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Seattle plans side-street pathways for cyclists

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Seattle plans side-street pathways for cyclists

Saturday, October 1, 2011

SEATTLE (AP) — New pathways for cyclists and pedestrians could be one result from Seattle's proposed new $60 annual car tab fee.

The plan is to outfit a network of residential roads with speed bumps, landscaped curbs and narrower spaces for cars to give cyclists and pedestrians priority.

These new greenways have become a selling point for Proposition 1, a proposal to add a $60 annual car-tab fee., which would collect $204 million over 10 years for transit, pavement, pedestrian and cycling projects, The Seattle Times reported (http://bit.ly/qdtUI5 ).

Seattle is building its first greenway across the Wallingford area this fall and will install signs for a future route on north Beacon Hill. Mayor Mike McGinn is proposing $150,000 for design and public outreach on a route in Rainier Valley next year.

"It's not about getting people out of cars, it's about letting people who want to ride bikes get out and ride their damn bikes," said a smiling Eli Goldberg, a University District greenway advocate who encouraged an audience last week to campaign for Proposition 1.

Proposition 1 opponent John Fox says the plan for Proposition 1 money shows misplaced priorities, since the ballot measure expects only nine blocks of new sidewalks a year.

"It's inappropriate to put that amount into this (greenways) package while short-shrifting sidewalks, road repair and bridges," he said.

Even if the new car-tab fee is rejected, City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she'd propose to build greenways using part of the $3 million a year in bike funds already provided by a property tax levy.

In the past decade, Mayor Greg Nickels, followed by McGinn, installed bike lanes, icons, signs and other features that now cover more than about 200 lane miles, to legitimize cycling as urban transportation. Greenway backers say those efforts have benefited a relative few intrepid and athletic riders.

As usual, Seattle bike boosters are chasing Portland, where at least three dozen routes are finished or being built.

Portland greenways cost roughly $250,000 per mile, more than a striped lane and less than a trail. The goal is to allow a comfortable but brisk 10 to 20 mph ride parallel to major roadways. Seattle DOT called the concept "bike boulevards."

Cathy Tuttle, head of the local chapter of Spokespeople, which encourages newcomers to bicycling, said greenways are designed "for the reluctant 60 percent of us who've got a bike in the basement, but feel intimidated bicycling in the city."

Bicycling groups say they've changed focus this year to seek separated bikeways, not just painted arterial bike lanes.

"Nationally, there's no question the tide is turning," said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. "Now we've realized that has pretty much limited who will feel comfortable getting out and riding."