Seattle residents will have more open areas to exercise.
CNN  — 

Seattle residents will have more space to exercise and bike on as the city plans to permanently close 20 miles of streets to most vehicular traffic, the mayor announced Thursday.

The Stay Healthy Streets initiative started in April to temporarily provide more space for residents to get out of the house and exercise while maintaining social distancing during the pandemic. Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan said Thursday that the closures will be permanent.

“Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather,” Durkan said in a news release. “Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.”

The streets were selected to promote outdoor exercise opportunities in areas with limited open space options, low car ownership and routes that connect people to essential services and food take out, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

People are encouraged to skate, walk, jog, bike and roll down the closed streets. Only vehicular traffic from delivery drivers, first responders, sanitation crews and residents are allowed access.

“We’ve witnessed a 57% drop in vehicle traffic volumes accessing downtown Seattle during Governor Inslee’s Stay Healthy, Stay Home order,” SDOT said in a news release. “Finding new and creative ways, like Stay Healthy Streets, to maintain some of these traffic reductions as we return to our new normal is good for the planet, but is also good for our long-term fight against COVID-19.”

The city also announced it will accelerate construction of bike infrastructure to provide more mobility options for residents as Seattle begins the process on reopening.

“It is the kind of bold actions we need to encourage healthy options for recreating and traveling in our city as we deal with our current crisis, and discourage a return to high levels of traffic and associated pollution and injuries as we move into recovery,” the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board said in a statement. “All these actions together will help Seattle come back as a safer, healthier, and more climate friendly city.”