Seattle will keep 20 miles of streets permanently closed to most vehicle traffic as part of its Stay Healthy Streets program, the mayor announced Thursday.
CNN reports, the streets had been closed temporarily in April to through traffic to provide more space for people to walk and bike at a safe distance apart during the coronavirus pandemic. However, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan said Thursday that the closures will be permanent, even after Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order is lifted.
“Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather,” Durkan said in a news release. “Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.”
The streets were selected to promote outdoor exercise opportunities in areas with limited open space options, low car ownership and routes that connect people to essential services and food take out, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
People are encouraged to skate, walk, jog, bike and roll down the closed streets. Only vehicular traffic from delivery drivers, first responders, sanitation crews and residents are allowed access.
“We’ve witnessed a 57% drop in vehicle traffic volumes accessing downtown Seattle during Governor Inslee’s Stay Healthy, Stay Home order,” SDOT said in a news release. “Finding new and creative ways, like Stay Healthy Streets, to maintain some of these traffic reductions as we return to our new normal is good for the planet, but is also good for our long-term fight against COVID-19.”
The city also announced it will accelerate bike infrastructure to provide more options for residents as Seattle begins the process of reopening.
“It is the kind of bold actions we need to encourage healthy options for recreating and traveling in our city as we deal with our current crisis, and discourage a return to high levels of traffic and associated pollution and injuries as we move into recovery,” the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board said in a statement. “All these actions together will help Seattle come back as a safer, healthier, and more climate friendly city.”
The mayor also revealed that beginning on May 8, she would be closing all regional parks by 8 p.m. instead of 11:30 p.m. to “ensure residents do not gather and create a public health risk” at outdoor events such as BBQs and bonfires.