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Neighborhood Greenways–residential streets made better for cyclists and pedestrians

mom and child

Photo courtesy of Carfreedays

Excitement is growing in several Seattle communities regarding a safer, more comfortable place to ride a bike or walk. Called “neighborhood greenways,” these are nonarterial streets that are altered to give priority to bicyclists and pedestrians and to accommodate cars at reduced speeds.  Bicyclists and pedestrians who are not comfortable traveling on busy city streets may find greenways are just the thing to enable them to get outside to walk or bike.  For examples, we can look to Portland were many greenways are already in place (see a video).  

The Wallingford Neighborhood is about to get Seattle’s first greenway, on North 43rd and North 44th streets. Neighbors organized to develop the concept and propose the route, and they applied to the Neighborhood Street Fund program to fund planning and design. A greenway will also be constructed on Beacon Hill, again an idea generated by the community. In northeast Seattle, Children’s Hospital is planning and funding a greenway to enable more of their employees to bike to work. Other ideas are developing around the city.

The changes made to transform residential streets into neighborhood greenways are different for each location. Common elements are signs to designate the street as a neighborhood greenway, pavement markings to alert drivers, and improved crossings and curb ramps for pedestrians. Some of the possible features tailored to the needs of each location include traffic circles to help slow cars or stop signs for cars approaching the greenway at intersections. If the route crosses a busy street, a median may be installed with gaps to allow bicyclists to continue through on the greenway, and to keep cars from cutting through the greenway to avoid using the busier street. A new traffic signal may be needed; landscaping and art may be added.

The Seattle Department of Transportation is developing a “toolbox,” to help communities plan neighborhood greenways. The cost of each greenway varies according to the elements needed. A greenway may be built in phases, adding more elements or extending the route as funding becomes available.

Bicyclists and pedestrians are not the only ones who benefit from neighborhood greenways. Drivers benefit by making the street safer for them too, due to the reduced speeds. Residents may like the way greenways calm traffic near their home, making a safer, more enjoyable place for their family.

Neighborhood greenways may be one of the ways to help take bicycling in Seattle to a new level, increasing ridership by enabling a wider range of people to enjoy the benefits of bicycling and walking.

See more photos from Carfreedays at