Seattle Greenways Push Cycling to Side Streets

Traffic calming and bike lane projects are helping cyclists avoid traffic on major roads

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Flickr user orcmid, under a Creative Commons license

Bicycle riding is increasingly a way of life in Seattle. The city’s bike-friendly mayor, Mike McGinn, has helped to get bike lanes and markers painted on many of the city’s main streets. So did his predecessor. But for some less adventurous riders, the main streets are a little too hectic, a safety issue that often keeps people from even considering a bike commute.

The city of Seattle is hoping to change their minds by meeting them halfway. It's investing in what it calls “greenways,” or smaller side streets that are being retrofitted to further slow car traffic in order to serve as shared bicycling streets. Running parallel to busy arterial roads, these side streets present a less congested and slower option for cyclists, families, and pedestrians. Cities like Portland, St. Paul and Berkeley already have these types of roads in place.

The first of these greenways is being built this fall in the city’s Wallingford neighborhoods. The roughly 1-mile, $110,000 project will include added curb sections at street corners that narrow the roadway to calm traffic. Signage will also be built to increase awareness.

A new proposition facing voters in the city could bolster this effort. A recent article from The Seattle Times looks at how a proposed annual $60 fee added onto car registrations could help create a fund of about $200 million over the next decade for transportation projects. If Proposition 1 passes, $937,500 of that fund would be set aside each year for the construction of greenways.

In addition to the Wallingford greenway currently in construction, four other routes have been proposed.

The proposal has broad support form community and bicycle groups, as well as support in the city leadership. Council member Sally Bagshaw has advocated for greenways, and has said that even if Proposition 1 doesn’t pass, she’ll try to direct other transportation dollars to the effort. But big streets aren’t being forgotten. The mayor’s office has stated that it’s still planning to expand its development of bike lanes on major roads, too.

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.