SEATTLE -- The City of Seattle debuted its “Stay Healthy Streets” last month, and now more than 20 miles of city streets are priority zones for running, walking, biking and rolling.
The most popular one is First Avenue NW in Greenwood, according to a city spokesperson. 17th Avenue Northwest in Ballard is also widely used.
“We were excited to be able to have all that space to walk on,” said Jerrika Dickerson in Greenwood. “Especially with our dog and today ... I think it just felt better.”
Homeowner Ed Chabot has lived in the Greenwood community by Sandel Park for more than three decades.
He’s seen a lot of changes over the years, but the street closure to vehicular traffic is one he supports.
“I kind of give bad looks to people I know aren’t living on the blocks that drive through here,” said Chabot.
“You can still access these streets if this is your destination, if you live on this street for example or you’re making a delivery,” said Ethan Bergerson, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
Bergerson said the Stay Healthy Streets program is a concept that is picking up worldwide. We’ve heard of street closures like the one in Seattle as nearby as Oakland, California and across the country in Boston, Massachusetts.
He said it supports the city’s “Keep it moving” motto during social distancing, and discourages folks from going to gathering points and crowding at parks.
Cities will need to rethink and adjust public transportation for the long term.
“Transit is going to have to adjust to allow for social distancing, which is going to reduce capacity on buses and transit system,” said Bergerson.
That's why long stretches of streets designated as safe open spaces for people to use and get around without cars is valuable, especially in a city like Seattle that has built a reputation on being green transportation friendly.
SDOT has also changed 800 traffic signals to accommodate crosswalk signals to switch faster and last longer, preventing crowding on city streets.
To prevent touch points, 75 percent of crosswalk buttons downtown and in urban villages no longer need a push to switch to the pedestrians right of way.
The City of Seattle is building Stay Healthy Streets on its greenway network. To send them your thoughts on which healthy streets should stay permanently, or if you’d like to suggest one in your neighborhood, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.