The sky outside your window is blue. The rays of sun are starting to feel warmer. There's no way around it. We're in store for a glorious, 80-degree May weekend. But we're also in the middle of a global pandemic, so you'll need to abide by physical distancing guidelines.
But that doesn't mean you can't get outside.
You can't stay past 8 p.m. in all the hottest (popularity-wise, not temperature-wise) parks, which is fine, but the sun doesn't set until 8:32 p.m. today, and maybe city officials should time these things with daylight. You'll also have to "Keep it Moving." The slogan, which sounds like a kid's health ad campaign, or something a by-the-book cop would say, is also instructions. City officials don't want people hanging out or loitering. Parks are for activity now—walking and jogging and rolling, not picnicking.
In the event that you don't want to go to a park, why not take it to the streets?
Following the lead of cities like Oakland, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan kickstarted the "Stay Healthy Streets" program that closed down miles of city streets to vehicle access to help Seattle socially distance outside. Each week since the program was incepted in April, new miles of "healthy streets" have been added. First, it was 2.5 miles of "open" streets, then it was nine miles. This weekend, there will be 23 miles of open streets in neighborhoods across the city.
The pandemic, and the growing need for space for people, will inevitably change how we view and use public space.
It's something urbanists have been wanting for ages, and it's finally, slowly, starting to happen. Durkan announced on Thursday that 20 miles of streets would remain restricted to vehicle access permanently after the pandemic has ended. That's a far cry from the Seattle Neighborhood Greenway's urbanist wet dream of 130 miles of open streets. But there's hope more change could follow. Durkan, for instance, has also committed to building more bike lanes, commitments she dragged her feet on in the past.
As this thing wears on, we'll continue looking at the way our cities are built and the way our societies are run through a magnifying glass. There's an opportunity to change for the better—fewer cars, more bikes, bigger sidewalks—as we reopen. Some cities are currently flirting with the idea of going all European this summer and having restaurants seat people on the sidewalks. I'd like to lobby for that change in Washington.