Story from the Sole: Richard Dyksterhuis’ Community Activism Brings Groundbreaking Change to Linden Avenue North

Without the tireless activism of Richard Dyksterhuis, the Linden Avenue North Complete Streets Project is unlikely to have even left the ground.

Story from the Sole: Richard Dyksterhuis’ Community Activism Brings Groundbreaking Change to Linden Avenue North

By Leah Wyatt

On June 18 of this year, the City of Seattle broke ground on the Linden Avenue North Complete Street Project, an undertaking that will reshape Linden Avenue North between North 128th and North 145th streets into a more pedestrian, bicycle and neighborhood friendly roadway. Improvements include repaving and widening the street, ensuring pedestrian safety with continuous sidewalks, curbs, and ramps, improved street lighting and drainage, and an separated cycle track for people to ride bikes away from people walking. From an aesthetic perspective, the project will incorporate art celebrating the neighborhood’s history and will add trees and landscaping to the roadway.

When complete, the project will bring substantial benefits to the Linden Avenue community, which includes a high volume of senior and multifamily housing: resident safety, health, and overall quality of life will be positively impacted by these changes.

Without the tireless activism of Richard Dyksterhuis, the project is unlikely to have even left the ground. Due to his support, the Linden Avenue North Complete Streets Project has become an inspiring example of community engagement.

Dyksterhuis, a retired Seattle Public Schools principal, has long been involved with transit-oriented community activism, including work with the Adopt a Street program in Seattle, with an activist group dubbed “the Stalwarts.” His efforts at increasing sidewalk accessibility were noticed by film professor Monteith McCollum from the State University of New York at Binghamton, who featured Dyksterhuis in his documentary film A Different Path, which highlighted activism efforts directed at bringing new and better transportation options to our car-centric culture.

Following the publicity brought on by the film, as well as a Seattle PI article, Dyksterhuis’ activist group expanded, and efforts to begin the Linden Avenue North project began. Group members targeted the Seattle City Council, inviting council members to walk through the neighborhood to witness firsthand that substantial improvements were needed. The group began to lobby city council in order to secure funding, and eventually, Seattle Mayor McGinn sponsored a budget bill allocating funds, which passed unanimously. The Linden Avenue North Complete Street Project is expected to be finished in April of 2013.

According to Dyksterhuis, the stalwart’s theory is that if different transportation groups (pedestrians, cyclists, cars) are separated via physical barriers, everyone will be safer; the group seeks to create harmony among all roadway and sidewalk users. In establishing barriers between bike lanes, walking paths, and the street, the Linden Avenue North project will enhance public safety while also encouraging walking due to new sidewalks, lighting, and other improvements.

The group’s hope is that the project can act as a model for other communities, and when we spoke, Dyksterhuis offered several tips to those interested in fostering similar change in their own neighborhoods. He emphasized the importance of amassing a core group dedicated to the project, as well as seeking out umbrella neighborhood groups and local chambers of commerce to support group efforts. Sharing project lessons with others is of paramount importance, enabling future initiatives to learn from other projects, giving them a stronger chance of success. According to Dyksterhuis, his motto, when seeking meaningful community change, is “persistence, politeness, persuasiveness.” This phrase should serve the group well as they pursue their next endeavors: similar improvements to Aurora Avenue North, as well as a new North Precinct building for the Seattle Police Department.

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