EDMONDS — Nicer weather has led to more people parking on Sunset Avenue north of the ferry terminal and walking along the street for the waterfront views. That foot traffic pushes walkers who want to keep six feet from others off the sidewalk onto the one-way road, and into harm’s way.
Mirroring similar closures in Seattle and Everett, the city of Edmonds on Friday indefinitely restricted access for non-residential traffic and parking on Sunset Avenue North. Fewer cars on the road will give pedestrians more room to see the waterfront and maintain social distancing, city spokeswoman Jamie Holter said. With some walkers on cellphones and not paying attention to oncoming cars, it was only a matter of a time before there was an accident, she said.
“There was just a lot of conflict between the people who were walking around the (parked) cars and the people who were on the road,” Holter said. “This is sort of the direction that some places are going because we know people need to get out and get around. This gives them another space to go. It’s hard to find space to walk, especially for the older folks.”
The Sunset Avenue closure comes while the city of Seattle plans on closing up to 15 miles of streets to non-local traffic to provide more space for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Seattle program is starting with 2.5 miles of roads in the Central District and West Seattle, and then expanding throughout the city.
“We hope the effort keeps people moving and enjoying the spring weather during this tough time,” said Seattle Department of Transportation Director Sam Zimbabwe.
While parking lots, bathrooms and other facilities at parks across the state are closed, trails and walkways remain open. With nowhere to park, visitors are leaving their cars along nearby roads.
In Everett, the city closed a road near Howarth Park.
The stretch of Olympic Boulevard between Havens Road and Ridgemont Drive is now restricted because of parking and garbage issues, city spokeswoman Kimberly Cline said in an email.
“Our parks director noted that nice weather has drawn a few crowds, but overall people seem to be enjoying the parks as requested during this time,” she said. “We want people to be able to get fresh air and exercise in city parks — but to also follow the state’s stay-home, stay-healthy guidelines.”
That includes not blocking park gates with your vehicle and packing out your garbage.
In Mukilteo, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson looked into road closures around areas like Lighthouse Park to prevent congestion but hasn’t taken any steps to do so, she said.
“People have been good about not crowding when they walk to the waterfront,” she said in an email. “When people see concerns, they have also quickly been notifying our police so we can do education on the physical distancing rules.”
In Edmonds, the police department won’t be enforcing the Sunset Avenue closure, Holter said. Rather, officers will ask drivers not to park along the road and educate them on social distancing.
“We hope the people of Edmonds will see what we’re doing and maybe do a little bit of self policing,” she said.
Public feedback has mostly been positive, Holter said.
Some opposition comes from physically disabled people and the elderly, who aren’t comfortable parking and walking from nearby streets such as Edmonds Way and Bell Street, she said.
The decision is also intended to discourage people from driving down to the waterfront to see the views.
“It goes back to, ‘If you have to take the car, it’s too far,’” she said.