39th Avenue NE Greenway…only the 2nd of its kind


Neighborhood greenways are new to Seattle.  The name suggests a park; but it’s not a park.  It’s more of a pathway and so far there’s only one of it’s kind in Seattle, though admittedly the “kind” is not fully defined yet.  Regardless, the family is growing, starting with a neighborhood greenway in Wallingford, just south of N 45th Street, between Stone Way N and Latona Avenue NE, and soon to have a sibling greenway along 39th Avenue NE between the Burke Gilman Trail and NE 77th Street. 

The 39th Avenue NE Greenway route is especially ideal as it helps families and children get safely through the neighborhood to Thornton Creek Elementary

So, what is a neighborhood greenway you ask????  Well, you’re persistent!  OK, neighborhood greenways are routes on non-arterial streets that are optimized for safe, family-friendly bicycle and pedestrian travel, and are usually designed for reduced vehicle speeds and volumes.  There.  Done.  All explained. 

 Just kidding.

As you may know, here in Seattle we have a lot of cyclists and here at SDOT we’re always trying to balance the needs of all travel modes (don’t you love being called a travel mode?).  Neighborhood greenways fill in the picture so bikes can use existing roadways safely, and get where they’re going efficiently.  For example, greenways run parallel to major arterials so that cyclists can stay on a “fast track” they might want but hop off for portions of it to avoid some of the high speed/freight/bus traffic.  So why can’t a cyclist just do that of their own accord – why a Neighborhood Greenway project?  Good question!  Now I know you’re paying attention! 

Where non-arterials cross arterials the crossings can be difficult.  Neighborhood greenways alert people – drivers and riders – with well defined crosswalks, signage and islands for safe refuge (not tropical, now THAT would be some refuge).  Oh, and that’s not all.  There’s no side street parking at these newly defined crossings so no “suprise door whacks” for cyclists to worry about.  Plus, on 39th Avenue NE for example, the non-arterial intersections that were previously uncontrolled get stop signs for east/west traffic so that the north/south pathway can be smooth and continuous.

It’s not just any old route that gets this treatment I’ll have you know.  The 39th Avenue NE route has long been promoted by the neighborhood since no other consistent north/south route besides busy 40th Avenue NE exists and 39th Avenue NE is already more pleasantly calm because it jogs, tending to slow vehicle movement.  Which brings us to how routes are evaluated by the City.  A  proposed neighborhood greenway is evaluated both for traffic volumes and speeds, with maximum thresholds; meaning, we don’t slow down a fast-moving roadway to make a greenway; rather, we enhance a slow-moving roadway for bike efficiency.  There!  I’ve said it all!!

Wait, there’s more.

As part of the program the City plans to re-test car volumes and speeds after greenways go in to make sure cars aren’t suddenly trying to take advantage of the new pathway (to maybe get around arterial back-ups) and if so, calming measures such as speed bumps might go in.

With me blathering on as I have you might think we have it all figured out but we don’t – we need your help and the help of great partners like Seattle Children’s Hospital.  Seattle Children’s is paying for the 39th Avenue NE Greenway, by the way; did I mention that?  And they’re working hard with their Livable Streets Initiative to ensure any added traffic due to their hospital expansion doesn’t have ill-effects on the neighborhood.  Which leads me to yet another natural transition…the June 23rd Livable Streets Open House.  I wasn’t kidding about needing your input.  Neighborhood Greenways are still evolving and to create a solution that we can apply clearly and consistently we need YOU.  So can YOU be HERE:

You can stop by anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to learn about the 39th NE Greenway Project and other Seattle Children’s Livable Streets Projects coming soon – and of course bring your bike!  Seattle Children’s will have free bike helmets with complimentary fittings; bicycle fun & safety workshops; and a bicycle obstacle course (and you thought we were all about removing those obstacles…). 

Thanks for reading 🙂

Share Button


  1. Meredith Auerbach says

    It would be better if you included the year and gave a listing of what the variously colored boxes meant. Sorry to say this is typical but unfortunate SDOT communication to citizens.

    • SDOT Blog says

      The blog post says “Posted: June 7th, 2012” at the bottom. We agree that the boxes should be better explained. If you have questions about this or other greenways, you can contact our Pedestrian and Bicycle Program at WalkAndBike@Seattle.gov or call (206) 684-7583.

  2. Steve Moseley says

    Thanks, thanks, and thanks again for your efforts on the 39th Ave NE Greenway. It’s not just for cyclists! I frequently commute by walking from my home in the Matthews Beach neighborhood to work at the UW Medical Center via 39th Ave NE (especially in good weather when the heavy bicycle traffic on the Burke Gilman trail makes walking on that route less safe). The walk is now MUCH safer with the new crosswalks. It is so refreshing when the city actually gets something right, congratulations! I would suggest, though, that you need just one more crosswalk to finish the job at the south end .. a crosswalk at 36th Ave. NE and NE 41st St.

    • pegNielsen says

      Thank you for your nice comments; glad to hear that you are enjoying the Greenway! Your last suggestion has been forwarded to our Bicycle and Pestrian Program.

  3. Steve says

    With so many critical infatstructure needs going unfunded it is a shame to continue to spend money on the quite small minority of our community who are regular bike users. This is political correctness gone stupidly wild. Instead of these projects and useless expenditures like painting bike symbols on the streeds – fill a pothole and save one of the the 2% of Seattle’s hobbyist bicyclist from a bad fall.

  4. Mike says

    I noticed that you removed my comments. I guess the city government is not interested in hearing the candid views of it’s taxpaying constituents. Is this how it should work? Shame, shame on you.

    • pegNielsen says

      Not sure if you sent more than one comment at 2:36 p.m. which is still visible on our question page and which we intend to answer. Please resend the other if you are referring to another question which did not come through to us. A little clarification: While your question is in the queue pending an answer, it will not be visible to you.

  5. Mike says

    I was born in Seattle and have lived in the Wedgwood and View Ridge northeast neighborhoods all my life (I drive my car, ride the bus and ride my bike to get where I need to go). This project is a disaster AND A WASTE OF MONEY no matter who is paying for it. Poor (NO) communication with the neighborhood in advance and little afterwards. No input from the neighborhood. I have talked with hundreds of residents abouts these concrete barriers in the center of the roadway. THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE FOR and THEY HATE THEM. Increased congestion and the introduction of SERIOUS AND DANGEROUS DRIVING HAZARDS IN THE CENTER OF THE ROAD just as we’ve moved into the darker and wetter time of the the year is poor decision making. Not to mention the UGLY orange cones with a good number of temporary flashers no longer working. And how about the poor street conditions (cracked and missing concrete and pot holes) nearby on the same streets? East-west and west-east travel is already difficult enough in Seattle. WHY INTRODUCE MORE CONGESTION AND DANGEROUS ROAD BARRIERS? Priorities need to be reset. To make this a usable bike route up 39th AVE NE you’re going to have to take away all the street parking on 39th Ave NE. But you already know that… correct? Have you talked about that with those that live on 39th and the neighborhood yet? Or is this the plan to be sneaky about it. Sincerely, DISAPPOINTED.

    • pegNielsen says

      Thanks you for your email which has been sent to our Traffic Operations Engineers. They will investigate and contact you directly. Please understand that they are short-staffed (due to budget cuts) and have an exceptionally heavy work load, so it may be 7-10 working (week) days before you receive their response. In advance, thanks for you patience!

  6. Resident says

    Can you comment on the plans for the barrels and blinking reflectors that have been placed on the new arterial islands? The new islands on the arterial streets (NE 75th, NE 65th, NE 55th) all look somewhat messy. Will the barrels eventually be removed?

    • pegNielsen says

      We understand that you are eager to see the project completed. We plan to have the temporary safety markers replaced with permanent signage this month, however, that is dependent upon the weather and the work-loads of our much reduced staffs (due to budget cuts)!

  7. resident says

    The stop sign on 40th Ave NE doesn’t seem to slow down traffic going downhill on 55th and 65th streets so I hope that the refuge island and crosswalk described will. If it doesn’t, I worry that a crosswalk across 55th and 65th will just give cyclist the impression that they have the right of way (despite the stop sign) because it is a crosswalk. That combined with the speed some those cars go on those hills could lead to more trouble.

  8. Shirley Guterson says

    Question: A car (parked in a garage) backing out into 39th Avenue N.E. (Greenbelt) could be dangerous, especially for a biker. What

    • pegNielsen says

      From the motorist’s perspective: ensure that the sightline from your driveway to the street enables you to see behind and around as you are backing up – just like any other time you back out into the street, you should be aware of your surroundings for all modes of travel (cars, people walking and people riding bikes) and use caution. Because 39th Ave NE is a now a neighborhood greenway, be sure to allow the person riding a bike to pass by the driveway and then back out into the street. From the bicyclist’s perspective: you should be aware of your surroundings when riding on any street and should not assume that motorists are looking for you, even when backing out of driveways. When riding in the darker hours of the day, be sure to have lights on your bike, so you are visible to motorists. Both car drivers and people riding bikes along a neighborhood greenway should be moving at slower speeds and should find it quite easy to have common respect and courtesy towards each other as you share the street, as they are your neighbors and others within the community.

  9. Sue says

    Can you explain the different colored boxes for the intersections? I’m assuming they have to do with level of traffic crossing control, but the map doesn’t have a legend so it’s not clear what they mean. Thanks!

    • pegNielsen says

      Yes, thanks for asking!

      The red boxes indicate where the greenway crosses a non-arterial (as shown in the upper-most of the three overhead views to the right). At these intersections, currently without any signage, new stops signs will be placed to keep east-west traffic from crossing 39th Avenue NE without stopping first.

      The green boxes indicate where the greenway crosses an arterial street (as shown in the middle of the overhead views to the right). At these intersections, where stop signs already exist on 39th Avenue NE in the north-south direction, the crosswalk will be striped and a refuge island placed in the center of the arterial.

      The blue box at NE 52nd Street represents the design detailed in the bottom of the overhead views to the right, where a new curb bulb will be built to make the connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail.

      The black box at NE 73rd St. is an atypical non-arterial crossing where no stop signs will be placed because of the extent to which 39th is offset north and south of the intersection. (There is a dog-leg on 39th at 73rd.)

  10. LeAnne says

    Good points all! To include everything we might’ve had something of a novel but you are quite correct in what you mention. Sounds like you know your stuff!!

  11. Andres Salomon says

    A few things that were implied, but not mentioned:

    1) Neighborhood Greenways are where people who are learning to bicycle (kids and adults) would prefer to ride. It is low-stress infrastructure; no one is trying to rush through the area. You should feel perfectly comfortable taking your kids on it.

    2) Neighborhood Greenways are about more than just bikes. There are pedestrian improvements as well. The 39th Ave project includes curb ramps on the sidewalks at arterials, for example. Currently crossing NE 65th at 39th with a baby in a stroller is a pain due to the lack of ramp. Please please *please* emphasize pedestrian improvements, as that’s a key component of the Greenway concept. As well as pedestrians, there are also improvements to make the neighborhood more pleasant. See, for example, the trees planted along a future Greenway in Beacon Hill: http://beaconhill.seattle.wa.us/2011/11/11/biking-on-beacon-greenway-edition/ . Other improvements include storm water management, to reduce flooding and runoff issues. These are not Bicycle Boulevards (which only tend to improve things for cyclists),

    3) Neighborhood Greenways connect people with their neighborhoods. They are continuous routes between your home, your local grocery store, library, schools, etc. The vision is to empower people who wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable walking or biking to local destinations. That means not suddenly stopping the Greenway at a busy intersection and letting people fend for themselves; it means figuring out how to get people across that intersection safely, whether they’re 8 years old or 80 years old.

    See http://seattlegreenways.org/who-we-are/what-are-greenways/ for lots more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *