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Lake Washington Blvd opens to people walking, rolling, and biking 24/7 from July 24 to September 8

Photo by TIA International Photography

Over 600 people shared concern, joy, and ideas for traveling along Lake Washington Blvd during the June 5-day pilot opening Lake Washington Blvd to people walking, rolling, and biking.  

Based on community feedback, and observations, Lake Washington Blvd is opening again to people walking, rolling, biking, and those driving to local destinations from July 24 to September 8, 2020 with the possibility of extending it to the end of September.  

We coordinated this effort with Seattle Parks and Recreation (Parks). Parks continues to limit parking and biking at Seward Park to prevent overcrowding and the spread of COVID19.

By opening Lake Washington Blvd, more people can stay close to home and keep 6 feet apart while recreating. 

The uptick in COVID-19 cases in our region underscores our desire to open up additional public spaces that allow recreation with appropriate social distance. 

The route matches Bicycle Sundays and adds two temporary ADA parking spaces at both ends, supplementing the dedicated all-accessible parking lot at Seward Park. 

Starting Friday, July 24 eco blocks (square cement blocks) with signs will be placed at Lake Park Dr S, 43 Ave S, 46 Ave S, 50 Ave S, S Genesee Way, S Orcas St, and S Juneau St. Street Closed a-frame signs will be used elsewhere.  The boat launch at Stan Sayres is closed as it was not being used for boating and seeing significant crowding.  

Based on how traffic is performing, how people are using the street, and community feedback, a decision on whether to extend the Keep Moving Street till the end of September or not will happen around Labor Day. 

The Lake Washington Blvd graphic for the Keep Moving Street.

What we heard from the community and observed during the pilot:

The pilot was announced through local media outlets, social media, and NextDoor. Around 67% of people who provided input enjoyed the pilot, about 27% did not like it, and the remainder shared ideas for modifying times, access, etc. Below is a snapshot of feedback. Read a full summary on our website and the public comments we collected. 

Common Themes in Favor  Common Themes in Opposition  
+ Provides additional space for social distancing  
+ Makes riding a bike on Lake Washington Blvd easier for north/south trips  
+ Removes traffic noise improving the experience of using the parks next to Lake Washington Blvd  
+Makes up for the Seward Park closure to people riding bikes   
+ Makes accessing lakefront parks more challenging   
+Exacerbates reduced vehicle capacity on Rainier Ave S
+ Diverts more traffic onto neighborhood streets  
+ Benefits wealthy lakefront property owners  
+ Extends driving commute times  

During the pilot we heard three primary concerns: extended commutes, traffic diversion, and people incorrectly parking.

As you read the observations and data below, you’ll see that while parking was full and some diversion did occur, people seemed to be respectful of not blocking access when parking and, with the exception of S McClellan St during weekdays, diversion appeared manageable (note weekend comparison data was not available for Wilson Ave S). Traffic throughout Seattle is down about 30%. No doubt commute times are longer. The closure is not intended to be permanent and we appreciate drivers patience during this unique time.

We collected data and visited this Keep Moving Street to observe how travelers were handling the change.

Social Distancing Ambassadors working for Seattle Parks and Recreation reported reduced crowding at Seward Park during the pilot compared to other weekends and fewer issues with people biking in the park (which is temporarily prohibited to help allow pedestrians have ample space on the walking loop). People driving were generally seen to move slowly. There was some driver confusion at the beginning of the pilot. Side streets were heavily parked, but staff did not observe illegal parking blocking hydrants or driveways.

Automatic counters were placed before and during the pilot to understand how pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle patterns changed.

Pedestrian Use 

We installed a counter at S 45th St near Genesee Park on Sunday, May 17 and Sunday, June 28 during the pilot and counted the number of people walking across Lake Washington Blvd. The counter did not measure the number of people walking along the street. It is possible the decrease in numbers is due to a change in habits. However, further observations would be needed to confirm. 

A graph showing the hourly pedestrian crossing volumes at Genesee Park,

Bicycle Use 

A counter was placed just south of S Angeline St in mid-May and June and in the same location during the pilot. Bike ridership was generally higher during the pilot than before, except for Saturday when we experienced cool weather. However, it was lower than Bicycle Sunday averages, suggesting that crowding should not be an issue. 

A graph showing bicycles per hour

Motor Vehicle Use 

A vast majority of drivers respected the Street Closed signs. Vehicle volumes typically range from 53 to 440 per hour and dropped to zero to 10 per hour. The busiest times were late afternoon into the early evening. Turning volumes reduced but much more modestly, suggesting local access was maintained for residents and service trips. 

One of the community’s primary concerns with a longer-term closure of Lake Washington Boulevard is the effect of displaced vehicle trips on other streets in the neighborhood.

A graph showing the hourly turning motor vehicle volumes.

We placed traffic counters at three locations near Lake Washington Blvd a week before the pilot, then and during the pilot. Diversion on weekdays shows small decreases in traffic on S Genesee St and Wilson Ave S. S McClellan St farther north experienced an increase in traffic, though not to 2018 levels of about 9,200. 

A graph showing the Lake Washington Blvd weekday diversion.

On weekends, there was a small decrease in traffic on S McClellan St, and a large reduction in traffic on S Genessee St. The counter on Wilson Ave S did not record weekend data before the pilot, so this data point is missing.   

A graph showing the Lake Washington Blvd weekend diversion.

During this stressful time, as new ways of moving are being considered, please be kind to your neighbors, no matter how they choose to travel. #SeattleTogether.

Learn more about Keep Moving Streets and Stay Healthy Streets on our website.