Proposed 2013 budget keeps greenways and cycle tracks moving forward



Today, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director Peter Hahn gave his department’s presentation (PDF) to the City Council Budget Committee. (Download the SDOT section or the entire proposed budget from the Mayor for 2013-2014 from this page – see the left navigation pane). SDOT described two categories of investment: Addressing the maintenance backlog (street repair, bridge maintenance and seismic work, sidewalk repair, etc.;) and investing  according to modal plans – that is, the Pedestrian Master Plan, the Bicycle Master Plan, the Transit Master Plan, and a much needed Freight Master Plan.

I am particularly glad to note that enhancements to pedestrian and bicycle mobility are a key component of the 2013-2014 Proposed Budget.  The proposed budget funds bicycle facilities, sidewalk safety, Safe Routes to Schools, the creation of a Center City Mobility Plan, the continued good work of the Bike Master Plan, cycle tracks and greenways.

From the SDOT presentation, here’s a summary of Pedestrian and Bicycle Enhancements (Table 1, Sect. 5):

“Proposed enhancements include new Safe Routes to School projects, additional funding for sidewalk safety repair and greenways development, and creation of a Center City Mobility Plan. Also funds Shoreline Street Ends program additions, improved multimodal traffic data collection, and study of potential Burke Gilman trail extension.”

And here is Table 2, Section 18, a summary of Bike Master Plan implementation (Table 2, Section 18):

“Adds $338,000 in 2013 and $1.369 million in 2014 of federal grants for the Westlake Cycle Track project which will provide an attractive, north-south bicycle facility along the west side of Lake Union. Also adds $150,000 of General Fund to develop designs for bicycling corridors through Center City Seattle.”

It was good to get an overview from SDOT, and I look forward to more specifics, as requested by Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen, in the weeks to come.

Updating the Bicycle Master Plan

Seattle’s various modal plans are the product of many hours of professional and volunteer labor, so I also want to call attention to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, which reported on the state of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan to the City Council’s Transportation Committee, chaired by Tom Rasmussen, on September 11. (Watch the committee meeting.)

They talked about the process of updating the Bicycle Master Plan (pictured below), which was first released in 2007, the feedback they’ve been receiving from the community, the development of priorities, and how they are reaching out to the public.

New goals that support greenways and cycle tracks

Over the last four years, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has invested nearly $36 million in bicycle improvements guided by the Bicycle Master Plan.  We have made progress, and we know that best practices for bicycle and pedestrian safety have changed internationally. 

So I was thrilled to see that in a response to public feedback, SDOT has added three goals tailored to support the greenway and cycle track movements: connectivity, equity, and livability.

These three concepts are at the heart of the greenway vision – and I appreciate having these concepts captured in our city’s Bicycle Plan so clearly.  Here’s how the proposed updates address those goals:

  • Connectivity – Create a bicycle network that connects places where people want to go and provides a safe and time-efficient travel option.
  • Equity – Provide equal cycling access for all ages of riders (“8 through 80” is in the public parlance… I prefer to think “3 to 93”!)  through public engagement, program delivery, and capital investments.
  • Livability – Build vibrant and healthy communities by creating a welcoming and safe environment for bicycle riding.

A recent study showed that nearly 60% of people polled WILL ride their bikes to work or school, or even a mile or two to the library or grocery store, IF safe and separated streets or cycle tracks are provided for them. 

Click here to download a side-by-side comparison of the vision, goals, and objectives for the 2007 Bicycle Master Plan and those proposed for the 2012 Bicycle Master Plan Update.

Creating prioritization frameworks

SDOT is charged with building and maintaining our roads, and that includes new cycle tracks and  Neighborhood Greenways.  Assuring adequate funding requires us to think about the city roadway as a system.  We don’t need a Greenway or cycle track on every street, nor do motorized vehicles need to have priority on every street.   

I strongly believe we need to bring the freight community into the conversation as well, so I’m glad to see funding in the 2013 Budget for a Freight Master Plan. I want to see an integrated and connected transportation system where roadway real estate is safely shared by all, and bicycles and trucks have prioritized space on different streets.

 SDOT may consider separate frameworks for the network including connections that are neighborhood-based, and those that are corridor-based.  Greenways are best-suited for non-arterial streets in residential neighborhoods. Cycle tracks, on the other hand, which physically separate bicycles from motor traffic, have proven to be safe and effective in high-volume traffic corridors.  Developing dual prioritization frameworks – and funding both – would ensure that both corridor facilities and neighborhood greenways are built and link to one another.

It is my hope that SDOT sets aggressively aspirational goals and that we make serious progress every year toward our desired network.   Of course, I recognize that goals like these have funding as well as workload and staffing implications for SDOT, and the city must make this a financial priority.

The good news is that we have determined interest city wide, and a commitment to create a world-class transportation network that accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, freight.  We also have new national standards thanks to NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) which will help us learn from other cities.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

All this reminds me that it’s been too long since I last pointed to the great resources and volunteer opportunities on the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Web site.

This group, which now includes advocates from 19 Seattle neighborhoods, has recently refined its own goals for creating safe and healthy streets and connected neighborhoods. 

  • Reduce speeds on residential streets.
  • Minimize cut through traffic on designated residential or local streets.
  • Ensure safe crossings of busy streets for people who walk or ride a bike.
  • Provide safe convenient access to schools, parks, businesses and places people want to go.
  • Improve walking and biking conditions for those of us from 3 to 103 years of age!

I want to recognize and thank the members of the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group for their tireless efforts and strong neighborhood advocacy.  Their goals look a lot like my own personal ambitions for our city.

If you’re new to the idea of greenways, here’s a collection of previous blog entries I’ve written on the subject.

And finally, I just had to put this in here, because I find it so impressive: “Seattle’s transportation infrastructure is valued at over $13 billion. Major system assets include: 1,540 lane-miles of arterial streets, 2,412 lane-miles of non-arterial streets, 135 bridges, 494 stairways, 587 retaining walls, 22 miles of seawalls, 1,060 signalized intersections, 47 miles of bike trails, more than 200 miles of on-street bicycle facilities, 35,000 street trees, 2,150 pay stations, 40 parking meters, and 26,200 curb ramps.”

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