Editor’s Note: The original image included with this story was of bicyclists on a bike lane alongside a street. This was updated to be one of pedestrians which is more in step with the content of the article.
I live close to N 45th so I don’t walk very often across N 40th or N 50th. I cross only when I’m taking the 26 bus or when I’m walking down to Gasworks or up to Green Lake. People I know who live on either side of 40th or 50th say they usually have a hard time crossing the street.
Parents drive their kids to school rather than walking with them, and people often drive really short distances to go shopping or visit friends. 40th and 50th may as well be raging rivers that only the fit, the young or the brave can cross with confidence. These are streets with houses. Places people live. These streets don’t need to be fast-moving car funnels. We have a choice.
And now you have a chance to make your choice happen on the ground.
Starting as soon as 2019, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will repave several streets in the Green Lake and Wallingford communities. Fortunately, these days, SDOT now sees repaving major arterials as an opportunity to shift course and design for people, rather than just people in cars who want to use our public right-of-way. This month is an opportunity for you, people who live, work, play, drive, bike, walk, and take the bus on these streets to help SDOT envision how your streets can work best for your active lives.
Here are some questions you might ask:
- Where would you like to be able to safely cross your neighborhood arterial street?
- Are any signals, rapid flashing beacons, or crosswalks planned during the repaving project? (Often SDOT won’t warrant a signal or crosswalk on a busy street because too few people cross that street. To me that is like saying you need to justify a bridge by the number of people who are forced to swim across a river.
- Are any plans being made to accommodate people riding bikes on these repaved streets?
- How fast would you like people in cars to go? (Seattle Council just passed 25 MPH arterial speed legislation but many of the streets to be repaved are currently signed at higher speeds).
- How does SDOT plan to engineer control speeds for public safety?
Repaving is planned here:
- N 40th St: Stone Way N to Latona Ave NE
- N 50th St: Phinney Ave N to Roosevelt Way NE
- Stone Way N: N 45th St to N 50th St
- E Green Lake Way N/E Green Lake Dr N: N 50th to Densmore Ave N
- Green Lake Dr N: Densmore Ave N to Aurora Ave N
- N 80th St: Aurora Ave N to I-5 overpass
Attend an SDOT open house on Wednesday May 24 5:30 to 7PM at Green Lake Elementary (2400 N 65th) to learn more about the project and share your thoughts about getting around your neighborhood. Can’t make the open house? Share your ideas on an online SDOT survey, open May 23 to June 12.
A little more on walking in Wallingford
Marked crosswalks on two or three-lane arterials seem like a very small thing that will go a long way towards making our streets more pleasant places to live and to walk.
Surveys by AARP show over 50% of the people interviewed over age 50 said they couldn’t safely cross the main street closest to them. Their fear is justified. Americans are 16 times more likely to be killed crossing the street than by a natural disaster — and the risks are far higher for older people (citation).
We all benefit from a more walkable bike-able community. Our health improves dramatically, as does air quality and general quality of life. We need to step back and question how our largest public space, our streets, is being used in our neighborhoods. A change in traffic speeds in Wallingford and Green Lake will make a world of difference to people living on these streets and people near those streets who use them daily.
This is probably a good place as any to ask if there are neighbors out there who’d like to revitalize a safe streets organization for Wallingford. I’m the director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a street safety coalition made up of groups around the city advocating for safer walking and biking options. @SNGreenways was the lead group in getting 20 MPH legislation passed last year and we’ve successfully advocated for crosswalks, protected bike lanes, sidewalks, signals, safe routes to school and more. In the past five years we’ve influenced about $40 million in safety spending in Seattle.
I don’t manage Wallingford Greenways since I’m just one of three full-time staff managing our large citywide organization. Folks in Wallingford need to start talking and planning now about a safer, more pleasant way to walk to light rail opening in 2021, as well as talk about slowing traffic to survivable speeds on our major arterials. Anyone interested, join SNG and ping me. Or better still just call a meeting. Be sure to let me know if you do hold a face to face meeting to start planning of how you’d like to see your neighborhood become a more pleasant place for families, for people of all ages to live.