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Seattle tries out first play street in Madrona, seeks other areas for pilot program

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Photo from SDOT

Seattle is experimenting with its first ever play street right now as I’m writing this story. It’s up in Madrona as part of St. Therese Catholic Academy’s field day. It will be open Friday from 8:45 a.m. until 3 p.m.

What is a play street, you ask? Essentially, it’s a brilliantly simple way to temporarily expand or create park area: Close a nearby street to traffic. While this may not seem like a big deal, it can be revolutionary in neighborhoods with parks that are either too small, too crowded or too far away. As SDOT puts it on their website: “Think of a play street as an extension of all the front yards on your block.”

The Madrona Play Street is the very first in what the city hopes will be a series of pilot projects around town. If your community group interested in hosting a play street in your neighborhood? Here’s how to make it happen:


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Safety is our first priority. To ensure that the street closure is safe for all, we carefully review all play streets requests to determine if the street meets a few simple criteria:

  1. The play street should be no more than one block long.
  2. The street should be a non-arterial street (click here to learn your street classification).
  3. There must be clear visibility from each intersection.
  4. The play street must have neighborhood support.

To get started, you’ll need to complete a simple (and free!) application to help us understand how often you want to host a play street and what types of activities you’re planning.

Oh, and did I mention IT’S FREE?! No city fees required, just a community that wants to play.

The project is inspired by Play Streets in New York City, like this awesome one in Queens:

More details on the Seattle Play Streets pilot, from SDOT:

Looking for something new to do with your street? Consider joining SDOT’s Pilot Play Streets Program!

So what is a “play street,” exactly? It’s just what it sounds like. With a free permit, you can temporarily close your street to traffic so that you and your neighbors can go out and play in the street. Maybe you want to have a block-long hopscotch game or a gigantic 4-square tournament…or maybe you just want extra space to bounce a ball, skate, scoot, walk, bike, or run. Play streets can be whatever you and your neighbors want them to be.

Most importantly, play streets provide more space for kids (and adults) to play and be physically active. How often a street is converted into a play street depends on the location, community needs, and your interests. A school might choose to have a play street once a month during the school year or a community group might host a play street twice a week throughout the summer. We’ve got a new website that gives you all the details you need: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/playstreets.htm.

Seattle’s first play street is right around the corner. St. Therese Catholic Academy in Madrona is celebrating its annual field day on Friday, May 30. This year, in partnership with the Pilot Play Streets Program, St. Therese will close 35th Ave (between Spring and Marion streets) from 8:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. so that kids can safely play in the street during the field day. We’re excited to have St. Therese leading the way as the first school to participate in the Pilot Play Streets Program. Wouldn’t you like to be next?


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10 responses to “Seattle tries out first play street in Madrona, seeks other areas for pilot program”

  1. Gary

    Yeah! A built in play street with holes for filling with water, and sailing toy boats already in place! What will SDOT think of next to excuse not to repair the streets…. sand and gravel?

  2. merlin

    Cool! Sorry not to have made it over to Madrona to check this out. Just one thought: I prefer to describe these as OPEN streets rather than CLOSED. Sadly, most of our streets are closed to people most of the time – unusable for almost everything except storing and driving cars. These streets are OPEN TO PEOPLE – only motor vehicles are excluded.

    1. Once upon a time, our residential streets were ALWAYS open to EVERYONE, motor vehicles INCLUDED, but that wasn’t good enough for the war-on-everyone-not-in-a-car crew.

  3. […] for the kids: The city has completed it’s first ‘play street’ in Madrona. What’s a play street? Essentially it’s a street closed off to traffic that people can […]

  4. Blue

    Every year at the block party we all talk about how great it would be to close our block more than once a summer so that kids can play. Thanks, SDOT, for this great idea.

  5. Kirk

    This is great, open streets is exactly how the Netherlands started on their path to realistic bicycle facilities. It always amazes me how much of OUR public space is devoted to automobile parking.

  6. […] More playing in the street, […]

  7. […] play out in dense, apartment-rich aresa of the Hill — the Seattle Bike Blog reports that a test has already played out near a school in the Madrona […]

  8. […] We reported about SDOT’s new play street program a few months ago, but this is a friendly reminder that you can help start one in your neighborhood. They can be one-time or recurring events. And it’s free! […]

  9. […] street into a city-sanctioned Play Street either as a one-time event or on a regular basis. In the first year, 75 different blocks across the city have taken advantage of the program. That’s pretty […]

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