Seattle Greenway Organizers – grassroots at its finest

Less than a year after they officially started working together, the Seattle Greenway Organizers have their first big win! At the January 10 Seattle Greenways Coalition meeting on Beacon Hill, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw announced that the City will build seven miles of neighborhood greenways in 2012 (watch a video of her big announcement here).

Neighborhood Greenways are slow-speed, low-traffic residential streets installed with park-like amenities and ways to limit cut-through vehicle traffic. This is a new type of infrastructure to Seattle and one that is perfect for bicycle riders, pedestrians, and families that prefer a low-stress environment to get around their neighborhood.

Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Tom Rasmussen enjoying a ride with fellow greenway advocates on 18th Ave S on Beacon Hill. Photo by Dylan Ahearn.

Councilmember Bagshaw summed greenways up nicely: “Greenways connect parks and schools, community centers and neighborhood business districts. Neighborhood Greenways help with transportation, and they help with getting people where they want to go within their own communities.”

The neighborhoods that will almost definitely see greenways this year include Ballard, Beacon Hill, Greenwood, North Delridge, Wallingford, and the University District. There’s an additional four miles to be built in Laurelhurst, funded by Seattle Children’s Hospital.

And this is only the beginning. According to Councilmember Bagshaw, starting in 2013 the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will build 11 miles of greenways each year. Thanks to the Seattle Greenway Organizers, Seattle is on its way to having a network of greenways that rivals our romanticized bike city to the south, Portland.

[It’s worth noting that by 2015, 85 percent of all Portland residents will live within a half-mile of a greenway and that Portland’s traffic fatality rate is falling six times faster than the rest of the United States. Obviously, they are on to something.]

The type of grassroots organizing employed by the Seattle Greenway Organizers has clearly been very effective. They have done a great job of engaging people from different neighborhoods with unique skills and abilities to add even more power to their campaign. They have volunteers producing neighborhood maps highlighting potential future greenways, writing high-profile OpEds, and writing grant applications to secure funding. Beacon BIKES even went so far as to receive grant funding from the City of Seattle and hired Alta Planning + Design to produce Beacon Hill's own neighborhood greenway plan, separate of what’s in the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan.

Truly, grassroots at its finest.

Speaking of the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan, it’s slated for a facelift this year and we have a unique opportunity to work together to massively improve upon what we did in 2007. Imagine an updated plan that has a greenways network in your neighborhood. Or cycle tracks to and through the downtown core a la New York City. This is our chance to envision and plan a Seattle that is safe, fun, and efficient for bicycle riders of all ages and abilities – one that encourages more people to get on their bikes for any trip.

If you are interested in helping make Seattle a world-class city for bicycling, stay tuned for ways to get involved. We’re gearing up now and will be rolling soon.