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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 🙂