Friday, January 13, 2012

Is Madison Park ready for “greenways”?

They have a well-developed network of them in Portland; and even in Seattle, there are neighborhoods that are already benefiting from them, or at minimum have planning underway to put them into place.  But in Madison Park they are, at best, an idea in the germination stage (perhaps with only fallow ground in which to grow).  After all, introducing them would mean change right here in the Park.

What we’re talking about is neighborhood greenways.  In case you don’t already know about them (we didn’t), here’s the definition lifted directly from the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways site:

“Neighborhood Greenways are dedicated residential streets, often paralleling an arterial, with low traffic volume and traffic speeds. Neighborhood Greenways are mapped to be an extended connection between parks, schools, libraries and neighborhood businesses, while providing a quieter, slower paced place where bicycles, pedestrians and neighbors’ safety are all given priority. Cars are still able to drive on Neighborhood Greenways though by implementing various traffic calming measures the streets become safer for non-vehicular users."

In Madison Park the movement for greenways is being led by Bob Edmiston, who is something of a one-man band at this point. Nevertheless, he has high hopes that he can enlist others in his crusade and ultimately see greenways become a reality here. “Perhaps this is really a ten-year vision,” he says, “but it will only happen if we begin now.”

Bob Edmiston and his commuting apparatus

Edmiston’s education effort began with an hour-and-a-half presentation at the Madison Park Community Council meeting earlier this week, in which he pointed out that greenways are not about establishing more routes for dedicated bike enthusiasts.  Rather, greenways are designed to create easier, safer biking connections and encourage people who might otherwise not venture out on a bike to consider the possibility and then go for it.   He calls these non-enthusiasts the “Willing But Wary” and notes that a recent study showed that they may comprise 60% of the able-bodied population (the other types being the “No Way/No Hows” comprising 33%, the “Strong and Fearless” comprising under 1%, and the “Enthused and Confident” comprising 7%).

Edmiston, who bikes to work, puts himself into that latter category but recognizes that many if not most of his neighbors are of the “Wary” type.  Making things safer for bikers will encourage at least some of these people to take up this better form of transportation and make parents feel more confident in letting their kids do so, he told the Council.  To prove his point he brought along several people to give personal testimonials at the meeting.  They validated his argument that at least in some cases perfectly usable bikes sit in dusty locations, un-ridden for fear of neighborhood streets (or, more correctly, the car drivers who make use of those thoroughfares)

So what makes a street into a greenway?  “Traffic calming” is one aspect:  slowing down car traffic by creating speed bumps, traffic islands, barriers, lower speed limits, and other controls such as stopping cars at non-arterial intersections along the bike route. Another approach is to create dedicated bikeways, an example of which is shown in this illustration from a bike route in California:

What we might decide to do in Madison Park could involve one more of these possibilities, Edmiston says, but would obviously only happen after a lot of discussion and ultimate agreement.  What’s required is an “engaged community” he notes, and that’s what he’s aiming for.

The Council was convinced to buy into the greenways concept---at least to the extent of passing a resolution, without dissent, to study the matter further. Several members, however, noted that change does not come easily in Madison Park, mentioning certain earlier battles they had witnessed.

Those interested in getting involved in the dialog can voice input to the Council, or join the greenways effort by contacting Edmiston (lenswork64 at  There is also a Facebook page in support of Madison Park greenways.

[Middle photo lifted without permission from a story on Edmiston at the UW Today site. Photo of California bikepath taken by Jonathan Maus lifted without permission from the BikePortland Flicker photostream.]


  1. Yes! That would be incredible. I'm definitely a "willing but wary" cyclist--I have a bike, but have not ventured out much in the city, because I'm pretty rusty and unsure of myself on the bike around cars. This would help.

  2. I attended Bob Edmiston's presentation and learned a lot. A big thing that I took away is that having greenways in Seattle and in Madison Park could be good for families, children, elderly, people of all ages, because it would make both walking and biking safer. Portland is really an inspiration as they now have I think over 50,000 bikers mainly because they have figured out how to make it okay for the willing but wary 60% to bike safely and happily. Also, given that a biking child was severely injured on his way to Mcgilvra, there is a real need to work on making biking safe and fun for kids in Madison Park. I urge you all to contact Bob, who is really impressive.

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  4. While I applaud all efforts to make this city and neighborhood more friendly to bikers, joggers, and walkers, I find it very ironic that Bob points to his commute from Madison Park to UW as "a sketchy route".

    I've biked all over the city of Seattle from Madison Park Green Lake to Seward Park to Alki Beach. The safest part of these journeys is from the Madison Park to the Burke Gilman trail at UW. Apparently, Bob is not aware of the signed bike route that borders the west side of the Arboretum. I've ridden this route from my Madison Park residence about 100 times, without a hint of danger. I've ridden through the Arboretum on LW Blvd. exactly once, on a lonely, cold, clear Sunday morning. I can't imagine why anyone would ride on that street with traffic, unless he/she enjoys the thrill of vehicles whizzing past.

    My point is to not to make fun of Bob nor to criticize his efforts. I read about Bob earlier this winter and was quite shocked to learn that his bike commute was so treacherous. I'm afraid that Bob's efforts will fall on deaf ears once it's pointed out that there is a perfectly safe bike route one block away.

    At the very least, if Bob wants to point to his commute as the genesis for his ideas, he should justify why the existing bike route is unacceptable.

    Thanks for reading, and keep battling Bob, your ideas have ample merit.


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