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Greenways Get Going In Fremont

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 30 July 2012

 

At the kick-off meeting for the Fremont Greenways on July 24, 2012, at Nickerson Street Saloon Photo by K. Lindsay

The effort to build Fremont Greenways officially kicked-off at the Nickerson Street Saloon on July 24th, with a few Fremont residents in attendance, including members of the Fremont Neighborhood Council and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce – along with Seattle Greenways guru, Cathy Tuttle.

What’s A Greenway?

Significantly a grassroots, locally-driven effort, the Neighborhood Greenways program focuses on building a path of streets – mostly quiet residential – throughout the city that pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, strollers, wheelchair, roller skaters, etc. can use to get where they want/need to go, safely.  The roads would also carry vehicular traffic, but perhaps at slower speeds and along clearly marked paths to allow for freer movement for all.

The Wallingford Greenway, at N 43rd St and Stone Way Photo by K. Lindsay, Jul '12

According to Seattle Greenways materials, nearly 70% of all car trips in America are two miles or less.  The City of Seattle has retail/shopping districts as well as schools, churches, community centers, parks, etc. accessible within roughly two miles of most homes, so it would make sense for a greater majority of us to use alternative transportation for short trips.

“Walking is a critical part of it,” Tuttle said about the greenways concept, “to get old and young across the street safely.  It’s not just about biking.”  This is not about creating the safest bicycle route, but more about building public space for the people, she observed.

The neighborhood greenways could provide comfortable movement using connections through safe, enjoyable spaces for people of all ages.  Public spaces, furniture and amenities, signage, pavement markings, traffic calming, street layout changes, raised interruptions, and traffic control are some methods neighborhood groups can use to make the designated greenway streets more attractive, and useful, for walkers, bikers, strollers, etc.

When a greenway meets an arterial – like when the Wallingford Greenway on N 43rd St meets Stone Way – traffic islands, pavement markings, curb bulbs, signal lights, and/or pedestrian overpasses can be constructed to make it easier for vehicles and pedestrians to intersect safely.  The biggest construction cost of building greenways comes in constructing these safe methods of crossing busy streets.  Tuttle declared the crossing of the Wallingford Greenway across Stone Way, “not ideal,” but the close spaced islands do allow pedestrians – even elderly – and cyclists a way to cross the busy arterial.

Cathy Tuttle, with Christian Silk, showing routes of greenways in other neighborhoods as they reach the borders of Fremont. Photo by K. Lindsay, Jul '12

According to Tuttle, in Portland (where greenways have been most extensively installed,) home owners on designated greenways have seen their property values increase.  One reason, a greenway can limit and deter cut-through traffic due to slower speeds, traffic calming methods and more channeling.

Who Is ‘Fremont Greenways?’

Fremont resident, and new father, Christian Silk initiated the kick-off meeting on July 24th, to, “fill anybody in that needs to know what a greenway is,” he said, “and get people involved.”  He appreciates that, “we have a very walkable, bike-able neighborhood,” but he also asked, “could we do more?”  With a young daughter, he would like to see safer ways his family could take walks and, someday soon, bicycle through the Center of the Universe.

The intersection of the Wallingford greenway along N 34th at Stone Way. Photo by K. Lindsay, Jul '12

During introductions, several people identified themselves as avid bicyclists, but others voiced preferences for walking or, in one case, commuting by skateboard.  Jessica Vets, of the Fremont Chamber, also voiced support of anything that can separate truck and car traffic from bikes and pedestrians – for everyone’s safety and ease of movement.  “Safety for all,” she described.  Juliette Delfs, of Hub And Bespoke, echoed this idea – of creating more safe by-ways.

Several neighborhoods already have designated greenways, including Ballard, Phinney/Greenwood, and Wallingford – leaving Fremont as a void where their paths go to die.  Tuttle reported that the over-all Seattle Greenways effort now has 19 different Neighborhood Greenway groups involved.  Ballard Greenways has received approval for a new 2-mile stretch, while Beacon Bikes has nearly completed work on a 3-mile area of greenway.

A map of the 19 neighborhoods involved in Seattle Greenways, in July 2012

“Some funding from the City,” Tuttle reported, can be found.  The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has funded 8-miles this year.  Tuttle also advised that many improvements can be made to convert residential streets into greenways for very little money.  As she told the Fremont Greenways group, “look for the intersections that, with a little tweak, could be made safer.”

“In 2013,” Tuttle acknowledged, “we want to get funding for 25 miles,” of new greenways for Seattle.  “Our goal this year is $2.5 million,” to be spent, Tuttle explained, and in 10 years, “the goal is to have a greenway a quarter mile from where you live,” connecting schools, shopping areas and other community services such as the Fremont Abbey, Fremont Baptist, Gas Works Park, etc.

So far, local people, acting locally, chose the greenway routes – including in Fremont.  This allows those who will most likely use the routes to pick the most effective – and those most likely to win support of the residents that live on them.  Silk, who has offered to serve as contact person for this effort for now, described choosing the routes of the Fremont Greenways as the biggest task of the volunteer effort, and “the fun part.”

At the Fremont Greenways kick-off, Christian Silk displays the map of Fremont to be used to identify routes. Photo by K. Lindsay, Jul '12

At the kick-off, some discussion came up about safe crossings over (or under) Aurora Avenue, a large, expensive improvement that will have to wait for implementation in the far future.  Silk acknowledged, “a lot of challenges in this neighborhood,” but also that, “Cathy does the hard work, and the political work.”  Tuttle not only works to find funding for community greenways, she also must work with all 19 groups to figure out the priority for presenting the greenways plans to SDOT.

For now though, Tuttle enthusiastically encouraged the few volunteers at the kick-off to work on a Fremont plan, and “ask for what you want.”  The next meeting, Silk has announced, will be held August 14th (location to be determined,) to share more information and consider routes.  Another meeting could follow closely, where volunteers could walk potential routes and identify the merits and challenges of each one.

Currently, the Seattle Greenways coalition meets monthly – with representatives from all 19 groups.  Tuttle did recommend attending one to find out about what other communities are doing – and hearing solutions to challenges other communities have also met, and hopefully mastered.

To find out more about the greenways, and how to get involved and include your voice in this effort, visit the Seattle Greenways website, or look at Fremont Greenways on Facebook or join the Google group.


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©2012 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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