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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ZOMG!!! They Closed the Streets to Cars!

posted by on August 12 at 16:07 PM

Nicole Brodeur—typically so mild-mannered, thoughtful, concerned, and reflective—wrote in a recent column that Seattle was “really getting on her nerves,” and that “some of us are red with rage,” after the mayor proposed closing Alki in West Seattle and Rainier Ave. in Columbia City for three consecutive Sunday mornings. Rage! If that’s how passive-aggressive Seattleites reacted to the mayor closing a few streets, you can only imagine the rage—the fury! the rioting!—that New Yorkers greeted the closure of seven miles of city streets on three consecutive Saturdays mornings.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine the rage of New Yorkers at the closure of their beloved streets. The first closure was last Saturday and you can watch furious, angry, pissed-off New Yorkers riot here:

Wait a minute! They’re not rioting. They’re dancing, biking, blading, strolling, and walking. Wow. It sure looks like they’re having fun, doesn’t it?

It might have helped if Greg Nickels had presented the street-closure plan as a way for Seattle residents—and suburbanites willing to abandon their cars for a few hours—to get out in the city and the enjoy themselves and not as another goo-goo green measure so hard on the heels of the UNJUST and TOTALLY TYRANNICAL bag-fee. But still: closing some streets to auto traffic in the summer is a nice idea and people really seem to enjoy it in cities where it’s already been tried.

And Nicole? Don’t you live in Bellevue anyway? Maybe you should STFU about what we wanna do with our streets here in Seattle.

UPDATE: Nicole Brodeur does not live in Bellevue, she apparently moved to Seattle sometime ago and I missed the news stories about it. Still, she should STFU—but only because she’s wrong (about this), not because she lives in Bellevue.

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Last Sunday they closed most of the bridges downtown and several streets to cars in Portland for some bike celebration festival.

Posted by Dingo Rossi | August 12, 2008 4:14 PM

She lives in Seattle. But thanks for playing, Dan.

Posted by bigyaz | August 12, 2008 4:15 PM

Ah, but Nicole's a mom. If you make a mom mad, she always takes it out on her kids. Especially those Bellevue Moms. Do you know how much a Lexus cost??? What if she wanted to go to Columbia City on a Sunday morning?

So inconsiderate.....

Posted by Nicole rhymes with..... | August 12, 2008 4:17 PM

Read her column for today and you can figure out where she lives. She has one house. How's your Vashon Island place?

Posted by Two, right? | August 12, 2008 4:19 PM

Sigh. Comparing Seattle to NYC and Chicago never seems fair.

Posted by hohoho green giant | August 12, 2008 4:20 PM

Nicole says: "I live in a pocket between Rainier Avenue South and Lake Washington Boulevard."

Posted by spencer | August 12, 2008 4:21 PM

Nicole lives in Seattle. Accuracy matters, Dan, or at least it should.

Posted by factsdomatter | August 12, 2008 4:21 PM

Gee, I don't know where I got the impression that Nicole Brodeur lived in Bellevue.

Perhaps she moved?

Thank you for playing Slog, bigyaz. Now get back to work before Ryan Blethen catches you on Slog.

Posted by Dan Savage | August 12, 2008 4:24 PM

It sure looks like they’re having fun, doesn’t it?

Ah, and therein lies the problem. We cannot operate on the assumption that Seattleites would enjoy fun. Not when it comes at the expense of our cars and/or parking.

Posted by exelizabeth | August 12, 2008 4:24 PM

Well, I clearly missed the news coverage of Nicole's last move. My bad.

Still, she should STFU -- but because she's wrong, not because she lives in Bellevue. I stand corrected.

I sold my place on Vashon, Two -- remember, accuracy matters.

Posted by Dan Savage | August 12, 2008 4:26 PM

Wow, you're zillowing in at $713K and $738K these days. Posh.

Posted by STFU | August 12, 2008 4:27 PM

Citing a column from nine years ago doesn't exactly help your credibility, Dan.

(And yes, it's well known to everyone you can check IP addresses of people posting to Slog. But don't you think that's pretty petty?)

Posted by bigyaz | August 12, 2008 4:28 PM

"Nicole says: "I live in a pocket between Rainier Avenue South and Lake Washington Boulevard."

Oh, a Mount Baker Bitch. Even worse. They hit their kids with hot curling irons when they are mad.

What if she has to park her Lexus on Cascadia Avenue and WALK to Lake Washington Blvd? She might perspire.

Posted by Nicole rhymes with..... | August 12, 2008 4:28 PM

That's cities, Mister Editor, not city's.

That aside, this post was pretty entertaining.

Posted by Emily | August 12, 2008 4:32 PM

NYC residents primarily use their feet and the subway to hoof it around the city. They aren't car people. So closing off a street there is NOT the same as closing off Alki.

Tell the Mom and Dad with the one or two little kids that want to go to the beach at Alki to be quiet and just park their car a few miles away and make the hike with all that they need (strollers, toys, diaper bags, etc.) and have a great time! Not everyone can just strap on a pair of rollerblades or jump on a bike and enjoy a carefree day at the beach.

Closing off streets for a few hours is a great idea - it's just this particular one is probably not the best one!

Posted by former nyc'er | August 12, 2008 4:32 PM

What? They can't take the bus to Alki? And who in the history of Alki has ever gone there to "just be quiet"?

Posted by IT'S SO UNFAIR! | August 12, 2008 4:36 PM

This is a great idea. How about permanently closing a few streets? Ballard Ave in Old Ballard comes to mind.

Posted by Fat Tom | August 12, 2008 4:40 PM

Nicole may live in Seattle, but she's the typical old school Seattle faux-liberal: All for environmentalism and sustainable living- until someone actually proposes even a tiny change in her lifestyle. Then its "WHOA! YOU WANT ME TO DRIVE LESS? SHOP WITH REUSABLE BAGS? BUILD RAIL TRANSIT? WHAT IS THIS COMMUNIST CHINA?!"

Posted by mnm | August 12, 2008 4:41 PM

@16 the biggest bummer is that Metro service to Alki SUCKS on the weekends! One bus an hour.

I don't think the mayor's idea is terrible on it's face, but it does underscore how New York style foot + subway that can get you anywhere, anytime is a long way away in Seattle.

Posted by Westside forever | August 12, 2008 4:44 PM


And this is better than the "Suffer the infidels" new environmentalists?

Posted by TheMisanthrope | August 12, 2008 4:46 PM

Was there news coverage of her move from Bellevue to Seattle? I just thought it was enough that she said where she lives (not in Bellevue) in the column. Not that it makes her right or any less whiny and reactionary.

Posted by spencer | August 12, 2008 4:47 PM

The solution is simple: Add more buses to the area on the days that the area is to be closed off. Problem solved.

See you at the debate, bitches.

Posted by Paris Hilton | August 12, 2008 4:47 PM

I rode my bike down JFK through a closed-to-cars Golden Gate park last Sunday. Not only was it awesome as it always is, but I actually had to run a errand by the ocean and had that 3 or so miles of no cars added bonus.

I'm not sure what my point is, other than it was a good day.

Posted by Dougsf | August 12, 2008 4:47 PM

What's dumb about closing Alki is that there's a very wide pedestrian walkway/bikepath and beach already there. People use Alki to access those places to get out of their cars. By closing Alki, you make it a little harder for them to access the out-of-the car part of that neighborhood (I also suspect transit there on a Saturday is neither frequent nor rapid). And what's with closing 14th on the hill? Who cares? What they SHOULD have done is closed a downtown avenue from the ID to Queen Anne. The idea behind this in NYC and other cities was to give access to peds, cyclists, skateboarders and whomever else free access to an area that is otherwise ruled by cars, and to do so in a dense area where people will be able to access the event. It creates a street-fair-like atmosphere and gives people a tangible feel for major thoroughfares without cars. It might get more people to start envisioning dense areas of the city that are given over to transit, bikes, and peds, rather than SOVs.

But, like most things in Seattle, we do it wrong or only give it a pathetic half-way effort, thereby turning more people against it because they were 1) inconvenienced and 2) on top of that got no benefit or fun out of it, like having a day downtown without cars.

All that said, I did roll my eyes and groan about 63 times when I read that Brodeur article.

Posted by rb | August 12, 2008 4:48 PM

I never thought I'd find myself defending Nicole Brodeur, but the "red with rage" seemed to be more about the mountains of process and arbitrary nature of the decisions during an entirely un-green week headlined by jet air shows and hydroboat races. I'd have thought this would be right up the Stranger's alley.

I know how fun it is to set up these NYC vs. Seattle comparisons and you're right that Bloomberg's plan to close Park Avenue is celebrated by supportive New Yorkers (although it's silly to pretend that this was universally admired in the City). Still, Nickels's plan does come across as a copycat decision without much rationale for why he chose those streets. Brodeur has a point to ask why those and not other, more congested, densely populated roads. Do you really see it as a green activity for suburbanites with a few hours to spare to trek into the city just to enjoy a closed street?

Posted by josh | August 12, 2008 4:49 PM

Heh heh, FTW, 14, but everyone makes mistakes. I still love Dan.

I also agree with 15 that maybe Alki isn't quite the place where morning street closures are needed to give the community some relief from cars, however downtown Seattle certainly could be. It's such a great idea all around to give people the chance to take to the streets every once and a while, to experience the city that way, to ease up air pollution and remind people of the glory and importance of walking and not relying so much on cars. I LOVE it! And that video put a big ol' cheesy grin on my face. What a great thing to do for the community! Good stuff.

Posted by ab fab | August 12, 2008 4:50 PM

I don't understand why these red with rage people in West Seattle and the Rainier Valley don't just go down the stairs to the fucking subway like the rest of us New Yorkers.

Posted by Fnarf | August 12, 2008 4:52 PM

Seattle is nothing but impotent rage unless it comes to gay bashing. that shit actually has damage.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 12, 2008 4:56 PM

Can't wait for this to happen somewhere in central Seattle. Like 4th & 5th Ave from Olive to Seneca.

Posted by Westlake, son! | August 12, 2008 5:13 PM

I clearly missed the news coverage of you selling the Vashon Island place. But I invite you to c'mon down to the south end of town when they decide to close off Rainier. Wear blue. Or red.

Posted by Two, right? | August 12, 2008 5:15 PM

I can see closing off several blocks downtown for pedestrians only, but why would we want to ruin it by letting bicyclists bomb past where you're trying to walk? Let them prove they can share the road with cars, then maybe pedestrians will invite them in.

Posted by elenchos | August 12, 2008 5:18 PM

Ohhh I don't know Dan... It's nice to theorize about a world of bikers and bladers (I've never seen any bladers in Seattle...) but obviously people want to be able to execute the mode of transportation that they were planning. I'd be pissed too... I DO get pissed, they keep doing construction around here and I want to shoot myself, esp now that the fad is to get out of your car and sit on the hood to smoke a cig...

Posted by Amelia | August 12, 2008 5:22 PM

who's even awake or out of the house by the time this is over, anyway?

FREAKS, that's who.

Posted by max solomon | August 12, 2008 5:22 PM


Let cars prove they can share the road with cyclists, then maybe critical mass will invite them in.

Posted by FTFY | August 12, 2008 5:39 PM

She moved to Seattle years ago.

I seem to recall having coffee cake and a nice caffe latte with her at Essential Bakery in Wallingford a few months after she moved over here from the Darkside ... um, Eastside.

But you could have figured that out from her stories about her neighbors pool and the eagles.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 12, 2008 5:39 PM

One has to look at a map to get the scale of this -- it wasn't a "street" it was Park Avenue, for chrissake. And people were walking beginning at the Brooklyn Bridge all the way up Lower Manhattan and it seemed to end near Central Park, like 6 miles long of no cars.

The amazing thing is that some of us have been pushing for this in the smaller towns around Puget Sound only to be met with the sullen indifference of the motorbound citizenry! I thought Seattle was supposed to be a place where consensus and good Government reigned -- not New York City!

Has the manifold of the Universe done a back flip? Maybe...

Posted by John Bailo | August 12, 2008 5:40 PM

Closing down a few streets wont affect anyone in NYC because they have real public transportation. Sunday public trans is already a joke here, you can probably get to NYC faster on a Sunday from Connecticut on train then you can get from the U District to Alki by bus on a Sunday.

Posted by Bud Dickman | August 12, 2008 5:48 PM

I agree that everyone should STFU about the street closure. Many large cities (not just NYC) do this to promote safe cycling within a dense urban environment and it’s hugely successful. More importantly I want people to STFU about the bag tax. This measure has proven hugely successful in countries throughout the world. South Africa led the pack, Ireland followed and many countries in Asia have even banned plastic bags. If we don’t impose repercussions for contributing to land fills, then no one will think twice about using reusable bags.

Posted by Josh | August 12, 2008 5:57 PM


We remove comments that are off topic, threatening, or commercial in nature, and we do not allow sock-puppetry (impersonating someone else)—or any kind of puppetry, for that matter. We never censor comments based on ideology.

Posted by Self-Hating Hipster | August 12, 2008 6:06 PM

Its unfair, to a certain extent, to compare New York to Seattle. Park Avenue is not busy at all on a Sunday. Most of the buildings from 40th and above are commercial buildings with no retail on the street level, resulting in few people headed there on a Sunday. Also, the rich, influential people are not in New York on weekends in the summer. They are at their summer homes in the Hamptons, Cape Cod, Connecticut, etc.

I do have to say though in all the cities I've travelled to the least friendly people I ever met were in Seattle.

Posted by MrEdCT | August 12, 2008 6:17 PM

If they're going to close down any streets in Seattle I would start with those in the Pike Place Market. Deliveries, emergency and disabled only. Why on earth should anyone else drive through the market? Why would anyone want to?

Posted by RainMan | August 12, 2008 6:46 PM

Bogota has been doing this most Sundays for a long time. It's called the ciclovia. They shut down half of one of most important thoroughfares in town -- maybe equivalent to the viaduct in Seattle. Then everyone bikes and walks up and down it. It's great. Keep in mind this city is at 8,000 feet and the year round temps are in the 50s. And the street is still full.

Oh and the have a pretty good bus rapid transit system too.

Posted by alki | August 12, 2008 7:14 PM

the biggest bummer is that Metro service to Alki SUCKS on the weekends! One bus an hour.

While it's probably not a viable solution for most people, you could also take the water taxi. 12 minutes from pier 55 to seacrest park. 10 minute shuttle ride from seacrest park to alki. (plus waiting time).

Posted by stinkbug | August 12, 2008 8:10 PM

I hate to sound like a Pollyanna (well, actually, I don't mind) but why not give it a chance? It wouldn't cost much, it won't permanently mar anything, and it just might work.

And I definitely agree the market should be closed off from cars. But I wanted to save the Ballard Dennys, so what do I know?

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | August 12, 2008 8:29 PM


Let me know when you come up with something new Dan.


Posted by Jeff | August 12, 2008 8:42 PM

I agree wih RainMan @ 41 that the streets in Pike Place Market should be shut down. However, the other streets can survive being closed too on a sunday.

Posted by Donolectic | August 12, 2008 8:47 PM

It kind of amuses/annoys me that everyone in Seattle bitches all the time about how everyone in Seattle bitches all the time. Maybe everyone should STFU for a change.

Posted by Amy | August 12, 2008 9:17 PM

Amy wins.

Posted by Dan Savage | August 12, 2008 10:38 PM

Oh, I thought you meant Amy whines.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 13, 2008 10:21 AM

FYI - if you have a great idea for where an event could be next year? Share it with the city by emailing:

This year is a pilot program and the City hopes to make next year bigger and better. Personally, I think it's also a great idea to champion permanent closures of streets like Pike Place (the street by the market) and a couple of blocks of Ballard Ave NW (in old Ballard). Let them know what you think is worth trying/considering - don't just bitch about it on the blogs.

For us to do the rough equivalent of the NYC did we could close down Madison from the waterfront to Lake Washington Blvd, Lake Washington Blvd to Montlake Blvd NE, Montlake to 25th Ave NE, 25th Ave NE to NE 55th. So from downtown, past Seattle U, through the Arboretum, across the Ship Canal, through the UW, and up to Ravenna Park. Not saying this is an ideal route but it could be a possibility. Or we could close down Lake Washington Blvd from 520 to Seward Park. There are lots and lots of possibilities! Share your ideas!

Posted by Allie G | August 13, 2008 10:50 AM

@50, thanks for the comment and I am definitely going to email her to encourage something downtown or citywide next year. And yes, always good to take some action, rather than just sit here on the Slog and complain, however much easier and effortless that may be.

Posted by rb | August 13, 2008 11:46 AM

Closing streets to traffic helps to educate people that they don't have to get into a car for every trip or every day. I work with people who justify driving the few blocks to their gyms where they run on treadmills because they might want to stop for some groceries on the way home.

What's this about Seattle not having *real* public transit? I have lived here as a working adult for 24 years and have never owned a car. I manage to get everyhwere I need to go and I don't even have a bike.

Posted by inkweary | August 13, 2008 12:14 PM

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