There’s a new buzz in the community about cheap, easy and successful ways of getting a whole new group of people on bikes: the Neighborhood Greenway. It’s not a new concept: our neighbor to the south (yes, mighty Portland) has had tremendous success over the past few years—completing about 15 miles a year! To some extent, Seattle has experimented some with Bike Boulevards (five to six miles over the past few years), their close but younger cousins.
But now the momentum is rolling our way. Children’s Hospital, the city of Seattle and others are actively talking about how best to make Neighborhood Greenways work best in Seattle. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has taken the lead on this, too, and has a great post on her blog worth reading.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain why Neighborhood Greenways make sense for bikes: they slow down traffic and reduce cars on already low-volume streets and help develop a network of facilities in and between neighborhoods—and their added green features make them an even greater pleasure to ride on.
But, it’s not just about bikes. Our leaders are already starting to hear other things resonate. Things like:
- Family friendly
- Safe for kids
- Cheap for taxpayers
- Great, vibrant streetscapes
- Traffic calming and noise reducing
- Less cut-through traffic and dangerous close-calls (but allows plenty of car access for homeowners)
- Easy to walk short trips (no need for my car and for parking!)
- New kinds of bike riders who wear normal clothes!
I’m sure there’s more. Any of the above points can be greatly expanded on—like the point about being cheap for taxpayers: We get amazing triple benefits by doing stormwater “greener” and more cheaply than installing larger pipes and treating stormwater by traditional means, doing mobility management more cheaply than adding lanes and piles of new signals… and then packaging them together at the same time to economize on the construction.
One caveat: these facilities are great additions to our network, but really can’t replace urgently needed infrastructure on arterials that serve to get the vast range of those who ride to where they are going directly, efficiently and safely. They sure are, however, great complements to other needed bike infrastructure.
But you get the point—it’s an upcoming and impressive set of tools for us to use much more often. And we should use them immediately. Talk up Neighborhood Greenways to your neighbors and let’s gin up some excitement to bring more people into cycling, keep neighborhoods safe and make our urban landscapes more livable!