Two and a half miles of residential streets in the Central District and West Seattle neighborhoods will be closed to most drivers beginning Saturday so pedestrians and bicyclists can have more space to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the coming weeks, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) plans to close about 15 miles of streets across Seattle to nonessential vehicle traffic.
The closures will occur on 25th Avenue South between East Columbia Street and South Dearborn Street in the Central District and along portions of 34th Avenue Southwest, Southwest Graham Street, Southwest Holly Street and High Point Drive Southwest in West Seattle.
The so-called Stay Healthy Streets closures will remain in place for the duration of Washington’s stay-at-home order, or until otherwise announced.
People who live along the streets will still be able to drive to their homes, and delivery workers can still operate on the streets. Through traffic will not be permitted.
The closures come after Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a street-safety advocacy group, proposed a list of suggestions to create more space for pedestrians and bicyclists, including allowing people to walk in the street on nonarterial roads.
The streets in West Seattle and the Central District were chosen because those areas have limited open space options, low car ownership and routes that connect people to essential services and food takeout, according to an SDOT blog post. The closures would not impact food-pickup loading zones, parking around hospitals and bus routes, the agency said.
The Seattle closures follow those by other cities, including Denver and Philadelphia. Oakland, California, is closing 74 miles of streets to through traffic to make room for pedestrians and bicycles, and legislation proposed in New York City would close up to 75 miles of streets across all boroughs.
As Seattle grows its list of streets closed to cars, one popular suggestion is Lake Washington Boulevard.
“The path is not wide enough to social distance and people are walking in the street. It’s unsafe. And we already know how to close it for Bicycle Sunday,” one resident said.
During Bicycle Sundays, a program from the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard is closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to encourage biking, jogging and strolling along the route between Seward Park and Mount Baker Park.