A few days ago, the mayor of Philadelphia announced that a large section of roadway in that city will be closed "indefinitely" to give people more space to exercise while social distancing.
Though residents of Philadelphia, just like those of Seattle, are being asked to remain at home as much as possible, the Philadelphia mayor's office says it recognizes that "physical activity is important to wellbeing" and therefore the mayor of that city wants to provide spaces where people can "maintain social distancing in the course of outdoors recreation."
As the Cascade Bicycle Club noted recently, Mexico City and Bogotá have also turned roadways into bike boulevards to promote safe movement that complies with social distancing requirements. Dan Rather has taken to Twitter to say he thinks this is "a great idea" that should be looked at by "cities and towns across America."
And Tom Fucoloro, the founder of Seattle Bike Blog, says Seattle should definitely turn some of its unusually car-free roadways over to cyclists during the pandemic.
“People need to get out," Fucoloro said. "They need fresh air. The health guidance is that you still need exercise, it’s good for your immune system.”
With gyms shut down and parks closing playgrounds and sports courts, opening some roadways to bikers (and perhaps other roadways to walkers and other non-motorized uses) could relieve some of the pressure on public parks, where authorities are now having to warn people to disperse.
“Maybe they just need more space," Fucoloro said of Seattle's determined outdoor exercisers. "And we do have all these streets, and we’re not using them right now.”
Kamaria Hightower, a spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the mayor is currently "looking into it."
Giving streets over to cyclists is not a new notion for Seattle. The city already shuts down Lake Washington Boulevard to cars on certain weekends for "Bicycle Sunday."
Fucoloro asks: Why not make every day "Bicycle Sunday" along Lake Washington Boulevard until strict social distancing measures are no longer required?
And why not do the same along Alki Avenue Southwest, which in the past has also been occasionally closed for a "Summer Streets" program?
He understands that the City of Seattle has to focus its resources right now, but a few strategic street closures around town—maybe even some that create large, bike-able loops in North and South Seattle—could give Seattleites new exercise options and plenty of space to spread out while moving.
This has to be a no-frills, at-your-own-risk, you're-still-on-a-concrete-road kind of thing.
“You don’t want to make it too awesome to where everyone goes there and it’s the same problem all over again," Fucoloro said.
But if people are given more space to bike, and they follow common sense, bike-specific guidelines for social distancing ("For the love of god, don’t blow a snot rocket," is one of Fucoloro's), this could be a way to allow more people in this city to exercise responsibly while not putting themselves and others in excessive danger of contracting coronavirus.
This post has been updated with comment from Mayor Durkan's office.