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« Neighborhood Greenways in Ballard! »

Here's a taste of Neighborhood Greenways, Portlandia style (via Streetfilms)

Update: Read on for background and proposed routes, but the latest Ballard Greenways information is to be found on the Ballard Greenways Facebook Page

Calling all Ballard bike people! Neighborhood Greenways (the streets formerly known as Bicycle Boulevards) are coming to Seattle. Soon. And in a big way.

Thus far, Seattle bike improvements have tended to favor commuters, and "fast and fearless" cyclists, with narrow bike lanes on busy arterials. While the associated road diets have lowered rates of speeding and accidents, being wedged between fast motor vehicles and the door zone is not exactly where you want to be with your kids. It's time to address the "willing but worried" who would ride if they felt safer, using designs that cater to cyclists of all ages and abilities, helping them get to neighborhood schools, parks, libraries, and shops, on pleasant, traffic-calmed "bike arterials."

Enter the Neighborhood Greenway. Take a quiet street, often parallel to a busy arterial, with already lowish motor-traffic volumes. Add calming devices that discourage cut-through speeding motorist traffic (speed bumps, speed tables, curb extensions, chicanes, etc), and favor through-traffic for bikes by turning some stop signs to favor the greenway, and at arterials, provide safe crossings for bike/peds but divert motorists onto the arterial. Bonus points for adding "green" features such as stormwater diversion "rain gardens" in conjunction with curb extensions, trees, and other greenery. Make the routes distinctive and let motorists know to expect bike/peds with large street markings, and wayfinding signs that help cyclists navigate our bike-friendly network.

Unlike some more controversial (yet still vital) infrastructure where traffic or parking lanes are removed, the Greenway approach is potentially less divisive. Residents can still drive home, but experience calmer streets and higher property values. Pedestrians are spared from speeding motorists, and have safer crossings. People on bikes both feel and are safer, due to the "safety in numbers" phenomenon, and are able to keep their momentum up with fewer stops on the route. And by attracting cyclists to these "bike arterials", there are fewer cyclists on the other arterials, which benefits motorists. The only people who lose are the drivers that like to speed down your quiet neighborhood street. Oh well.

There's a lot of momentum towards this new school of bike facility in town. Sally Bagshaw, of the City Council, has caught the fever, and reports that others on the Council see neighborhood greenways as a win-win. Seattle Parks Foundation is on board, as are Cascade and the Mayor's Office. SDOT is relatively late to this concept (especially compared to Portland, Vancouver, Berkeley, and other bike-friendly cities with extensive greenways networks) but is coming around. What's nice about Seattle is that the push for these is coming from neighborhood groups like Beacon BIKES, Spokespeople (Wallingford), Seattle Children's, not to mention a host of interested Ballard bike/walk organizations. After all, we know best what streets are bike-friendly, and where everyday cyclists need to ride. A number of us have been meeting together to help our Greenways get off to a successful start.

For more info on Seattle Greenways, see these resources:

The first Seattle Greenways are likely to be in Wallingford on N 43/44th St, Laurelhurst on 39th Ave NE, and Beacon Hill on 17th/18th Ave S, due the efforts of neighborhood grassroots organizations. Let's get Ballard on the map for round two of Seattle Greenways, and push for a connected network of greenways rather than a single street. Ballard's flat-for-Seattle neighborhood grid is ideal for such a system, one that can get families to places they need to go in Ballard, and connect to established routes like the Burke Gilman trail, and the downtown route through the Locks and Elliott Bay Trail. 

Here is a very rough draft of what Ballard's network might look like (original Seattle map by Dylan Ahearne of Beacon BIKES). Detailed thoughts on routes follow. But we need your input! Please post suggestions in the comments, and I'll update the map as consensus evolves. SDOT truly wants to know what we think, and so does the City Council. 

Proposed Neighborhood Greenways in Ballard

View Ballard Greenways in a larger map, with other cycle routes

28th Ave NW

I really like 28th Ave NW, as it's already a popular N-S bikeway, with relatively gentle grade, that would route from the top of Sunset Hill, down past the Nordic Museum and park, in front of Adams Elementary plus the Ballard Community Center & Playfield, across Market (already has a traffic light), to the future Missing Link section of the Burke Gilman and downtown through the Locks. Some motorists like to speed down it, as it's relatively wide, so there could be some pushback, but calming this street would have real safety benefits for residents and Adams Elementary students.

NW 57th/58th Street

This vital E-W route links up Seaview Avenue at Ray's (and the Burke Gilman trail extension), past QFC, Ballard Commons Park, the Ballard Library, downtown Ballard, the Port Office, supermarkets on 15th, and so on. The arterial crossings are already signalized. It's 1-2 blocks away from many local Ballard businesses. Love it. Only issue I have is 57th is pretty narrow west of 24th Ave, which can be said of some of the other routes. That'll be something to carefully mull over, as the visibility and shareability of such streets is limited, and I don't think such streets would easily lose one parking lane. Some streets already have a "no parking" side in sections, which could help.

17th Ave NW

This N-S route would link up North Ballard, Salmon Bay School (and parks), the new Ballard Corners Park, Market Street businesses, Swedish Medical Center, lower Ballard Ave, and the Burke Gilman. It would need a crossing treatment at 17th and Shilshole, but that's been needed for years, and is in the interim plan for the Missing Link. The Leary crossing would also need a median refuge or signal. Market has a light. 65th crossing would need help as well. Interestingly, this is the only proposed Greenway on the Seattle Bike Master Plan, which is due for it's midway update next year. 

NW 67th Street

This E-W route would connect to the routes above, is wide in the West, and would provide a calmer alternative to busy/narrow 65th for Salmon Bay and Ballard High Schools. Crossing 24th and 15th would need some help. NW 70th St is a similar route to consider, as it seems roomier in East Ballard, has a light on 15th, includes the Honore/Delancey business strip and intersects with Salmon Bay Park. Maybe make it 67st-70th St route, jogging up 17th Ave?

11th-12th Ave NW

This route hooks the Burke Gilman Trail at Fred Meyer up to North Ballard, past Gilman Playground, and including Ballard High School.

NW 77th St

This is a nice E-W bikeway that routes from Sunset Hill Park, past Loyal Heights Elementary & Community Center, and provides one of the gentler routes up and over Phinney, connecting nicely to North Greenlake at the wading pool, on streets that already include some calming features like the chicanes near the lake. Intersects the Interurban bike trail as well. 

6th Ave NW

This N-S Greenway could link the BG Trail at Hale's, up past Pacific Crest School, West Woodland Elementary, to NE Ballard.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and suggestions, as this is just a rough start. As you design, remember that the most expensive part of Greenways are arterial crossings, so bonus for routes that already have safe ways across. What routes would you like to see created first?

As our proposed Greenways get tightened up, I propose we borrow the 7-person Conference Bike from Dutch Bike and ride the routes with interested parties and stakeholders. Who's in for a round-bike discussion on the streets of Ballard?

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Reader Comments (13)

I'm thrilled that the Neighbourhood Greenway idea is gaining momentum here in Seattle. I’ve been a seasonal bicycle commuter for the last couple of years, and am moderately comfortable in traffic. This year I’m beginning to use my bike for short (< 2 miles) around town, often towing my 5 year old on the trail-a-bike. It’s a dramatically different experience – I’m slower and less agile with the trail-a-bike and ride much more conservatively. The arterial crossings are key – I need a much larger gap in traffic when crossing with a kid.

I also think it's great that folks are thinking in terms of a network - that's key to making the NGs useful on an everyday basis, as opposed to a a once-a-month recreation/novelty. The map is also making me realize how much my cycling routes are in a rut - I haven't ridden down a number of these streets. That said, here are my thoughts on a few of them:

28th Ave NW: Agreed, it's a great route. BTW, it crosses Market St., not Shilshole. Currently, the intersection with Market is in very bad shape with a number of nasty potholes.
NW 57th/58th Sts are mostly great. Currently, there are no signals for crossing 8th Ave or 20th Ave.
NW 77th St.: Does this have any advantages over 75th St.? 75th already has lights at 15th Ave. Also, 77th has an offset when crossing 8th Ave, which might be a challenge.

What are business's responses to being on a NG? I can see clear advantages to home owners, less so for businesses?

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterantijen

Go Ballard!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDylan

Thanks for the detailed thoughts above! Bring 'em on. I also tend to get "stuck in a route," and I especially need more North and East Ballard input.

28th Ave NW: Whoops - corrected, thanks.

57th/58th: Agreed, and 20th will lose the middle turn lane this summer when they restripe. Sigh. I'm not a fan of downhill turn lanes as usually done in Seattle - too fast to be that close to the door zone. I'd prefer an uphill lane, downhill sharrows, and keep the turn lane, if there's room. On 8th, a crossing island/median refuge with high-visibility crosswalk/crossbike would be an option.

77th: You know, I've never tried 75th. I've been using 77th for trips to Greenlake and beyond ever since I saw it on the bike map, assuming it would be calmer or flatter. It does connect Loyal Heights Elem and CC, and it's better at Aurora (has a light, although the pavement sensors need to be tuned for bikes). 15th crossing is indeed a problem, but 8th has this cute little bikes only left turn channel. I'll try riding 75th next time.

Businesses: Well at least we're not trying to remove "their" parking :) Slowing motorists might increase walk-in traffic provided we don't aggressively limit through-traffic at their store-front, and other surveys of bike lanes at least have shown increased business (cyclists may have more disposable income, and send less $4 gas money out of the community?). There aren't many businesses directly on these routes, but you're right that outreach to them as well as residents will be important.

Another frequent initial concern is emergency vehicle access, so involving those agencies early in choosing design elements can help, and to make sure we're not monkeying with designated emergency response routes.

Offering trial installations of curb extensions, medians, and other features may help get things done in our bogged-in-process town. Once built, things have a way of staying, especially if you document before/after benefits and show that other "we fear change" worries (I won't be able to drive to my house! Cyclists are a menace! It will ruin traffic on nearby streets!) didn't materialize.

May 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

I like the idea of Ballard going with a Greenway system a la Portland inner east side. The topography is similar and the street grid supports alternatives to arterial routing.

However, if you want cycling to take place in this city, we need cycling trunk lines that are separated, Burke Gilman styled thoroughfares through Interbay, Westlake, Eastlake, 23rd Ave E, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill (14th), SODO, Delridge, and Alaskan Way South.

Seattle differs from Portland in that there are large distances between different urban cores separated by hills and therefore mini-freeways that serve as choke points to traffic flow. To my mind, this is why bus transit works so well in this town, but also way cycling will be relegated to the fast and fearless riders, of which I am a prime example. The problem is that I'm tired of being the only one out there. Come on and make it fun, everybody.

These more robust cycling routes would allow people to cycle out of their neighborhoods without encountering mini-freeways with 45 mph traffic.

Bagshaw should be commended for this move to promote cycling in Ballard, but she's doing it to offset other anti cycling positions that she has taken. Ask her about a bike lane on S Airport Way, for instance, or Rainier S.

May 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Hawkins

Thanks, Brad, and I totally agree about islands of intra-neighborhood bike networks connected by cycling trunk lines along flatter inter-neighborhood routes. For folks that want to visually see what Brad's talking about, see this excellent visual display of Seattle vs Portland topography and bikeability by Adam Parast.

Ballard's already not so bad in that regard, will be better when the Missing Link is completed, and if the Locks/Elliott Bay route to downtown were streamlined and signed better. Westlake parking lot has SO much room, it's tragic they didn't plan a cycletrack in there. I prefer it to the Dexter hill.

Of course, grade-separated bike routes are more expensive, and can involve right-of-way expenses, loss of travel/parking lanes, expensive intersection treatments, etc. I think we're likely to see the Greenways show up sooner in this current environment. But we need both.

My hope is that effective Greenways convert enough "willing but worried" into "enthused and confident" cyclists that are looking to venture outside of their neighborhoods on bikes, and that the mode share, demand, and political clout for the trunk lines will increase.

May 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

I rode 17th Ave today with the family and really liked it. It's quiet, attractive, and isn't too steep. Unlike 20th and 22th, you don't have to detour around Salmon Bay Park. Plus, I had completely forgotten about Ballard Corners Park, but have now promised to go back when we have more time so that my son can play on the cement couch. We also rode on 70th St., which I also really like. I'd hope that the businesses there would be pretty friendly to a NG, since they've already chosen street with slow traffic, though one can't take that for granted.

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterantijen

I tried out 57th St. and 17th Ave on my commute today. 57th is pretty good, especially with the lights to cross 24th Ave. A potential trouble spot is at the QFC on 24th Ave, though. Delivery trucks frequently park there and there are cars exiting the parking garage. I’m sure it can be overcome, but will take some attention from the planners. For the most part, 17th Ave is a delight to ride on. As noted above, the crossing at 65th St. needs help. Right now, the biggest problem there is poor lines of sight caused by the hill and the parked cars.

May 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterantijen

I'd have to recommend (or second the recommendation for) either 73rd or 75th St NW as an east-west throughway. 75th probably makes more sense as it has a light at 15th and a more gradual climb up the west side of Phinney. I'm all for this, though -- it is a great solution in other cities I've visited. Vancouver, BC employs them to great effect as well.

May 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterghd

Thanks for the updates, antijen - I figured the 70th St business cluster would be relatively bike-friendly, especially since parking would be unaffected. Agreed about the QFC parking garage entrance, too.

Cars parked illegally close to intersections are a big visibility problem. Unfortunately, it's so common on the residential streets as to have become "normal." Curb bulbouts/extensions can physically prevent parking at the corners, as can storm water diversion gardens, but those cost money, and won't get installed at every corner. Perhaps there's a curb & street "paint" solution that could be deployed on the greenways to better delineate where the 30ft line is.

George - I'll try 73rd too - do you think they're better than 77th as a route over the hill?

Also, I posted about this over on the MyBallard Forums, and so far it's an unusually quiet and civil thread.

May 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Very good layout so far. I've got a couple things to add:

The 57th route to Golden Gardens is extremely steep -- you'd definitely want to go to 58th. 58th & 57th can be extremely bumpy between 20th Ave & 15th Ave, but are otherwise good.

I would not recommend 70th St as an arterial. I take that route all the time for my deliveries because of the traffic light across 15th Ave, but the business there have very limited parking for cars and every time I ride there around 7-8pm it's a complete mess of cars trying to find parking.

28th Ave is a pretty good road, but it gets used by cars as an arterial. I'd rather cut to 27th or Earl north of 65th. The Rain Garden bulbs on 28th still allow parking on both sides of the street and it can really constrict the street.

It'd be really nice to somehow use 21st or 23rd Ave. 17th Ave is really good since it's a straight shot from Market going North, but it's got a steeper little hump around 70th st. If you ever ride on 21st or 23rd Aves you'll find that you somehow get to the 75th/77th plateau without ever feeling like you ever went up a hill.

Anyway, that's just my two cents -- I think the plan you've laid out is very close to the one I'd recommend.

May 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBob Hall

I had a few ideas to add. Adding 34th Ave NW as a connector between 57th St and 77th. 34th is wide, has very little traffic and parallels the 77th St overlook at the north end. I also second the comment on 57th's steepness heading towards Golden Gardens. My opinion would be direct that traffic to the Burke at 32nd until the missing link is completed and then using 28th.

Another was adding a route up Phinney Ridge in the 56th St/Palatine Pl area. Straight to Woodland Park, and possibly a bit shallower climb. I'll have to ride the area and see what the lane widths are like, it's been awhile since I was over there.

This is a good start!

May 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColin

Just woke up on this wow of a day and was thinking about the first ride to school on the "Lavender Bomb" our newly acquired, purple tandem from circa '85!! Anyway we will be riding either 11th/12th or 6th down to school and thought I should chime in on my thoughts on these great routes. A recurring theme will be safe crossings of 15th Ave NW. I would highly recommend using routes with traffic lights.
28th Ave NW
I frequently come up the hill on 28th and think this is a great choice. North of 65th this is one of the widest streets in Seattle and looks like it may have been a street car line back in an earlier enlightened age (prior to being consumed by Seattle??). I think more speed bumps and traffic circles would help with auto speeds, which as someone else pointed out, can be pretty fast.

NW 57th/58th Street
Great E/W link. I think 58th is signaled at 15th so it gets my vote.

17th Ave NW
I ride this route daily from Leary to 77th. With slight safety upgrades this would make a great route. One other enhancement would be to shave a little bit of the steep grade off the hill between 67th and 73rd!

NW 67th Street
Well not sure one is better than the other. Agreed about crossing 24th and 15th needing help. One alt would be to follow 67th when west of NW 19th, then jog north to NW 70th St to cross 15th. I wonder what the 70th ave business district would think about this route? Would it be safer to be near the business district than near the high school drivers?

11th-12th Ave NW
Seems like a winner but what about the crossing of Market? New pedestrian signal?

NW 77th St
I would strongly vote for 75th over 77th east of 15th and have never understood why 75th appears on the bike route map. I live between the two and I or my wife trailered our daughter to daycare on Phinney for two years along 75th. 75th has a signal at 15th and further east a good crossing of 8th with crosswallks and good sight lines for traffic. Adding some curb bulbs on 8th N and S of 75th would improve the crossing even more by eliminating a couple parking spots which can interfere with sight lines. As others have pointed out 77th is offset as it crosses 8th and cars are going fast as the accelerate away or towards 80th. The crossing of 3rd could use crosswalks and further signage.

West of 15th 77th is a bit flatter with a signal at 77th and 24th.

6th Ave NW
Good route. One suggestion is to jog east to cross Market at 5th with the pedestrian signal. This is the most responsive signal in the city! One block north and then back to 6th or 4th for the rest of the climb. Either route would need some help at 65th.

Hope these comments are not too late. bike - on!

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermr_soggy_toes

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January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGarage Repair

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