Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) in partnership with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is excited to bring back the Lake Washington Stay Healthy Streets. Below is the information shared by SDOT last week.
Starting Fourth of July weekend, three (3) miles of Lake Washington Boulevard (from Mt. Baker Park to Seward Park) will open to people walking, rolling, and biking on weekends* and holidays through at least September.
*For consistency, barricades will be placed each Friday afternoon and removed Monday morning. This also reduces costs in paying staff overtime. On Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends, barricades will be removed the following Tuesday morning.
Parking lots are open and will be accessible from the nearest cross street (see map). Those driving to homes along the boulevard because they live there, are visiting, or making deliveries are allowed.
The global pandemic provided an opportunity to experience the city in a different way. Last year, Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Parks and Recreation opened three miles of Lake Washington Boulevard all summer to allow for recreation close to home and space to keep six feet apart. This real-time experience engaged hundreds of people who shared their thoughts with us through emails, phone calls, surveys, and even videos (like this one from Anna Zivarts with Disability Rights Washington).
“As a city, we’re taking what we experienced during COVID-19, considering how to meet our environmental goals, and striving for safer places to walk and bike. What I’ve witnessed on Lake Washington Boulevard is that when such spaces are opened to people of all ages and abilities, they truly transform into a spaces for people. Children, families, and elders fill these spaces as they go for strolls, picnic on the grass, or go swimming in the lake. These spaces are truly valued and they are something that all communities in Seattle should be able to access.” – Councilmember Tammy Morales
As one would expect, reactions to the change varied. A substantial number of people shared their joy in having an intuitive, flat space, free of traffic safety concerns, and to be outside alongside one of Seattle’s most beautiful parks. We also heard concerns from some residents related to on-street parking pressures (particularly when parking lots were closed last summer), traffic transferring from Lake Washington Boulevard to adjacent streets, and missing a treasured scenic drive – whether for pleasure, lack of ability to walk or bike, or commuting.
Here’s a sampling of what we heard:
“I’ve loved seeing families and friends stroll along the boulevard when it’s closed to cars, and it’s been a joy to cycle through without having to worry about traffic.” – Mariko W.
“With the road being closed, it gives a lot more people the opportunity to come to a nice place that’s safe and just a good place to hang out.” – Jawara O.
“As a health care worker, I do not always have the luxury of time and sometimes need to drive. The quickest way to drive is along LWB, and after a long stressful day caring for patients, it is an absolutely lovely and relaxing drive home. Even as an avid biker, I prefer it stay open to cars, especially during the week.” – Ben T.
Striking a balance
This summer’s approach builds on decades of Bicycle Sundays where, on a typical day, about 5,000 people participate. It expands the lakefront for more use, and supports affordable travel options by making it easier to walk, bike, and roll. It provides space for children under 12 that are not currently eligible for vaccinations to stay active. It’s consistent to help people planning their trips and it maintains vehicle access during typical commute hours.
We’re balancing access for people with mobility challenges who primarily enjoy the lake when driving and considering equity for those that moved out of the city due to affordability issues and often return to visit relatives and friends in the neighborhood. By keeping parking lots open, people driving from other neighborhoods retain access to the parks.
We don’t take these decisions lightly as we work toward creating a safer, more sustainable city.
How did we select this option?
We received 6,700 responses to a poll open from April 23 to May 10 and the top preference was to close three miles of Lake Washington Boulevard all summer (weekends and weekdays). When we broke the data down by people who lived in nearby zip codes and people who identified as BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of color), the result was the same.
In addition to the poll responses, we considered what we learned through listening sessions with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and from people who live on or near Lake Washington Boulevard. We also considered the hundreds of emails to our project inbox and feedback from a 2020 survey.
Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Parks & Recreation evaluated the options with this weighted criteria: 1. Equity (25%)
2. Community & Stakeholder Input (25%)
3. Safety & Health (20%)
4. Access (20%)
5. Implementation (10%)
Balancing those metrics, we’re moving forward with opening three miles of Lake Washington Boulevard on summer weekends and holidays.
“I am happy to open a longer stretch of Lake Washington Blvd to people for outdoor recreation and active transportation on weekends this summer, and hope that this additional space for healthy activities will allow more people to enjoy and benefit from this street, while also making sure that the full community has access to parking lots and park spaces along the lake,” said SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe. “Earlier this summer I met with a small group of community members from different racial and ethnic backgrounds who have lived in the area for a long time during one of our street openings. This really helped me to understand the importance and history of Lake Washington in the community and how we balance all of the access needs.”
PARKING: Seattle Parks and Recreation parking lots are now open, which should be a big load off the increased parking, driving, and noise on side streets. Based on neighbor input, we’re looking into options such as trash pick up.
While all parking lots are open, to minimize driving on Lake Washington Boulevard, we’re limiting access to which lot entrances are open. See the map below and follow signs showing where to enter each parking lot.
DATA COLLECTION: We’ll continue collecting data related to possible traffic diversion at S. Genesee S (east of 38th Ave S), S McClellan St (east of 31st Ave S), and Wilson Ave S (northwest of S Lucille St). We’ll also add a counter to collect data for Hunter Blvd S.
START DATE: The weekend of 6/26, we’ll close the 1-mile stretch between Mt Baker and Genesee parks. We’ll start the 3-mile closure between Mt Baker and Seward Park on 4th of July weekend.
DURATION: Current plans are to have the program run through September. It may extend into October depending on how well it’s used.
STAN SAYRES: Please take extra caution at the entrance of Stan Sayres Memorial Park where there’s a higher volume of people driving in and out of the parking lot entrance with boats. See our map below for details on where to enter when driving.
Please send your comments to StayHealthyStreets@Seattle.gov. Due to the high volume of emails, we cannot always respond to each one individually, but we read and value your input. You can find more info on the program webpage.