What does a lot of civic energy and a few signs do for creating safe neighborhood streets? As Mayor Jenny Durkan has announced the routes will be a new permanent part of the city’s infrastructure, early numbers for the Central District’s stretch of “Stay Healthy Streets” show some promising results for walking, running, and biking.
Seattle Bike Blog reports that, just to be clear, the new Stay Health Streets are not “closed” — they’re repurposed:
Traffic volumes are down 91% on the Central District SHS compared to 2017 levels after the neighborhood greenway was installed. That 91% decrease far outpaces the the 57% decrease in overall car traffic since the outbreak began, a sign that the signs are working.
Durkan announced last week that “at least 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets” will become permanent. In addition, 3 more miles of Stay Healthy Streets were added in Rainier Valley and 1/3 mile of Beach Drive SW in Alki.
Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets designations mean routes closed to “through motor vehicle traffic “in order to give people more space while social distancing.” The hope is to create more space for distancing, exercise, and recreation. Officials also hope the routes can help connect people to services and businesses without the need for cars or public transit. The streets remain open to “local traffic” and deliveries and the rules are in effect 24×7.
“Stay Healthy Streets provide an effective option for travel to essential services like grocery stores and small businesses open for pickup,” the city announcement reads. “As the weather gets warmer, these Stay Healthy Streets will add to the City’s extensive park system and provide more room for people to recreate or exercise outdoors safely. ”
The next steps for the pilot program will be to solidify the permanent routes and “install more durable materials.” The movable signs and traffic cones will be replaced and moved to pilot new streets, the city says, as SDOT transitions the “emergency response” to a long-term program.
Officials say new bike infrastructure will also “be accelerated throughout the rest of 2020” to “provide more mobility options for residents as the city begins the process of reopening.”
Seattle transportation officials have said social equity factors have been an important part of choosing routes. So far, none of the streets of Capitol Hill have been designated but there are a few efforts hoping to change that. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways collected crowd-sourced routes for possible Stay Healthy Streets expansion with a few suggested Capitol Hill crossings.
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