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Parks and sidewalks too crowded? Maybe pedestrians should get space on some streets

caption: A quiet downtown Seattle is shown on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Seattle.
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A quiet downtown Seattle is shown on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

As spring weather blankets the region and residents are increasingly spending time outside, one Seattle non-profit is calling for the city to open up more green spaces.

Gordon Padelford, the executive director of the non-profit Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, said Seattle should consider opening up more space around parks by banning vehicles from nearby streets and reserving them for pedestrians and bicycles. That's been tried in cities like Portland, Oakland, and Minneapolis.

“Right now, people need space to safely recreate without being crowded,” he said. “So being able to convert some of these streets for safe spaces to recreate and travel is really critical.”

Padelford said that could have the biggest impact for people who don’t have backyards.

“That way, everyone has access to all the benefits that our parks and open space bring,” he said.

The city could also legalize running and walking on neighborhood streets and turn some parking lanes into walkways during the COVID-19 crisis, he said.

Padelford said Seattle’s been dealing with more of a public health crisis than cities like Minneapolis and Portland, “so it’s understandable that it may be taking us slightly longer to implement some of these solutions."

But he said we should really start thinking about them now so that "come summer, we’re ready to roll.”

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is collecting feedback from people about what street closures or changes would make the biggest difference in their neighborhoods.

Over the April 11-12 weekend, Seattle closed 15 of its largest parks to prevent overcrowding.

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