La Rambla revival: A narrowed East Pike as pedestrian laboratory

Seattle City Council member Sally Clark’s community discussion about the possibility of closing a portion of Pike/Pine to traffic to create a pedestrian friendly nightlife zone has made the leap into the punditry zone:

We’re with the ‘Cola kids on this one. We first wrote about the idea to narrow East Pike in March 2009 after contributor cheesecake returned from Barcelona inspired by La Rambla:

… how much better some of our heaviest used pedestrian streets (North Broadway, Pike/Pine, 15th) could be if they devoted even a little bit more space to pedestrians, instead of the cars that dominate the space today


Cheesecake’s images of the possible transformation remain inspiring:

As the Publicola post notes,

A better way to foster the pedestrian environment on Pike Street would be to narrow down the car travel lanes and widen the sidewalks. As is evident in the photo above, the ~12-foot sidewalk on the south side of Pike doesn’t cut it.* How about we take out the center turn lane and give that space to the sidewalks?

Such a move would reduce car capacity on Pike Street (gasp!)—indeed, it’s a classic example of the inescapable conflict between driving and walking. But if there’s any place in the City where the pedestrian realm should take priority over car capacity, Pike/Pine is it. The “visual friction” created by a narrowed street would keep traffic slow, and make it both safer and more comfortable for pedestrians.

Much of “the community’s” focus for the past year has been on the Broadway street car plan and the transit oriented development around the coming light rail station, both worthy projects. But it might be time to come back to La Rambla now that it is getting the attention of the rest of Seattle.

And, while you’re thinking about open space in the city, you might want to pull together your plan for a pocket park to be part of Park(ing) Day 2010 in the People’s Parking Lot at Pine and Belmont. There’s still plenty of room for more parks.

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12 thoughts on “La Rambla revival: A narrowed East Pike as pedestrian laboratory

  1. The only challenge with removing the center turn lane is deliveries to all the businesses. As someone who lives in the thick of P/P, I actually use the street in the morning and middle of the day during the week and there are a great deal of trucks that sit in the middle of the street to unload.

    …That being said, fuck em! Narrow it, close it, whatever. I’m a ped first and a driver second.

  2. Would there be a bike lane in the pedestrian portion? That narrowed road looks a bit narrow for both cars and bikes to live together in harmony…

  3. I think in a city where people penny pinch we shouldn’t waste any money on make the sidewalk bigger. Simply close the road after 9PM I believe on 4th Downtown by Macys the city shuts down the road for select hours to all cars except busses which tells me that it shouldn’t be an issue to close at night. Having it open during the day allows space for the delivery drivers you know they have to get there deliveries in order to operate all the food venues. My only concern would be the careless or uninformed drivers who don’t realize that its ped. only and went anyways. Similar to a few years ago when the man drove through the farmers market in California on a Sunday afternoon.

  4. Maybe we could narrow the streets by making them both one way (West bound Pine; East bound Pike)? This way you could reduce the size of the lanes, still create bike lanes AND widen the sidewalks. The American obsession with the automobile is what makes so many of our neighborhoods unpleasant or unfriendly to bike, walk or simply sit outside (who doesn’t love exhaust with their latte?). Many European cities have blocked entire retail centers to car traffic and it makes for a much nicer (and safer!) experience. Granted, we don’t have the transit options to move people in and out of those neighborhoods, but as we inch forward on that front, maybe we can finally shut a few streets to traffic and let PEOPLE utilize them. Just a thought.

  5. I agree with shutting down Pike to motor vehicles completely (excluding service vehicles, police vehicles, and ambulances), but none of this “only at night on weekends” business. Why don’t we do it all the time? I think Pike from Broadway to 12th and then 10th and 11th between Pike and Pine could feasibly be shut down to traffic completely without much hassle. Of course keeping Pine open to traffic in both directions would be a necessity (buses).

    What is the harm in trying? Why can’t we do a pilot of an idea like this for say, a month or two, and then see how things go? We know the police have the barricades. Just use those for the pilot.

  6. I think we ought to take it a step further and shut down everything we possible can to automobiles. I’d like to see a more walkable city.

  7. I lived in a small french town which had a lovely pedestrian (and bike) only central core. Deliveries were permitted every morning. In addition, taxis and special vehicles had passes to get into the area. You would just wave a pass next to a reader and the blocking cone would lower down into the road and you could drive over it.

    It made things very flexible and it was a lovely district with things to do from early morning until late at night.

  8. this reminds me of glasgow… similar city to seattle. glasgow has ped only streets in the center of the city with intersecting perpendicular roads. People in Europe are fortunate.

  9. European streets are also generally narrower than American ones are. When Vancouver closed Granville to cars, it didn’t result in magical European walkable cities with great bistros, etc.

    It is better now than when it was first done, but it took nearly 40 years, and there was another major redo.