by Andrew Engelson
Thanks to an enthusiastic response from city residents, one mile of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to car traffic and open to walking, cycling, and rolling from Friday Dec. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 3. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced the one-mile “Keep Moving” street after many people got outside to enjoy the three-mile closure of the street to cars over the summer. The current one-mile pedestrian-only stretch, which was also in effect over the Thanksgiving holiday, spans between Mount Baker Park in the north and Stan Sayres Memorial Park in the south.
The closure comes in combination with SDOT’s Stay Healthy Blocks program — in which residents can apply to close non-arterial streets to car traffic — and the ongoing Stay Healthy Streets system that has closed 26 miles of greenway streets across the city to motorized vehicles — except for local traffic and deliveries. The closures began during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to allow people more space for social distancing while they walk, run, roll, and cycle.
“[Lake Washington Boulevard] is actually [controlled by the] Seattle Parks Department,” said Andrew Kidde, chair of Rainier Valley Greenways. “We hope they’ll be more imaginative and bold about opening it to active transportation such as walking and cycling.”
In response to complaints that some drivers are either ignoring closure signs or taking them down, SDOT in early December began replacing existing closure notices with sturdier barrels and barricades. In September of this year, a runner on Lake Washington Boulevard was seriously injured after being hit by a car that had driven past the closure signs.
Numerous pedestrian organizations and advocates, including Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club, and Seattle Bike Blog have argued that the three-mile stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard should remain closed to motorized traffic year-round. SDOT is taking comments on its street closure program at StayHealthyStreets@seattle.gov.
In other South End pedestrian news, Cascade Bicycle Club recently reported that the 2021 City of Seattle transportation budget includes $5.1 million for a new Georgetown-to-South Park paved bike trail, $400,000 for a Georgetown-to-downtown bike route, and other South End cycling route improvements, as well as $1 million in sidewalk improvements for Rainier Avenue.
Andrew Engelson is a writer and editor who lives in the South End.
Featured image by Susan Fried.