Stay Healthy Blocks

Stay Healthy Blocks Program Evaluation

Overview

The Stay Healthy Block (SHB) program was a temporary activation strategy developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide additional space for Seattle residents to be outside. We issued 350 SHB permits between September 2020 and February 2021. This includes both ongoing permitted Stay Healthy Block closures as well as a series of holiday-themed opportunities, summarized in Table 1. The purpose of this evaluation is to provide insight on lessons learned, feedback received, and areas of improvement for the Block Party/Play Street program.

Table 1: Overview of SHBs issued between September 2020 – February 2021
Stay Healthy Block TypeOverviewPermit Count% within Priority Framework% .25 mi away from Greenway
All Stay Healthy Block types - 350 20% 36%
Stay Healthy Blocks Ongoing street closures for walking, rolling and biking. Single Block Closures: 47
Multi Block Closures: 10 26% 39%
Trick or Street Blocks One-time street closure to celebrate Halloween. 236 14% 26%
Rock the Block One-time street closure in response to the election. 23 19% 42%
Streetsgiving One-time street closure in observance of the Thanksgiving weekend. 22 24% 38%
Brand New Year Blocks One-time street closure from mid-December through New Year’s Eve. 12 0% 17%

Public comment

Public Space Management received 502 comments since the start of the SHB pilot. We received comments through an online comment form on the SHB webpage, Service Requests, and emails to our publicspace@seattle.gov email account. We wish to note that, for the Online Comment Form, we asked survey participants three questions; one was an open comment question for additional feedback that some participants left blank (this explains why the total in Table 2, below, does not add up to the total number of comments received).

What we heard

Table 2: Key Themes from SHB Feedback and Outreach
Comment# receivedCommon themes
Positive (in favor of SHBs) 151 (30%) Stay Healthy Blocks Create Safe Spaces to Walk and Bike: Many comments noted that they enjoyed having more space to walk and bike down their street.
Special Occasions: Many comments noted that the SHB pilot worked best for special occasions (e.g. holidays), and during times of day when people generally walk and bike outside (e.g. early mornings).
Community Building: Commenters said it was good to see their neighbors outside.
Negative (not in favor of SHBs) 256 (52%) Negative Impact on Vehicular Circulation: Most of the comments against the SHB Pilot were about how the program increased traffic on other streets and made travel more difficult.
Cars not Adhering to Signage: SHB pilot participants noted that many of the cars did not adhere to language on signs and drove through the block closure. Some noted that folks would relocate “street closed” signs for their car to get through.
Use: Many comments noted that some of the Stay Healthy Blocks were not being used during permitted hours, or that they were established for the benefit of a few individuals. Some questioned whether there should be equity considerations around ensuring these street closures minimize negative impacts on homes/individuals that depend on transit services and have general support from neighbors.
Notification: Some commenters expressed frustration that they were not notified of the street closure.
Compliance: Many comments noted that permit holders were not following permit instructions. Key issues include not adhering to permitted hours (leaving signs up overnight) and putting up fake signs.
Neutral (neither support nor oppose SHBs) 90 (18%) Coaching and Signage: Ensuring adequate traffic control signage was a key concern . There were multiple requests to ensure heavier, larger and more legible signs are available for permit holders to reduce the risk of signs getting hit.
Consider Adjacent Street Impacts: For street closures with longer hours, many folks were interested in exploring ways to ensure adjacent streets are not negatively impacted by Stay Healthy Blocks

Summary and Next Steps

Our feedback indicates there are mixed perceptions of SHBs, with permit holders feeling most positive. We have received numerous comments in favor of the program. But we also discovered problems with the SHB program based on public comments, complaints, and internal and external stakeholder feedback. For example, we used a simple permit process with minimal stakeholder engagement, mimicking our Play Street and Block Party permits, but that proved inadequate for multi-block, longer-duration SHBs. We also identified that multi-block closures required more analysis, particularly on the overall neighborhood impacts than we were able to provide with a streamlined review process. We learned that people had challenges with signage and barricade requirements, including purchasing, moving, and storing them offsite outside of permitted hours.

Much of what we learned will be helpful as we transition back to our Play Street and Block Party programs. We will continue to improve our external outreach, develop additional tools to address key barriers of participation, and coach permit holders for successful traffic control set up. SHBs showed a desire for traffic calming solutions and new neighborhood greenways/Stay Healthy Streets. We have connected with our colleagues who manage the Stay Healthy Streets and Home Zones programs and will continue to route inquiries to them. We’re also engaged in discussions on how to continue to improve access to our Public Space Management programs, particularly in equity priority areas.

Stay Healthy Block permit map: blue filled areas are priority framework neighborhoods, the different colored dots indicate Stay Healthy Block locations.

Stay Healthy Block Permitting Suspended

With the resumption of Play Street permitting, we are no longering issuing Stay Healthy Block permits. Please visit our Play Streets permit page for information on how to apply for a Play Street in your neighborhood!

Stay Healthy Blocks were intended to provide more space for neighbors to #KeepItMoving - whether walking, rolling, or biking. The Stay Healthy Block permit allowed residents, community-based organizations, and non-profits to temporarily close a street to create more outdoor recreation space for people to enjoy while following social distancing guidelines. Local access, deliveries, waste pickup and emergency vehicles were allowed. Stay Healthy Blocks did not authorize events or gatherings.

Who can apply?

Residents, community-based organizations, and non-profits may apply for a Stay Healthy Block!

How to apply

Step 1: Getting Started

Make sure your Stay Healthy Block:

  • is free and open to the general public
  • is on a non-arterial street. You can find your street type here
    • pro tip: if there is no line—dotted or solid—running along the middle of the street, it is most likely a non-arterial street
    • pro tip: the map linked above shows non-arterials as grey and arterials in other colors
  • is not on a street that buses run on
  • occurs any time between 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM or until 9:00 PM if retroreflective materials are used (including setup/cleanup) and can be in place up to 20 hours a week. 

Other things to note:

  • a Stay Healthy Block may span more than one block, but
    • it cannot include intersections
    • it will take us longer to review applications to close multiple blocks

Step 2: Talk to Neighbors

We encourage you to speak with the neighbors on the proposed block(s) before applying for a permit. This will help you avoid dates with conflicts, such as a scheduled construction project that will bring extra vehicles to the street.

You are required to notify the neighbors on the block(s) at least 2 days before a permitted closure.  If you have already notified them before applying, you will not need to notify them again after receiving your permit. 

You can use these printable fliers to notify neighbors.

A sample flyer explaining a Stay Healthy Block with fields for the information concerning the proposed Stay Healthy Block.

If you plan to reach out to neighbors by e-mail or online, here's a sample e-mail or post for you to use:

Sample Email or Post

Hello!

We are applying for a free Stay Healthy Block permit from the Seattle Department of Transportation, to close the street for some socially distant outdoor activities. We would like to get your input on the proposed days and times before submitting. We are thinking of [day/days] between [start time] and [end time]. Please let me know in the next few days if you have any concerns or questions by contacting me at [email address or phone number]. It's important to note that this will only restrict through traffic. All local traffic, including neighbors, visitors, deliveries, and emergency vehicles, will still be able to access the street.

Thanks!

Step 3: Apply Online!

When you are ready to apply, head to the Seattle Services Portal by using the button in the upper right to login!

  • Under "Create New" select "Permits-Street Use" and navigate to and select the "Short Term Use" and "Block Party" record type. (Need more help? Check out this step-by-step guide!)
  • When applying, you will need to provide the hosting organization’s contact information, the date(s) and time for the closure (including set-up and breakdown), and what street(s) you wish to close.
    • Important: In the "Project Name" field, put: "Stay Healthy Block." This will help us expedite your application.

Step 4: Prepare to Close the Street

Provide barricades and signs for your street closure. We've created templates to help you set up your barricades and signs in the appropriate places.

Barricade Basics

  • At the ends of your closure, install barricades 3 – 6 feet apart
  • Place barricades behind the extension of the sidewalk to make it easy for people to cross the street
  • If you are adjacent to an arterial street, you must use Type 3 barricades (a quick internet search will show you some places to rent Type 3 barricades).
  • If you are adjacent a non-arterial street, you may use Type 2 barricades or household items like personal trash bins or furniture that are at least 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
  • See examples of Type 2 and Type 3 barricades at the top of our template.

Signs, too!

  • Install a “STREET CLOSED” sign at the center of the street.
  • The required “STREET CLOSED” sign measures 36″ x 24″. Here is a PDF version of the sign that you can either print yourself or at a print shop. If you’re not printing at a print shop and don’t have a printer that can print on this scale, you can still print this PDF, but will need to assemble the sign. You can find instructions on how to print the sign for assembly here.
  • Post King County Public Health signs at the entrances on either side of the street closure.
  • Make or print informational signs to inform others why the street is closed.
  • Tips for Placing Signs: Signs should be placed between 3 and 6 feet high to be easily visible to drivers. Maintain an 11-foot wide opening for local traffic to enter and exit the street and a 20-foot wide fire lane free of obstructions; and keep sidewalks open for people walking and rolling.

If your Stay Healthy Block will end after 5 p.m., you need retroreflective materials so the barricades are visible after dusk.

  • If using Type 3 barricades: These are already retroreflective.
  • If using Type 2 barricades or household items: This is relevant if you are adjacent to a non-arterial street. In this case, you can use Type 2 barricades or household items.
  • If using household items: They must be marked with retroreflective tape. You can still use the standard Street Closed sign; feel free to outline it in tape if you’d like! Household items must have a minimum of two 3” retroreflective bands on all sides, placed 2” from the top of the item and then a maximum of 6” between the bands. Please write to publicspace@seattle.gov, or call 206-684-ROAD for any questions or help.
  • Below is an example of a recycle bin with retroreflective tape applied.

A recycle container with retroreflective tape

If you need help getting appropriate barricades for your street, we may be able to offer financial assistance. Please email us at publicspace@seattle.gov to learn more.

Step 5: Set Up Your Stay Healthy Block!

Close off your street by setting up the barricades and signs. (We'll provide more information on how to do this as part of your permit review process.) The host for the Stay Healthy Block is responsible for ensuring compliance with public health guidance. We require that you post King County Public Health signs at the entrances on either side of the street closure.

Stay Healthy Blocks are intended to provide more space for neighbors to keep moving - whether walking, rolling, or biking. Local access, deliveries, waste pickup and emergency vehicles are allowed. The Stay Healthy Block permit allows people to use the street in addition to the sidewalk to #KeepItMoving and open more space for people to social distance while getting outside. Stay Healthy Blocks do not authorize events or gatherings. 

Step 6: Breakdown your Stay Healthy Block

After the Stay Healthy Block is over, you will need to clear the area of all equipment and debris and all borrowed signs and barricades must be returned.

We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share what went well, ideas for improvement, or photos from your event. Please be sure to take our survey and invite others to do so as well. Feel free to email us at publicspace@seattle.gov or tag us on Twitter at @SeattleDOT