Contributed by Choose Your Way Bellevue Guest Blogger: Sherwin Lee,
As Bellevue grows ever more diverse, city planners and policymakers will need to start thinking of creative ways to accommodate the growth and mobility of our new residents. For the many non-native immigrants that come from abroad, adjusting to Bellevue’s way of life, particularly relying on a car for daily affairs, can be tough. Luckily, the City has made progress in this arena – neighborhood sidewalk projects are springing up across Bellevue, a collaborative agreement to build light rail has been made, and plans to increase transportation options downtown are in full swing. Downtown Bellevue’s wayfinding kiosks, for example, are a notable step in the right direction, helping pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users navigate through busy city streets.
But for many of Bellevue’s diverse communities that reside outside downtown, planning for neighborhood transportation improvements can often seem ignored. Money, after all, is tight as the City must make the difficult decision of prioritizing the projects most beneficial to Bellevue’s long-term future. Often times, this means placing costly capital improvements, like building new sidewalks, repaving roads, or striping bicycle lanes, lower on the priority list. While there isn’t much money for laying new pavement, we can look at more cost-effective methods of improving neighborhood mobility, like providing and facilitating information for travelers, whether in the form of bus schedules, neighborhood maps, or clearly-marked bicycle routes. Without clear information, mobility can often be restricted, particularly for non-English speakers or immigrants unfamiliar with Bellevue’s suburban landscape.
Just last Fall, a Chinese-speaking woman approached me at the Bellevue Transit Center and asked for directions to a salon in the Lake Hills neighborhood, for which she had the address on a business card. I was able to interpret for her and directed her to take the proper bus route, only to discover half an hour later, that I had misread the address as “NE 4th Street” when it was really located on SE 4th Street. Being able to find your way to a destination with just an address in hand (and without a smartphone!) may seem like a challenge, but becomes less so when there is clear and robust information to help facilitate mobility across the city’s neighborhoods.
Wayfinding, defined as any system of tools used to help individuals physically navigate through a space, is just one example of both harnessing and communicating this kind of information. While the term may sound new to many, wayfinding is a strategy not unfamiliar to Bellevue. Look no further than downtown, where a system of wayfinding and information kiosks help travelers literally “find their way” across the city’s central business district on a daily basis. Yet the use of wayfinding doesn’t have to be restricted to downtown alone. Many of Bellevue’s other neighborhoods have similar needs, particularly in Crossroads, where the population is rapidly diversifying and transit ridership is already high.
The Crossroads wayfinding plan, Go Bellevue, aims to fill in these very gaps by exploring how wayfinding, as a powerful communication tool, can be used to improve the quality of pedestrian and bicyclist mobility in neighborhoods outside downtown. Developing the wayfinding system, however, encompasses decisions that must be judiciously made– how do we both design and site wayfinding elements to best meet the needs of the Crossroads neighborhood community?
To help the wayfinding plan take shape, you can weigh in on these very decisions by taking a brief online survey or attending a community open house and workshop next Tuesday evening from 6:30pm to 8pm inside the Community Room at Crossroads Mall. By providing input, you will not only help improve local travel in Crossroads, but also help to inform the next generation of budget-conscious transportation planning for all of Bellevue’s neighborhoods.