plan, despite lack of funding.

“The other challenge certainly right now is budget issues,” Litowski said. “I mean we all know that the city and the state have a budget problem and trying to change priorities or finding the money is certainly going to be a challenge especially with Proposition 1 being defeated.”

The rejection of Washington State Proposition 1 in this year’s state election was crucial to greenway funding. If Proposition 1 did pass, it would’ve funded transportation facilities and services in Seattle. It would’ve also gone towards transportation repairs, transit improvements to increase speed, reliability and access; and pedestrian, bicycle and freight mobility programs, such as greenways.

An estimated $20.4 million dollars would’ve came in annually to go towards those transportation costs, but the $60 increase car tab fee was a big reason that 60% voted against Proposition 1.

Greenways historically have been funded by neighborhood grants and many neighborhoods are still lacking in funds.

Greenway committees will not give up on their plans, and neither will Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. An avid bicyclist himself, McGinn strongly encourages something like Proposition 1 to happen in the long run.

Seattle City Council intends to create more bike-friendly paths in the near future, noted in its Bicycle Master Plan. The city is studying the Burke-Gilman Trail and the corner of 15th Avenue NE and NE 45th St for possible improvements. Just last month Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw announced 11 miles of Neighborhood Greenways being planned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

“We’ll keep working on this, because the need to catch up on maintenance is not going away,” McGinn said strongly about the project.

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Proposition 1 was for Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District, governed by our city council – although much of the public debate centered around the poor financing options given to us by the state. The measure did fail but by a much smaller margin than that. 

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