Social distancing is an important way for us to stay safe, requiring a 6-foot perimeter around us when we go for a walk or a bike ride. While it looks like people are going need it for some time to come, Queen Anne Greenways wants to encourage everyone to get out and exercise. Seattle has introduced a Stay Healthy Streets initiative designed to give people a safe way to walk and bike and maintain that 6-foot perimeter. The initiative has already found great success in portions of West Seattle and Capitol Hill.

Queen Anne is lucky to have a long stretch of public right of way that’s ready to become one of Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets. I’m speaking about our historic Queen Anne Boulevard, which wraps around the crown of the hill. The last month or so it has been filled with bicyclists and pedestrians as never before. I rode portions of it with my 6-year-old granddaughter the other day.

The city completed our beautiful street between 1911 and 1916 in response to angry protests about the omission of Queen Anne from the Olmsted Brothers’ 1903 report to the city calling for parks and connecting boulevards. Progressive landscape architects, the Olmsted Brothers rejected Queen Anne because they couldn’t link its streets to the parks or playgrounds in their plan, and there was no way Queen Anne could meet their 150-foot wide standard. Striving for equity, the Olmsteds wanted wide streets winding through the city that would make access to parks easy for everyone whatever their socio-economic status. Yet in apparent contradiction to this idea, Seattle’s boulevards, including ours, were built more for people seeking great views from their motor cars than for folks on foot or bicycles. The onset of COVID-19 has seen automobiles almost disappear from our boulevards.

Queen Anne Greenways is a group advocating safe streets for walking and biking everywhere in our neighborhood. It has worked to make intersections safer and has produced Play Streets at the Farmers Market for the last four years. Now, it is proposing the conversion of portions of Queen Anne Boulevard and some ancillary streets as temporary Stay Healthy Streets, which would be closed to all vehicles except those of residents and those delivering goods to residents.

Imagine safely walking or biking as you head south from West McGraw Street and Seventh West, all the way around to Queen Anne Avenue. You’ll pass phenomenal views to the Puget Sound and the Olympics, understand the importance of the Seattle school of artists at the Betty Bowen Overlook, take in some of the most impressive houses on West Highland Drive and, if the mountain’s out, contemplate Mount Rainier from Kerry Park. Downtown and the Space Needle are other visual treats as you walk or ride by the park.

Continuing eastward on Highland, you cross Queen Anne Avenue at the new signal for which Queen Anne Greenways successfully lobbied and loop all the way around the boulevard.

As you stay six feet from your neighbor, take in glimpses of Bhy Kracke Park, Lake Union, Capitol Hill, St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Cascades in the distance. Queen Anne Boulevard, an idea overlaying many different street names, is the longest of Seattle’s 400-plus designated historic landmarks.

Our plan has a bonus. I’m calling it an Olmsted bonus.

Remember, John Charles Olmsted and his stepbrother/cousin Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. designed parks connected by streets that would allow everyone, no matter their social class, to move easily from one park to another. Our Olmsted bonus runs north-south between Rodgers Park on the north and Kerry Park on the south.

The connection we hope to see as part of our Stay Healthy Streets runs past McClure Middle School, alongside Big Howe, the Queen Community Center and the pool. I can’t imagine a more historically correct link.

So, let’s write to our mayor and the three City Council members who represent us and encourage them to endorse, support and fight for Stay Healthy Streets on Queen Anne. I’ve provided their email addresses here: Jenny.durkan@seattle.gov, Andrew.Lewis@seattle.gov, Lorena.Gonzalez@seattle.gov, Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov.

Let’s celebrate the historic spirit of our boulevard system by giving people access to the outdoors when having enough space is more critical than ever.

Michael Herschensohn is a member of Queen Anne Greenways and president of the Queen Anne Historical Society. He’s been riding the boulevard since 1985.