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Seattle to bar traffic from 20 miles of streets so residents can exercise, bike

Seattle to bar traffic from 20 miles of streets so residents can exercise, bike

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) announced Thursday that the city plans to permanently bar 20 miles of roads from car traffic to leave room for people to use bikes and walk.

According to a city spokesperson, the streets would be closed for thru-traffic only, allowing residents to still access their homes using vehicles and delivery companies to continue services.

The measure is part of a larger initiative that began in April called Stay Healthy Streets, a temporary relief program providing more space for residents to leave their houses while practicing social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release.

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"Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather," Durkan said. 

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) said that areas chosen to be closed from car traffic include places with routes that connect foot traffic with essential services and food stops, as well as streets with low car ownership, according to a release.

"We've witnessed a 57% drop in vehicle traffic volumes accessing downtown Seattle during Governor Inslee's Stay Healthy, Stay Home order," SDOT said. "Finding new and creative ways, like Stay Healthy Streets, to maintain some of these traffic reductions as we return to our new normal is good for the planet, but is also good for our long-term fight against COVID-19."

Part of the initiative includes building better bike infrastructure such as bike lanes to improve mobility around the city and help reduce pollution in the process.

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board strongly supported the measures Durkan announced Thursday.

"All these actions together will help Seattle come back as a safer, healthier, and more climate friendly city," the board said in the release.