Uff Da! Ballard Defies Trend Toward Cycling on Safer Streets
“A cycling renaissance is taking place in America,” declares The Economist, adding that:
Cities are increasingly vying to be bike friendly. Among them, Chicago wants to become the most cycle-friendly large city in the country—and has said it will build over 30 miles of protected cycle lanes this year. At the moment it ranks fifth, according to Bicycling magazine. Ahead of it are Washington, DC, Boulder, Colorado, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon.
Portland! In USA Today, the headline reads, “In Portland, Ore, bikes rule the road.” That’s with about six percent of commuters cycling to work. A follow-up story discusses the ways in which Portland is a paradise in contrast to other U.S. cities, while actual Oregonians cast a cold eye on the “paradise” rhetoric.
For context, Le Monde has a recent story on the future of bikes in cities, written by the deputy mayor of Strasbourg and other community leaders–in Strasbourg, 14 percent of all trips are made on bicycles, and the writers are concerned that France is lagging perilously behind. Look at Copenhagen, they say: Terrible weather and they still do 32 percent of trips by bike!
Seattle, tenth on Bicycling magazine’s list of bike-friendly cities, counts 3.6 percent of its commuting population as cyclists–an increase of 22 percent between 2010 and 2011. (With a heartbreaking number of cyclist deaths.) Belatedly, Seattle has been building infrastructure to support its growing bicycling population, though this is usually mired in tiresome “war on cars” outbursts from people who don’t bike and don’t see why you should, either.
However, one popular improvement has been “greenways,” quiet residential routes that funnel bikes through neighborhoods, away from arterials. They’ve been greeted without significant opposition–even anticipation–because their overall goal is simply to calm traffic. They bring pedestrian improvements (better crosswalks and sidewalks) and reduce vehicle speeds.
They may well be popular in Ballard, too, but at a recent greenways open house, “several” of the 100 audience members were upset about the plan, reported MyBallard. Sample comment: “Neither SDOT, McGinn, nor the bicycle mafia could care less what the community thinks. They are hell bent on ruining the city for drivers, and will stop at nothing to do it.” Another commenter was upset about this “adding” to traffic using NW 58th Street as a thoroughfare, without apparently realizing that a greenway would have the opposite effect.
That said, outside of a plethora of new signs and paint, it’s often hard to tell a greenway from a normal residential street, the way SDOT implements them. They remain in more or less the same configuration they were before. Ballard’s 2.1-mile greenway would include a widened sidewalk and a new island at at 24th Avenue NW and NW 58th Street. Pushback to this has prompted Seattle’s Department of Transportation to delay the greenway’s installation, and instead hold another open house in spring of 2013.