Courtesy of Adam Parast
The numbers represent the score. The higher the score, the higher the bikeability. Seattle has a long way to go before reaching those higher scores.

Ballard shows high potential for creating a strong, high quality biking community

Transportation Planner Adam Parast analyzes Seattle's bikeability in comparison to Portland

Earlier this year, Adam Parast, a transportation planner and regular contributor to the Seattle Transit Blog, released a GIS study in which he compared the bikeability of Seattle to that of Portland (the second most bike-friendly city in the US according to Bicycle Magazine).

What he found was that Ballard has the most potential to become a great biking neighborhood for families and athletes alike.

“What people can take away from the study is that Seatte is bikeable and that Ballard specifically, is one of the better areas in Seattle because it’s relatively flat, has great connectivity, and offers lots of destination that can be reached by bike,” Parast said.

Parast decided to do a Seattle bicycle analysis after seeing the 2008 Cycle Zone Analysis of Portland. Using the same factors that we’re observed in the Portland analysis, Parast anaylized Seattle and compared it to Portland, a city that has made progressive changes to support bicycle commuting.

“I took a look at factors that are important for a bikeable, high quality area,” Parast said.

These factors include street connectivity, land use, bicycle facilities, slope, and barriers such as a high density of cars.

The factors were weighted and neighborhoods received a score.

The analysis shows that while Portland is already very bikeable, Seattle has a long way to go.

Parast said his analysis should not be taken as fact, but should rather be viewed as the starting point of a discussion about how best to model bikeability based on strengths and weaknesses of each city.

“I think [my findings] are accurate enough to draw some conclusions and to also raise some questions,” Parast stated.

The report states that the most bikeable areas of Seattle are those located near multi-use paths like the Burke-Gilman and the Elliot Bay trails.

One part of the report specifically looks at permanent factors such as slope, street connectivity and land use to analyze the area’s potential. It shows where and how factors come together to create what Parast calls a “bikeable island” which are dense, flat and have a grid street network. Areas that scored low on this aspects tend to be sprawled and hilly with winding streets.

The report states that Seattle is spotty with “islands” of good bikeability surrounded by areas of low bikeability.

“It’s interesting to note that many of Seattle’s Urban Villages are in the center of these bikeable islands...and many Urban Villages are located either on the top of a hill or in the bottom of a valley,” Parast stated.

“This is where Ballard looks more like a Portland neighborhood than a Seattle neighborhood. From how I look at it, Ballard, more than any other Seattle neighborhood can learn from what Portland has done to create a strong, high quality biking community.”

Parast said Ballard has some major North-South arterials and while cars and Metro have competing interests for those roads, the side roads offer a potential for a network of bike boulevards.

“As the city updates its biking master plan, I think Ballard is a good place to start building bike boulevards,” he said.

Parast said that while Seattle has significant weaknesses due to topography, these obstacles can be overcome with higher quality transit service that is well integrated with the bicycle network.

You can read the full report, here (pdf).

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