At the same time that the City of Seattle has been keeping some parks closed because of concerns about COVID-19, it has opened up certain neighborhood streets for pedestrians, cyclists and skaters to get out more and move.
In Seattle, it started with two neighborhood greenways, in the Central District and West Seattle, in areas where parks are scarce. Greenways already are calmed for pedestrians and cyclists. But the city closed them off to all through-traffic last weekend. Local access and deliveries are still allowed.
“And we called them ‘Stay Healthy Streets’ because we were hearing from people that they had a hard time getting recreation in our beautiful weather and maintaining social distance, says Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
“So we tried it, last weekend, and it seemed to go pretty well,” he said.
The city counted hundreds of people taking advantage of the newly designated spaces.
On Friday, the city added three new neighborhoods, for a total of 9 miles so far of Stay Healthy Streets.
The program is modeled after a similar concept in Oakland, California. Denver and Minneapolis have been experimenting with comparable ideas. Zimbabwe says the city recognizes that people need more places to go for fresh air or exercise.
“We're trying to find ways for people to enjoy the outside and get some recreation, get out of the house, get out of their apartment, be able to take advantage of of getting outside without creating those conditions that we think could exacerbate the public health crisis.”
That means the city will continue to tell people to #keepitmoving and monitors will shut down any gatherings they see taking place in public space.
But Zimbabwe says they’re also aiming to keep expanding the stay health streets program. SDOT has already identified a total of 15 miles they’d like to covert and are considering keeping many of these streets closed, even after the governor starts to lift his stay-at-home order.
Neighborhoods included in the program so far are the Central District, West Seattle, Green Lake, Greenwood, Othello and Rainier Beach, and Beacon Hill.
If you want to nominate a street for the program, Zimbabwe says you can call 206-684-ROAD or email NorthSeattleGreenway@Seattle.gov. The department also is looking for volunteers to help monitor and maintain the Stay Healthy Streets.