Seattle banning traffic on 20 miles of streets for exercise and biking

Seattle is closing off 20 miles of streets to traffic to allow residents more exercise space.
Seattle is closing off 20 miles of streets to traffic to allow residents more exercise space.(Ted S. Warren/AP)

Seattle residents are getting plenty of room to move.

Twenty miles’ worth of streets will be traffic-free to allow more exercise and biking space for those cooped up by coronavirus stay-at-home regulations.

The Stay Healthy Streets drive began as a temporary measure to provide city residents with much-needed space to enjoy the great outdoors while maintaining social-distancing practices amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says these closures will be permanent.

“Safe and healthy streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather,” said Durkan in a statement. “Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.”

The roadways were selected to promote outdoor exercise in areas with limited open space, low car ownership and routes linking residents to essential services and food takeout, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

People are encouraged to jog, bike and walk on the closed streets. Only residents, sanitation workers, delivery drivers and medical personnel will be allowed to drive on these roads.

“It is the kind of bold actions we need to encourage healthy operations for recreating and traveling in our city as we deal with our current crisis, and discourage a return to high levels of traffic and associated pollution and injuries as we move into recovery,” said the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board.

In April, The Seattle Times reported that hundreds of patients at Washington State long-term facilities had died from coronavirus. Only April 18, approximately half of all state COVID-19 fatalities at the time were these victims.

Washington State was one of the first states struck hard by COVID-19 but has seen a significant tapering of new cases. As of Friday, nearly 17,000 reported coronavirus cases had been reported, with 904 confirmed deaths, according to health tracker Worldometer.

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