Beacon BIKES! organizer Dylan Ahearn shows off some of the neighborhood's problem areas.

Prompted by upcoming updates to the city's Neighborhood and Bicycle Master Plans, a group of Beacon Hill residents formed Beacon BIKES! and set out to use their neighborhood knowledge to improve bicycling and walking in the area.

According to Beacon BIKES! representative Dylan Ahearn, the group thinks the bike master plan is too focused on creating a neighborhood-to-neighborhood bike network that caters primarily to the commuter crowd. His group wants to create an intra-neighborhood network that helps people (especially children) ride safely between Beacon Hill destinations.

"When I'm biking around the neighborhood, I try and imagine whether it'd be safe my five-year-old daughter to ride on the road," said Ahearn. "If we can [create facilities that] accomplish that, we'll have succeeded."

As part of that goal, the group is considering non-arterial and separated bike facilities such as bike boulevards (signed/marked bike routes on low-traffic side streets, potentially on 18th and 21st Aves. S.) and multi-use paths.  They're also looking at placing a multi-use trail down Beacon Ave's wide center median, a multi-use trail circling Jefferson Park, and improving the Beacon Ave pedestrian crossing in front of the light-rail station, amongst others.

Using $15,000 from the city's neighborhoods department, Beacon BIKES! plans to hire a professional planning consultant to put together their official recommendations. They're considering proposals from SvR Designs, Alta Planning and Design, and Toole Planning, and hope to select their consultant within the month.

Ahearn says their grassroots effort allows them to plan and design in a way the city can't. "Our community model gives us a level of detail that you only get from living in the place. We know the area, we know the places people want to be, and it's letting use figure out the best way to connect our neighborhood to itself."

SDOT Bicycle Program Supervisor Sam Woods says that when the city starts updating the bike master plan in 2011, "it's likely that we'll at least pull their work into the index and could potentially incorporate elements of their recommendations into the master plan."

Beacon Hill will be getting some new bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the much nearer future. SDOT is holding an open house this evening (Aug. 24) from 5-7 pm at the Jefferson Community Center (3801 Beacon Ave S.) to discuss potential road diets (which have been controversial in north Seattle) on 15th Ave S and S. Columbian Way.
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