A Seatlle neighborhood "play street" street closure a few years ago. Credit: SDOT/Flickr CC
Among many interesting upshots of the coronavirus quarantine are the often empty streets in neighborhoods around Seattle and beyond. It's pretty easy to run, walk or skate right down the middle of the street — it's fun and, hey, it helps with social distancing.
The cities of Seattle and Bellevue are embracing this play-in-the-street movement and it's a boon for the lucky families who live nearby.
Bellevue's Healthy Streets
Bellevue's new program is called Healthy Streets and for now it comprises two sections of roadway closed to all but local-resident traffic (plus deliveries and emergency vehicles).
- In Bellevue's Lake Hills neighborhood, S.E. Fourth St. is closed for about three-quarters of a mile, from the Lake Hills Greenbelt to 164th Ave. S.E.
- In Northeast Bellevue, just east of the Crossroads area, a section of 165th and 166th Avenues N.E. is closed between Northup Way and N.E. Fourth St. This stretch also measures about three-quarters of a mile.
Nearby families are encouraged to use this extra space for biking, walking, running, scootering and skating. However, users should exercise caution, as the streets are not completely closed to traffic; keep a close eye on young children and move to the side when vehicles are approaching. Users must also follow guidelines for social distancing and keep six feet away from people who are not their immediate family members.
The City of Bellevue invites resident input through a short survey. If there's additional demand, the city may add more "healthy streets" to this pilot program.
Seattle's Stay Healthy Streets
In Seattle, fans of closed streets got some great news from Mayor Jenny Durkan, who announced May 7 that some 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets would remain closed permanently to cars. (Local residents' vehicles and essential services can still access closed streets.)
The Stay Healthy Streets program, described below, was implemented to give local families more space to play and recreate while following social distancing guidelines. The city first announced the closure of three sections of neighborhood streets April 16, followed with three more street sections April 23 and brought the total mileage of neighborhood street closures to 20 with four new sections announced May 1, along with an extension to the Central District's route.
Users are reminded to keep moving, practice social distancing and remain alert for cars, moving to the side when local residents, delivery vehicles or emergency services need to access a closed street.
Original story (published April 24, 2020):
In an effort to give families more recreation space in their neighborhoods, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is closing miles of streets to cars this weekend. Families are encouraged to use the space to walk, run, bike, scooter and skate — while maintaining a minimum six feet of distance from others.
Streets will still be open to cars of local residents who live along the routes, as well as delivery vehicles, so families should keep a close watch over children and move to the sidewalk or edge of the street when a car is passing.
Last weekend, SDOT closed streets to cars in the Central District, by Green Lake and in High Point in West Seattle. Additional street closures this weekend will happen in Greenwood, Othello and Rainier Beach and Beacon Hill. Clicking the link for each neighborhood will show a map of street closures.
These street closures are called Stay Healthy Streets and SDOT plans to consider additional future street closures under the same program. The street closures resemble the Play Streets program, where Seattle neighbors were allowed to close their residental streets periodically to allow for car-free neighborhood play.
Keep it moving
SDOT reminds families that the street closures are to be used for moving — walking, running, biking, scootering and skating. People are not permitted to gather for parties or picnics on closed streets.
Likewise, Seattle Parks and many other municipalities' parks remain open (though King County Parks are closed) for recreation, as long as park users maintain six feet of space from other users and don't congregate for sports games, picnics or other gatherings. Parking lots at eight of Seattle's larger parks remain closed, while the parks themselves are open.