Friday, October 5, 2007

Lighting the way

Footlights on Burke Gilman Trail

The Burke Gilman bike trail in Seattle’s northend is a major, significant transportation corridor, used by several thousand people a day.

It is a paved, separated biking and walking trail that leads to, and through, the University of Washington. Since it utilizes the old railroad right-of-way, it has no hills and few street crossings.

If proof of its utility is needed, look no further than the fact that the University of Washington has all of its bike parking places taken (in fact, it can’t or won’t build enough bike parking places). Look at the real paucity of bikes at Seattle University or the Seattle Community Colleges. They have the same demographics as the UW and many of the students at these campuses would welcome a chance to bike to school but there are no safe and separated bike trails to those institutions. The Burke Gilman has saved the University from being inundated with cars.

The Burke Gilman bike trail could be even better if it were lighted, especially during the winter months when we get only eight hours of sunlight. I am not talking huge street lights shining down from twenty feet above. I am calling for footlights that would illuminate only the pavement of the trail itself. First, these type of lights would not shine into nearby homes and businesses. Second, it would take far less energy to light near the pavement than to light from high above.

When I proposed this to a friend, he said that the cost would be prohibitive. I said “We light the roads—all of the roads—throughout the night and no one seems to mind the expense”.

What a great way to tell non-car users “We are thinking about you; we want to help make you safe and comfortable.”

No comments: