What it looked like when E Pike was pedestrian only

IMG_4711It looked mostly fun, naturally. The first of four August Saturday night tests of a pedestrian zone in the nightlife rich heart of Pike/Pine went mostly smoothly this weekend.

One of the biggest issues: questions. Police said many E Pike visitors Saturday night into Sunday morning didn’t know what was happening and hadn’t heard about the pilot program. Despite a wide open, car-free street, many groups stuck to the sidewalks until being coaxed into the road.

Others, however, were clearly ready for the party.

The pilot project run by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is designed to test a three-block pedestrian zone between Broadway and 12th on E Pike as part of a month-long trial of the concept hoped to alleviate street violence and make the area easier to patrol for police.

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IMG_4628Saturday, SPD had a heavy presence on a somewhat quiet E Pike with seven or eight East Precinct vehicles and 10 or more officers on foot in the area. Even the car-less street couldn’t prevent some of the altercations that can plague the area on a busy summer night. Officers responded to multiple fights in the area including a few inside the test zone’s confines.

Volunteers, in the meantime, were recording observations to contribute to a report to be compiled on the project.

The trial continues with another night of an empty E Pike next Saturday, August 15th before the trial kicks things up a notch by mixing in live entertainment including dancing and music for the final two weekends of the month. August 22nd will feature a free street yoga class at 8:30 PM put on by SweatBox Yoga followed by a street drag show. On August 29th, Century Ballroom will host a series of short queer friendly partner dance classes On E Pike, which is planned to include live musicians. On both nights, amplified sound will be wrapped up by 11 PM. The programming will then shift gears into more “calming” performances, including human statues and mimes.“We want string musicians to serenade people goodnight and indicate that it’s time to get out of the street, get some food or head home,” EcoDistrict organizer Alex Brennan told CHS.

Despite mostly positive reviews from folks walking E Pike Saturday night, any expansion of the program will likely remain a nighttime affair. Non-nightlife businesses in the area haven’t exactly embraced the idea of a car-free E Pike, CHS is told.

Find more information about the pilot program here. You can contact the EcoDistrict with feedback.

UPDATE 8/10/2015 5:45 PM: On the other hand, not everybody was pleased with the first night. Some businesses reported the closure seemed to attract bad behavior:

We also had men urinating on and around our business.  One particular “gentleman” proceeded to punch our door person and rip his shirt after he was asked to cease his behavior.  It escalated to police presence and he got arrested.  This has never happened before unless it was a event that involved a street closure.  I think with pike being closed off, it makes Friday and Saturday nights on the hill an “event”.  I do not foresee good things happening with the street closure in my opinion.  I think it will hurt much more than it would help.  I think more police presence would be more effective than this, but I look forward to seeing the changes in the next pilot.  I think stationed security is an ABSOLUTE necessity for the periphery areas.

In a different arena, what about the buskers?  There was a huge group of drums being allowed, many of my friends who live in the building above the Rose and Sam’s were posting videos of them, and the noise level was pretty high.  Will this be allowed? I believe there should be restrictions on large groups?  I’m not sure of the code on this.

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7 thoughts on “What it looked like when E Pike was pedestrian only

  1. I couldn’t be there, but how did the noise level compare to the normal environment? As a former resident of the street, I’m curious to know whether the street closure would have a positive or a negative effect for people living above.

    • I live above the Cupcake Royale on Pike, and it seemed a little louder than normal, especially after the bars let out at 2am and people continued to party on the streets. It went on longer than normal, along with more street music (joe buckets maybe), and woo circles uninterrupted by pedestrian traffic.

      Not complaining though, I’m all for the closures.

  2. Do our well-intentioned planners really think that having a bunch of mimes engaging drunks on the street WON’T lead to a punch-up? Just sayin’…

  3. Laying on that dirty street! ….eeeek!

    Having the street vendors on the street instead of the sidewalk may help in mixing things up a bit and create more of a “street fair” mentality.

    I’ve been to many cities where these types nightly pedestrian streets come to life at night with various food vendors, retailers and performers (not bucket drummers). It creates a lively and festive atmosphere. The half empty streets pictured here look sad. But I understand it takes time for things to evolve and this was just 1 night.

    • I thought the same thing about the photo of the people lying in the street. Completely disgusting! Both of them were probably lightly coated with a lovely mix of dog and human urine and feces, motor oil, chewing gum, cigarette butts, and phlegm.

    • I definitely agree. I only checked the street out early in the night, but it seemed weird that the food vendors and early evening musicians were all still on the cramped sidewalk. It would’ve helped to have them in the middle of the street. Heck, they could have a bunch more merchants and make it into a night market of sorts. That’d be cool.

      It’s a big street, so isn’t as amenable to pedestrianization as other locations. In order for this to be work well, the middle of the street needs activation with kiosks, buskers, tables/chairs, portable lights/art, or pretty much anything.

      Lastly, it would’ve also been helpful to have a less intimidating barrier to the pedestrian street. The giant “Road Closed” signs and police presence (replete with flashing lights) made it seem like this was a crime scene or protest, rather than a simple pedestrian plaza.