Since 1968, Seattle Parks has been hosting car-free days on Lake Washington Boulevard during the spring and summer. It’s one of the longest-running open streets events in the world, and the department partnered with SDOT in recent years to expand it to last full weekends.
As planning gets underway for the 2023 season, Rainier Valley Greenways and Safe Streets has offered a handful of great suggestions for improving the events based on lessons learned in previous years. At the top of the list: Improve the consistency and predictability of the scheduling. This is a big one, and it makes the events better both for participants and for people driving who would be less likely to be surprised by a detour.
They also want to see the Parks Departments put more work into programming the space. Simply having the space open is great, but it is also a great opportunity to do more and create some memorable experiences for park goers in lakefront spaces that are usually difficult to access due to car traffic.
We also need to be focused on developing a permanent plan for walking and biking space on the boulevard, and SDOT and the Parks Department should be looking to use Bicycle Weekends as a way to engage the public about the options for doing so. Seattle should aim to have a plan in place and ready to build by the end of this year’s Bicycle Weekends season.
You can read the full letter to the project team, Mayor Bruce Harrell, and the City Council’s Parks Committee. Below is their list of suggestions:
- Improve scheduling consistency and predictably
- Problem: Inconsistent scheduling in 2022 created frustration for both drivers and other street users and is not consistent with spontaneous use of the space.
- Open the street to pedestrians, cyclists, and other users and close to vehicles every weekend between May 1 and Sept 30, including holiday Mondays and Fridays, with hours consistent with operations in 2021 (including exceptions for special events and programmed events such as SeaFair).
- Improve branding to be more inclusive
- Problem: “Bicycle Weekend” branding signals that cyclists have priority on the street during these weekends while biking represents only one of many uses of the street and park.
- Re-brand Bicycle Weekends. Consider, for example, “Summer on Lake Washington Blvd”.
- Promote non-cycling uses of the space, including increased water access, fishing, walking, inline skating, and wildlife watching.
- Improve signage and communication
- Problem: Signs indicating dates of closures have not been legible to drivers due to small font size and poor siting at locations where vehicles are often in motion.
- Problem: During weekend events, inconsistent signs with limited content at vehicle access points have failed to provide drivers with sufficient information regarding motor vehicle closures.
- Print signs with font legible to drivers and position signs at locations where drivers are most likely to see signs when not in motion such as intersections with stop signs.
- Design signs to allow for updates throughout the summer to indicate when upcoming open street weekends are imminent.
- Notify residents across Southeast Seattle of upcoming open street weekends. Issue timely press releases regarding motor vehicle closures, and focus on keeping closure information current on the SPR website. Provide yard signs and posters to local businesses about the program directing people to the SPR website. Evaluate and consider other outreach options.
- Provide and maintain detour information for drivers at access points to alleviate confusion and frustration.
- Work with Google and Apple to ensure routing software properly displays that the street is closed to vehicle traffic but open to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other recreational uses.
- Provide clear avenues for feedback and respond quickly to community input.
- Improve the park experience
- Problem: Lake Washington Boulevard’s design and program is inconsistent with its designation as park space.
- Activate the park with music, furniture, and art installations on one or more weekends throughout the three-mile park area.
- Implement, as soon as possible, any Task Force recommended stop signs, crosswalks, and traffic calming measures throughout the three-mile project area to slow vehicle traffic and improve park access on non-event weekends.
- Improve permanent signage along the Boulevard reminding drivers that bicycles have the right of way. Signs should be readable by drivers traveling at the 25 MPH speed limit in a variety of weather and lighting conditions.