Amidst all the hubbub over the Missing Link lawsuit, I'd love to propose a broader bicycle strategy that I think would be ideally suited to Ballard, and might even be less divisive than completing the Burke-Gilman trail (which I support). Bicycle Boulevards!
Ballard's grid layout, presence of low-traffic streets as alternatives to the busy arterials, frequent use of traffic circles rather than stop signs, abundance of parks and playgrounds, and proximity to shops and ice cream and the beach all make Ballard a potential family biking paradise, in many ways. Most of what you'd want to get to is within a 2-3 mile radius of your house, which is a distance that is very reasonable for even non-hardcore folks to bike. It's also (somewhat!) flatter than other big family neighborhoods in Seattle.
What would make Ballard even more ideal for cycling would be a network of bicycle boulevards, which are enjoying success (not just with cyclists, but also families and residents) in Portland, Berkeley, and other livable cities with similar street layouts to ours. To quote the BTA, Bicycle Boulevards are:
- Low-traffic neighborhood streets that have been optimized for bicycling. They provide direct, attractive routes for bikes.
- Quieter, prettier, and healthier than busy, car-filled streets.
- Welcoming to kids, families and novice cyclists, and attractive for all kinds of cyclists.
- Extremely safe (many have zero crashes over the last decade).
- Healthy, with noticeably cleaner air than busy streets
Streets chosen for bike boulevards are often parallel to busier arterials, and benefit motorists by reducing bicycle traffic on those arterials, and benefit cyclists of all ability levels by offering traffic-calmed, direct, optimized routes with safe crossings of larger streets. Fast motor traffic is discouraged by various traffic calming devices and diversions, while preserving local access for residents and emergency vehicles. The streets are clearly labeled as bike-friendly, and cars expect to see bikes there, so less experienced cyclists feel comfortable "taking the lane" and avoiding the door zone.
What results is a more livable street for residents, where children can play more safely, where there's less exhaust, and where traffic speeds are lower, which makes accidents less likely and less lethal.
Potential routes that come to mind would be NW 77th Street (a lovely East-West route all the way to Greenlake, with traffic calming already present near the lake), NW 61st St or 57-58th St, and North-South routes like 28th Ave, maybe 17th? Anyone with suggestions, please chime in. The goal is not to take over busy arterials, but to promote safe, attractive bike routes near them. Yes, some through traffic does get diverted, some of that traffic may move to other routes (hopefully arterials), and local residents may have to alter their routes slightly. But folks that live on them seem happy to give that up for more livable streets, and higher property values.
But to really get a feel for them, please watch these videos (love the purple in Berkeley!):
Bike boulevards seem like a win-win, and well-suited to Ballard. They're cheaper than separate multi-use trails, and a drop in the bucket compared to big motorist projects like the Viaduct. Anyone up for helping promote this vision in Ballard? Or more widely in Seattle? I don't know why a network of bike boulevards isn't a more prominent feature of our Bicycle Master Plan (only 7 miles proposed short term, only one in Ballard) ... I'm not enamored of all the sharrows and door zone bike lanes.
And to my lucky Portland readers, or others that already have these, how are they working? What were the big obstacles to rolling them out? Anything you'd do differently?
Note: I posted an earlier version of this on the MyBallard forums, and am hoping for additional suggestions there. So far, supportive, but there's no shortage of car-bike antagonism on that forum, so we'll see ...