You may have noticed a lot of bicyclists on our streets this sunny morning. It’s Bike to Work Day! I have written many times (here, here, and here) about Neighborhood Greenways on my blog, and I am working with other leaders in our community to create alternatives for those bicyclists, who, like me, want safe and separated places to ride.
My interest in Greenways started by focusing on our residential areas. Neighborhood Greenway conversations are gaining momentum and interest city-wide, in Wallingford, Beacon Hill, Northeast Seattle, the University District, Ballard, Othello and more. Neighborhood Greenways provide safe links between places where people want to go: our parks, schools, and neighborhood business areas.
While we are getting our Neighborhood Greenways in place, I would like to expand the discussion to connecting the Greenways. To do this, we must change the debate about bicycles versus cars and make it a peaceful discussion looking for resolution. Rather than thinking about competing needs, I want to focus on complementing solutions.
How we get around – and make this community safe for everyone of us – is a promising conversation that has something for everyone. Other major cities like Portland and New York have demonstrated that when drivers, bikers, and pedestrians are intentionally looking out for each other, slowing down a bit, and providing safe and separated sections of the street for all modes, safety improves for EACH category – cars, pedestrians, and bikes alike. New York City recently reported that 2009 was the safest year on record for pedestrian safety.
I would like to start by acknowledging we have lots of streets, and accepting that there is room for all of us somewhere on our city streets, whether we drive a car or truck, drive or ride a bus, walk, or bike. Not every street will be a Greenway, not every street will have a cycle track or buffered lane, but those designated streets and sections of streets will become safe connectors.
The key to ending the bike versus car battle is to realize that at one time or another most of us do get out of our homes and offices and drive, walk, and ride a bus or bike. My goal is to end the war over asphalted real estate and promote the good thinking already started city-wide about how to share it wisely.
Rather than fanning the flames of bike riders v. drivers, I suggest we make peace on wheels. Seattle is known for being green. That’s our way. More than any other city, we recycle; and many more of us will simply cycle when there’s safe and separate space for us.