The city’s Stay Healthy Streets are an innovative, low-cost way to increase people space by bootstrapping on the existing greenways network. Kudos to the Mayor and SDOT for a creative solution. But as businesses start to re-open, we’ll need a much more aggressive approach, one that goes beyond the low-density residential areas and into commercial districts: sidewalk cafes, pedestrian-only zones and more.  

Summer starts next week, so the time is now. As the mayor herself said in the aforelinked post, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We have a long summer and fall ahead.

From Boston to Bothell, other cities are taking initiative:

Meanwhile, across the country traffic is starting to creep back up.  

As traffic rises, emissions are rising too:

Anecdotally, from my daily walks it does seem like there are way more cards on the road and less patience for pedestrians in the streets.  As this continues, the political price for opening streets to pedestrians and closing them to cars will continue to rise.

The primary goal here remains to defeat the virus, not to redesign streets. But until there’s a vaccine or other treatment, creating more outdoor space for safely gathering is a win-win and the city could be doing more. If you want to go deep on street closures and urban design, Stephen Fesler at The Urbanist has you covered.

58 Replies to “Time to open more streets”

  1. Generally, it’s not a good idea for local government to permanently close off streets unless affected neighbors are asked. The concept has merit but the process has been very dictatorial — which is ok for a temporary measure but not a permanent one.

    I’d rather see SDOT staff focused on some urgent problems like honing West Seattle travel movements or synchronizing signals better (maybe even forcing lower speeds) now that walk signs are turned on at a number of intersections (adding red light time to main streets).

    1. The problem is, whenever you ask, you will 1) never, ever get 100% agreement on anything, 2) See a strong bias towards the status quo. I recall that keeping cars out of Times Square initially drew a lot of skepticism. Now, people can’t imagine ever going back.

      In a situation with indoor capacity reduced, using the street space to allow restaurants to host more customers should be a no brainier.

      Finally, I’d like to point out that, even independent of capacity, getting rid of the cars makes outdoor dining a lot more pleasant. I was once eating lunch while visiting Toronto, Canada. It was one of those streets with lots of shops going right up to the sidewalk without the big, ugly parking lots breaking up the storefronts. The only problem is, the street was wide, the cars were going fast, and the walls of the buildings turned the street into a sound chamber. I ended up eating inside, in spite of it being very hot and no air conditioning, because the outside was just too loud with all the cars.

      Granted, the problem isn’t nearly as bad at places like 1st and Pike, where the speeds are much slower, but I would still prefer to eat lunch without listening to the constant roar of internal combustion engines or breathing the constant fumes of idling engines.

      1. Unfortunately, because of historical zoning most neighborhood restaurants are on arterials of some class. The most you’ll get there is parking removed for tables in the street.

        That should certainly happen for Ballard Avenue from 17th to Market, but where else is there a “well-restauranted” street whose traffic lanes can be closed as well as parking spaces?

        Maybe 34th for a block or two west of Fremont. I can’t think where else, though. Please give some specifics. Thanks.

      2. A few areas that come to mind (@Tom Terrific) would be the U District (probably the whole Ave from Pacific up to 50th or 55th), Roosevelt around the upcoming station and/or 65th that same area, 65th in downtown Ravenna, maybe 5th Ave up in Maple Leaf…

        The problem is that other than the Ave, you essentially are shutting the main arterial for the neighborhood, which has its own set of problems. I think the Ave is totally doable though. Just move the buses along 15th and close the whole street for vehicle use.

      3. Yes, maybe The Ave could be made a pedestrian zone after 8 AM. That might overload the bus stops between Campus Parkway and 45th, though

        It’s worth considering.

        The others you named are compketely out of the question.

      4. Oh, I completely agree it would not work for any of the others, as I argued against myself as well :) It would be fun to dream, though. Our grid is just not set up well for it. Re: overloading bus stops, I was banking on more transfers happening around the future Link rail, so you’d need to improve the connections to wherever those buses would move to from the Ave. That I think would be the biggest issue, but I think it’s solvable.

        For another (not in Seattle) place where I think it might actually be feasible – Bellevue on Main St. between Bellevue Way and 100th. It’s already very hard to navigate by car, may as well close it and turn it into a pedestrian/bike mall.

    2. The 100-percent agreement argument is a red herring. That’s akin to saying that we should have a dictator because we have competitive elections. Any public decision has opposition, and our current participatory culture has created a public expectation for influencing decisions with direct feedback.

      I’d agree that outdoor seating for the summer months in front of restaurants is a great idea! The issue with the current set of closed streets are that they run through residential areas all over Seattle — many with only single-family homes and no restaurant in sight. Meanwhile, blocks with lots of restaurants have cars speeding by.

      1. The “closed streets” in residential neighborhoods don’t really impact the residents. People are still allowed to drive on them to access their driveways. It’s simply about getting rid of the cuthrough traffic. The drivers that benefit from cutting through, by definition, don’t live on the blocks where the closure is, and the streets to be closed are chosen so that the “benefit” is extremely minor, often on order of a few seconds.

        Capitol Hill has some beautiful landscaped barriers to prevent cutthrough traffic and I would definitely like to see it replicated elsewhere.

    3. No, the streets are not being “closed off.” They are being limited to local traffic–nobody has had car access to their homes cut off here. Which is kind of *the whole point* of residential streets in the first place.

      1. When the signs say “Road Closed” with no other explanation — as opposed to “No Through Traffic” — it seems appropriate to say it’s closed off. The signs suggest it’s even closed to bicyclists and pedestrians when the signage is this blunt. There are a few blue signs but those have disappeared in lots of places, and the wording I n those is so small that it can’t be read from a car.

        Seattle has installed signage for this that doesn’t mean what it says.

      2. When the signs say “Road Closed” with no other explanation — as opposed to “No Through Traffic” — it seems appropriate to say it’s closed off. The signs suggest it’s even closed to bicyclists and pedestrians when the signage is this blunt. There are a few blue signs but those have disappeared in lots of places, and the wording I n those is so small that it can’t be read from a car.

        The sign is working. Cars can see the “road closed” from far off and think “gee the road is closed”. Those that live on that stretch know that they can still enter to park or access their residence.

        I can’t think of a scenario where a pedestrian or cyclist is approaching a sign from afar and gives up and goes home because they see a “road closed” sign, with some smaller text, despite seeing other people actively using the street.

        But congrats on coming up with the one far out negative scenario for safe streets!

      3. The sign blocks only half the street. It’s like other barriers with a gap to allow some thing through.

      4. Here’s the basic public safety problem:

        Cities often put up temporary Street Closed signs when there is a public safety risk a when using the street. Maybe it’s a flooded road or a bridge washout. Maybe it’s a downed power line or a slipped plate covering a construction cut in the road. Maybe it’s icy and the road is steep. Maybe there is a massive spill across the road. These situations happen routinely and affect everyone rather just drivers.

        When SDOT chooses the language “street closed” for other reasons like this one, it says that taking the sign literally is inconsequential. As a result, when it is consequential, street users don’t believe the sign and can put themselves at risk.

        It also puts the City at liability risk because someone can ignore the sign and end up in a disastrous result — because the signs don’t mean anything unsafe will happen to them.

        Signs that are not intended to be taken literally are dangerous!

      5. Tell the city then. It depends on how many members of the public interpret the sign that way. My experience is knowing beforehand the streets are pedestrianized and going to see them. How it appears to a driver who doesn’t know about the program or to a resident of the street I can only guess.

      6. Your typical “Street Closed” sign is a very large sign, mounted on orange and white hatched, very visible bars that are usually 8 ft wide and 5 ft tall and are meant to block an entire lane of traffic. Do a quick search for “Road Closed Sign” if you can’t picture one.

        These “Street Closed” signs are small signs on an A-frame set to the side of residential streets. Could they have had better wording? Maybe, but this is what the City could come up with, quite literally overnight. Also consider the first example where the streets aren’t really closed, they just want to significantly reduce traffic while they work; local access is still permitted.

        If someone confuses the second example for the former example and makes some rash driving decision based on that, they need to have their driving privileges revoked..

        But great slippery slope fallacy!

    4. I’d imagine some (perhaps many) affected neighbors could be happy with this.

      1) Eliminates noisy traffic (my parents live on a popular cut-thru street and along with their neighbors actually tried to get this type of restriction imposed when I was a child but SDOT denied it).

      2) Improves street parking availability by restricting outsiders.

      3) Deters crime – I have to think would-be robbers would choose a different street with fewer potential witnesses walking and biking.

      1. 4) Raises property values because the street is quieter than average and other people’s cars are fewer.

  2. Special thanks for this morning’s news, Frank. My screen tells me that not only is Alexa’s Cafe still there in Bothell, but ST 522’s still running too.

    Road use and attitude, I’m sensing discomfort and stress. Work hours or their total lack, uncertainty the World’s Whole Watch-Word, for timing and coordination, our personal vehicle-handling is all one “click” off our game.

    De Facto mandate to STAY ALONE! is neither wrong nor Jay Inslee’s fault. Would bet a lot of the present crop of Capitol Lawn flag-wavers nurse serious and justified trepidation about close company with people they don’t know.

    My co-op staff and barista servers are glad to see me, but also iron-clad that conversation time is zero. Not Jay’s rules but Nature’s, and she’s not easing up. Though at the same time fully realizing that we’re creatures for whom being scared and alone at the same time is also death.

    Doubt it’s only my own gut-instinct that the place I’m wanted least of all is behind the wheel of my own car, traffic or not. The faster I’m moving, the faster my welcome wears out.

    Meaning that if Transit can get its act together, given the sheer Hell of this day’s every mile of driving, every $ spent could pay itself back with interest, long-term and short. Every cut-back needs to factor in how much the lost service itself will cost.

    Short term top need? Accurate real-time information, constantly “on top of” conditions as they unfold. Now more than ever, worst thing about transit is waiting for it.

    Mark Dublin

  3. I would like to see the city moving to designing neighborhoods, rather than single streets, that are more focused on reducing auto traffic and increasing pedestrian activity. Rather than just naming certain streets as pedestrian streets, entire neighborhoods could evolve into pedestrian-focused areas.

    As an example, I would suggest looking at the area in south Seattle bordered by Othello/Graham/Rainier/MLK. Three of the four boundary streets are served by good to excellent transit options (ST Link, MT 7, 36, 50, 106) and there are plenty of commercial locations for small and medium sized businesses to thrive in the area. There also are 2 public schools and several parks inside or just outside the boundaries that would be attractive for families with kids. Bicycle lanes, more open space, wider sidewalks, lower speed limits, restricted parking for non-residents would bring more people out into the neighborhood and increase the number of trips that are taken without using a car.

    1. In the course of human history, the concept of public squares has existed. It’s true in many cultures around the world — until the last 100 years here in the USA.

      I think the lack of public squares is at the origin of many of the problem themes in this post. It pushes the “activity” like restaurants to auto-oriented through streets — which then can’t be more pedestrian-focused. The grid street system is viewed as a wandering, amorphous path for pedestrians that doesn’t have destination anchors. It is even why we end up substituting streets as these de facto public squares resulting in situations like CHOP.

      Somehow our modern urban West Coast culture thinks there are only three kinds of public spaces — vast “natural” open space, recreational functions (playgrounds, tennis courts, soccer fields, etc) or a few sporadically-located planted parks crossed by narrow sidewalk paths like those envisioned by Olmsted. The fourth, mostly-paved public squares, is painfully absent here except for Westlake Park and maybe a few others. As a result, I even see posts here be vehemently opposed to “open space” of any kind near a new Link station because our culture just doesn’t see public squares offered as valid “open space”.

      If we had had over a dozen public squares properly designed as part of our “urban villages” inside Seattle, things like restaurants on these squares would have evolved and pedestrian life would be so much more inspiring.

      1. Nice post, Al S. I think your central point is totally valid. I guess the closest thing we have in this city to a proper public square is the open central space at Seattle Center.

      2. The US is particularly individualist. Possible influences include Scotch-Irish culture, Calivinism, slavery/racism, and libertarianism. Ireland traditionally had no central government or cities, and the clans emphasized freedom and self-sufficiency. Calvinism focused on individual virtues and the work ethic, and some forms banned theaters or chained swingsets on the Sabbath (both being social/community activities and temptations to hedonism), although most forms supported governments and some eventually supported social programs. Slavery/racism creates an us-vs-them attitude, which sometimes manifests as opposition to public goods because they benefit them. Libertarianism, meaning those inspired by Ayn Rand, puts private property at the forefront.

        So Americans start with a predisposition to see public squares as mostly associated with Southern European countries, with connotations of communalism, Catholicism, and laziness. We have some public squares but not as many, just enough for civic assembly and speeches, not one in every neighborhood. Libertarianism in extreme forms argues that there is no public interest and should be no public spaces, everything should be private. The only legitimate public interests are national defense, laws/police and courts to defend private property and contracts. If people want a communal space, they can buy land and build it privately, and either charge admission or make it free as a philanthropic gesture. Racism makes people tolerate extreme inequality and poverty. That causes homelessness, which causes homeless people to proliferate in public spaces. That turns people against public plazas because the homeless will inevitably take them over.

        Against this, Nordic culture puts a high value on social capital and taking care of everybody. That creates a countertrend, especially in the northern Midwest and Northwest. But it’s not enough to counteract the individualist, laissez-faire trend overall. And racism just makes it worse.

  4. The existing closures were said to help social distancing but they’re in places where crowds are nonexistent. Their reall purpose seems to be compensating for missing sidewalks.

    Meanwhile the inner city that does have crowded sidewalks has gotten nothing. There’s no east-west pedestrian way between downtown and East Seattle. Ironically, CHOP has de facto created one, but only for two blocks. I hope that in the eagerness to accommodate outdoor dining they don’t forget the needs of pedestrians walking too.

    1. “I hope that in the eagerness to accommodate outdoor dining they don’t forget the needs of pedestrians walking too.”

      Agreed. I share that concern. It’s been very pleasant of late not having to walk around green/yellow/red bikes that previously used to obstruct pedestrian passage with some regularity on narrow sidewalks. So, yes, let’s hope that the issue of pedestrian mobility, including folks with visual impairments, is kept at the forefront of this discussion about additional business use of ROW.

  5. Until the virus has subsided, I think a city street congested with cars is preferable to a train congested with passengers.

      1. Like I always say, asdf2, to every tool its use. Everett to Tacoma, Hell of a walk.

        Mark Dublin

    1. Sam, you do realize that most virus transmission in this country has involved driving at some point, right? That the places where the virus is now spiking aren’t exactly known for heavy train ridership? How you get there has proven to be a rounding error compared with what you (and others whom you can’t control!) do at whatever location you’re going to. Purely from a virus transmission perspective, the most preferable thing would be for people to stay the f*#% home and not drive around everywhere like it’s 2019. Of course, we can and have limited transit use, but we can’t/won’t limit car use. The same advantages of “freedom and mobility” associated with cars become disadvantages when it comes to dealing with a pandemic.

      1. All I’m saying is, if I worked at a downtown cubicle farm, I’d feel better if the 200 other people on my floor all drove into work, rather than they all took public transit into work.

    2. Reason I’m for the trains is because it keeps all those cars out of the way of mine when I need it. Also, a healthy working railroad network is my best guarantee I can generally leave it home. And congested combustion notoriously leaves lungs in prime flavor for covid-food.

      Also can’t figure out why my Government’s most disgruntled employee can’t just leave this one alone as a piece of persecution. Fact he lost by three million votes hasn’t either held him down or shut him up yet.

      Mark Dublin

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you closed a lane on Aurora, then Canlis put some tables and chairs out there, it would make the dining experience less enjoyable, not more.

      1. +10 Well done. Perhaps those straw men might want to enjoy a serving of red herring while they’re at it.

  7. Shutting down streets so more restaurants have outdoor seating is backwards thinking. Shutting down streets should be for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, not so that private enterprise can further encroach upon the public square. Community, not capital.

    1. They’re not mutually exclusive. In the current situation it’s not a giveaway to restaurants, it’s mitigation for prohibiting indoor dining or reducing it to 25% or 50% suddenly without warning. Some restaurants can go a few months without customers but if it extends for a year or two there will be many more bankrupcies, especially if federal stimulus is not renewed. Bankrupcies cause empty storefronts and unemployed workers, neither of which are good for the pedestrian atmosphere or people earning a living. Public health experts want people to do more of their activities outdoors; this is a way to do that.

      Beyond the pandemic, outdoor seating has some public benefits. Many people like to eat outdoors, and many others like the lively atmosphere of outdoor diners. When people talk about what Paris does right, one thing is outdoor cafes. The main issue is to ensure that it’s taken out of GP/parking lanes, not sidewalks. The sidewalks should be expanded too, as Stay Healthy Streets acknowledges. Let drivers fight with restaurants over space. This is most critical on high-volume blocks. On low-volume blocks like Beacon Avenue it’s less of an issue.

      1. Mitigation? Why? Was there “mitigation” during The Spanish Flu? Public/private partnerships rarely benefit the public. Current outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants often intrude upon pedestrian walkways. You want more? We need less!

        “Many people like to eat outdoors…”. This is true. That’s why businesses have decks. On private property. What people like =/= public benefit. That should be very clear in today’s pandemic environment. People like not wearing masks. People not wearing masks isn’t a public benefit though. Outdoor seating on public property isn’t as dangerous as coronavirus, but it is still not something that should be encouraged.

        I’m no fan of cars or free parking, but it is at least a public use of public space (barring delivery services). I’d much rather see pay parking than outdoor eating. Allowing public freedom of movement (which cars still are, even in the most mass transit heavy parts of the globe) is a much better use of space than allowing private businesses to inhibit the freedom of pedestrian movement.

      2. You do hate private businesses, don’t you Mao?

        What’s next, state-owned noodle shops? Those went over SO well…..

      3. I live in a corporatist’s utopia. With such a landscape, who wouldn’t hate private businesses?

      4. Sure, pretend the restaurant industry doesn’t cause massive amounts of unnecessary pain, suffering, and poverty as it is organized under capitalism.

        And yeah, coop eateries do work quite well.

    2. Amazing how using public street space for people to eat at a restaurant is considered an unjustified subsidy of a private business. Yet, using the same public street space for people to park their cars while they eat inside is somehow ok. Even though the number of patrons per square foot is larger with outdoor dining than with car parking.

      This is yet another of how cars have managed to completely warp our perspective.

      1. To be fair, I don’t think A Joy implied that parking in front of restaurants is okay, either, though I suppose they can let us know for sure one way or the other.

        One of the things I enjoyed about old European cities I have visited (such as Florence) was the very mixed, fluid use of public ROW space. In old Florence, it seemed like often there was no clear boundary between restaurant patios and the pedestrian walkway, and everyone managed to get along just fine and enjoy the shared space. The only losers (as such) were cars, who had to navigate around all the pedestrians. So there were fewer cars than we would have in most American downtowns, but the cars that were there made full use of the street, too, just like everyone else. I’m sure the outbreak induced some changes into this setup, but it probably is still workable to a great extent.

      2. Those cars should be paying for the privilege of parking. Yet SDOT for some reason still has free parking for everyone because of the virus.

        As a general principle, I’d argue that private businesses shouldn’t get free use of public land. A temporary exception for the current situation, maybe, but only in place of street parking. Even then, with 6′ social distancing a person sitting in the street at the curb creates a 6′ wide obstacle for a sidewalk user to avoid.

      3. So, here’s an example of a street in my neighborhood that would be an excellent candidate for converting to outdoor dining:

        https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6762323,-122.2055659,3a,75y,259.94h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sY0tQ9cQsyyOf55Y2qePHAA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

        As you can see in the picture, this is already a pedestrian-priority street. It runs only two blocks, so nearly useless to thru-traffic anyway, so the only reason to drive on it is to park next to one of the local restaurants. The combined square footage of the street and the parking spaces is a not real estate that could be used for more outdoor seating, allowing the restaurants to operate at something close to normal capacity while preserving social distancing, and still leaving plenty of room leftover for people to walk through. There is plenty of free off-street within a block, and barricades can easily be removed during non-dining hours (e.g. weekday mornings) to allow for deliveries.

        One city where I saw an excellent example of pedestrianized streets is Copenhagen. They have a network of several blocks, where the sidewalk was converted into outdoor dining and the entire street closed to cars and converted into a wide sidewalk. The area was very crowded, and the businesses looked to be doing extremely well, even though nobody could park a car directly in front of them. To accommodate deliveries, the barriers were removed and the road open to cars and trucks each weekday morning. By the time the lunchtime crowds arrived, the delivery vans were gone and the barriers back up. The whole scheme worked quite nicely.

  8. So what this all boils down to is a Covid-19 mitigation strategy, at least in the near term, correct? Fine. Some fortunate restaurants, and perhaps retailers, in certain areas will be allowed to use public ROW to expand their businesses’ footprints at least on a temporary basis.

    But let’s not kid ourselves; this isn’t like Paris with its broad expanse of sidewalk realty. Many of our area’s urban villages will require some partial or even full street closure to accommodate the few lucky businesses that might seek to expand their physical footprint into the ROW without obstructing sidewalks. This is bound to create some inequity issues, as businesses just around the corner won’t be afforded this opportunity and will have to simply work with their given capacity constraints or consider expansion or relocation at their own expense. I’m assuming that the additional costs for the lucky ones will be limited to the expenses associated with the needed outside furnishings and permit fees. The additional real estate is free of charge.

    There are other issues to be considered as well. Some examples that spring to mind are:
    — liability concerns. Will the businesses’ existing insurance contracts cover the new areas of exposure? What if someone trips (and is injured) over an electrical line mounted on the surface of the expanded footprint? Does the jurisdiction itself have additional liability exposure from this approach?
    — alternative use conflicts. A busker, a (legally compliant) outdoor smoker, a dog walker are just a few examples I can think of where conflicts may arise. Would the permit granting use of the additional ROW give the recipient business other exclusivity authority?

    I see this as a very temporary exercise that may help save some establishments from going under. With that said, I think everything changes come fall when the virus is expected to hit us even harder and our cooler, wet weather pattern returns and far fewer people will desire to sit outdoors. In the interim, I suppose this strategy is fine but longer term I’d rather see the cities in the region adopt the approach espoused in GuyOnBeaconHill’s comment above (which immediately made me think of Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road).

    1. This is an honest question, as I had just brought up other European cities with their fluid sidewalk/ROW use just above.

      All your points about unintended consequences in terms of contract law are entirely valid. How do European cities deal with them? Clearly, some of it is due to Federal-level statutes that are different between European countries and the US, but are there local-level statutes that would need to be modified and might suffice to alleviate those concerns to a sufficient extent?

      Thank you very much in advance for any information (even if just links to additional reading material).

      1. “How do European cities deal with them?”
        Unfortunately I do not know enough about contract law and liability issues in any European country to adequately answer your question(s), so I’ll have to defer to others on that. Sorry. I appreciate your thoughtful reply nonetheless.

        In regard to Seattle’s current use of the sidewalk ROW for cafe dining, the city redid its program just last year, publishing its Director’s Rule for “Cafes in the Public Place” in Oct 2019. I’m passing along the following link to the SDOT site (where you can retrieve the document) as I thought it may provide some insight into the current city administration’s general thinking about the subject matter. It will be interesting to see if the department plans to offer an addendum in light of recent developments in the aftermath of the pandemic and subsequent mitigation strategies for business reopenings.

        https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/permits-and-services/permits/sidewalk-cafe

    2. You don’t have to go to Paris. Pedestrian malls in downtowns are fairly common in America. Look at Burlington, VT – not exactly known for mild winters. Yes, there are issues to work out, but it’s not insurmountable.

      1. Of course. You might have overlooked that I even mentioned one such pedestrian mall in my comment above. I could’ve just as well mentioned another one on the west coast that I’m pretty familiar with as well, that being the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I wasn’t suggesting that one needed to go all the way to Europe to experience such facilities. The Paris reference was simply made to point out the differences in available sidewalk realty.

        Fwiw. After law school, I worked at the NY State Legislature in Albany, NY (another area not exactly known for its mild winters either) and would occasionally take the Northway (I-87) up to Montreal to spend a weekend or visit a friend who lived in Plattsburgh (which is on the NY side of Lake Champlain). So, yeah, I’m very familiar with the weather in that neck of the country. I’m just not sure what your point is here. Are you suggesting that lots of folks in Seattle will indeed avail themselves of such streetside dining options come Nov, Dec and Jan?

      2. @ Tlsgwm To be clear, I never used the word “dining” or “restaurant” in my post, though the embedded tweets do emphasize that use case.

        Open space can be used for many things and there is an acute lack of it in Seattle’s densest neighborhoods. Many of those things – like walking while maintaining social distancing – can absolutely be done year round.

      3. @Frank C
        Fair enough. But you did say this:
        “But as businesses start to re-open, we’ll need a much more aggressive approach, one that goes beyond the low-density residential areas and into commercial districts: sidewalk cafes, pedestrian-only zones and more.”

        I guess, theoretically at least, patrons could do other things besides “dining” at sidewalk cafes, but that wouldn’t exactly constitute appropriate patronage.

  9. @AJ
    Give me a break. I guess you missed this part:
    “In the interim, I suppose this strategy is fine but longer term I’d rather see the cities in the region adopt the approach espoused in GuyOnBeaconHill’s comment above (which immediately made me think of Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road).” That was what I “arguing” for here, despite your strawman-style implication.

    The “concerns” were just that, concerns. Just like with any other proposed change, there will be issues that the relevant jurisdiction will need to consider and sort out both during the planning and the implementation of said change. I see no harm in pointing out such “concerns” in a blog discussion on the matter. (I mean, that is the point of the commentary, eh?…RQ) As I mentioned in my reply to AM above, just look at the work that was required in the update to the SDOT Director’s Rule for “Cafes in the Public Space” that was published last October. So, yeah, these non-Seattle specific issues certainly can be sorted out, as there is clearly a process and structure in place to make that happen. Hell, even if some unique ones come up because of some idiosyncrasies in local ordinances, those can be dealt with as well through the same means. What’s faulty here is the assumption you drew based on my earlier comments; I never implied that the few issues that I did raise were insurmountable (to use Frank’s phrasing).

    Fwiw. Thanks for the wiki link. I have visited several of the spots on the list as a matter of fact. I even mentioned two of these locales in my previous comments.

  10. Close Pike Place to cars and dedicate Seattle’s most important public space to pedestrians, sidewalk dining, and space for more vendors.

  11. Why not pedestrian-only zones that have worked so well in the CHOP/CHAZ zone? Solved all the problems of racism, colonialism, etc., etc. Such a model example Seattle is of radical solutions.

  12. In the areas I walk through daily, the “local only” streets have no more people visible than they did pre-barrier. For the first couple of weeks, they did, groups unsafely distancing. Then the novelty wore off and our county case counts went back up. Neither is a shock; we didn’t meet the criteria for reopening any more than other states did.

    What I see is that the “no through traffic” edicts are prolonging trips and increasing U turns. Doesn’t seem like an environmental bonanza.

    From a public health standpoint, I’d be worrying more about making the streets/sidewalks safer for takeout and curbside delivery than for outdoor diners. We are a vaccine or much more efficacious testing/treatment infrastructure away from the outdoor dining in Roosevelt or on the Ave scenarios.

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