Alki “Car-Free Day” updates: Happening now, till 6 pm

(scroll/refresh for updates as we add them; our pre-closure reports can be found here)


Let’s just call him “Car-Free Guy.” At about 10 till noon, making our last motorized pass along Alki to check on pre-closure developments (coverage here), we spotted him (and his pal in the background) out in the road, just east of 53rd, hooting and hollering. Will they be the most enthusiastic Car-Free Day supporters we encounter in the next several hours? Any time you’re by a computer, check back to see what we find out; we’ll be posting updates, with photos. (And if somehow you’ve missed all the advance coverage — the waterfront roadway’s closed to vehicle traffic, except buses, from California Way/Harbor to 63rd/Alki, till 6 pm, and side streets leading from Admiral etc. are marked off as “Local Access Only,” so if you’re driving down, you’ll want to look for parking south of Admiral.) 12:34 PM UPDATE: Remember, you can head north on 63rd from Admiral, but you’re going to have to turn left – this is the west end of the closure zone:


Other streets are blocked off sooner – this is 61st/Stevens (note the bicyclist heading beachward):


We’re leaving the WSBmobile in a spot south of Admiral and heading off to report, car-free, from the car-free zone, laptop, aircard, cameras, and all. (Heaven forbid they should ever have a Tech-Free Day!) P.S. If you were wondering – Duke’s is open:


(When this was first announced in late July, they were quoted in a citywide-paper article as saying they “might close.” We’ll post here if we come across anyone closed who would otherwise be open.) 1:17 PM UPDATE: We’re at Tully’s on Alki, where it’s undeniably quieter than it might be on a day like today – so said the counter folks to an inquiring customers, plus there’s the anecdotal fact we didn’t have to wait in line. Here’s what the beach looks like, looking east from the Bathhouse; lots of empty sand:


If you come down here, though, you must go INTO the Bathhouse – that’s where you’ll find (left to right) Colette, Shannon, and Kim:


They are serving up Husky ice cream during the Cones for Kids fundraiser for a Children’s Hospital guild – till 4 pm – planned for today long before the Car-Free Day plan was announced. You can go in from the front, back, or east side of the Bathhouse – there are family activities outside, too – a scooter course on the east side and (in the background) a “fishing” tank on the north side:


In the parking strip along the street in front of the Bathhouse, you’ll find a couple booths, with Sustainable West Seattle and on hand among others:


Though it’s quiet-ish here at Tully’s, most of the restaurants we have walked by seemed fairly busy. Notably, we haven’t seen too many people just walking right down the middle of the traffic lane that’s closed off – more than a few bicyclists, though, although they usually have their own lane anyway. And some have paused along the seawall to watch kite-surfers take advantage of this afternoon’s spirited breeze:


We’ll continue walking east shortly for more updates. (Couple non-police non-government cars just went by in the bus lane past here … walkers seemed startled.) 2:17 PM UPDATE: Now on the curb along Bonair just before it intersects with Alki (map). Lots of cars coming down the hill – they have to turn right here – more than a few coming by, too, so it appears the “local access” really is happening. Even saw a taxi while heading this way:


Biggest news so far – came across one vehicle that never did move out of the no-parking zone – got a close look at what was under its wipers. NOT a ticket – the golden notice just says you shouldn’t have been parked here and if you need to move your vehicle before 6 pm, find somebody from SDOT – the white piece of paper, by the way, is hand-lettered with “Car-Free Day Complaints” and lists a 684-something (that’s the city, usually) number. A non-city notice, perhaps?


Back closer to the heart of the beach – the most action we’ve encountered so far is over by Coastal, Slices, etc. – Coastal has the skating/biking ramp, as promised:


And a little west of there, some hula-hooping’s going on:


Next, we’re going to walk a little further east before turning back toward the business district. 3:01 PM UPDATE: Changed our plan. Decided to keep walking to the other end of the closure zone – to be able to chronicle what’s happening all along the entire stretch. If we hadn’t decided to do that, for example, we wouldn’t have met these fine folks, among the few who’ve actually set up impromptu tables in the street for the occasion:


Left to right, that’s Aaron, Carina, Debbie, and Sara. We found them hanging out in the 1600 block of Alki, “playing Scrabble and eating grapes.” Plus, they set up a pirate flag (partly visible behind them) “so nobody hits us!” (On that side of the street, it would have to be a bicycle. We’re currently stopped a few blocks past their table – in the 1300 block of Alki, on one of those delightful seawall-top benches under a shady tree – and still seeing a lot of bikers, walkers, rollerbladers, etc. Heading on toward “Anchor Park” and beyond, momentarily. 4:03 PM UPDATE: Made it to the east end of the closure, by Seacrest, about half an hour ago:


No other surprise sights along the way, just a steady stream of cyclists and walkers, like those in this shot from the semi-high-rise-condo zone:


Seacrest looked like a typically busy Sunday afternoon. We caught a ride back to the other end of the closure zone, where just for comparison’s sake we snapped another photo a few minutes ago:


Less than two hours to go and no reports of any real problems. We’re staked out for the moment right across from the Bathhouse; a little ways down the block, a TV live truck (no logo) is setting up, so you’ll probably see something on one of the 5 pm newscasts. Not planning on filing another update unless we spot something unusual between now and the end of the event – but we’ll be back to verify everything’s open when 6 pm arrives. 5:58 PM UPDATE: Heading back toward the beach to verify everything’s open again. The TV report turned out to be KING; though there was some broad hinting that “some” business owners thought business was down a bit, the only person who said that on camera was from Spud. We noticed things definitely picked up as the afternoon wore on; Cactus, for example, had an overflow crowd when we walked back to our car after 4:30.

42 Replies to "Alki "Car-Free Day" updates: Happening now, till 6 pm"

  • Alia September 7, 2008 (2:23 pm)

    My family and I enjoyed walking our dog along Alki. What a lovely afternoon! We talked to many dog owners and bought ice cream from Pepperdocks.

  • marty September 7, 2008 (2:28 pm)

    All things considered, I don’t see anything that much different from any Sunday on Alki. I have seen days with twice this many people many times this summer. This might have been better earlier in the summer.

  • herongrrrl September 7, 2008 (2:40 pm)

    We took the water taxi shuttle from Admiral to Alki around 1pm. The shuttle was full to capacity, and when we got to the Alki stop someone asked if we’d seen a 56 on our way (there was one due–we were waiting for it when the shuttle came instead), because there hadn’t been one at Alki for more than an hour! I 100% support alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles for getting around, but they have to actually be there for people to use.

  • GenHillOne September 7, 2008 (3:17 pm)

    That’s so odd about the notices! Glad for the folks not being towed, but since the signs say otherwise, how does that work exactly?

    The taxi is certainly an angle I didn’t think of. So if I want to give my friend a ride home down there I can? My luck, I’d get pulled over so I guess I won’t give it a try ’til 6:00!

  • flipjack September 7, 2008 (3:27 pm)

    I was just down there on my bike and I have to say the first thing I noticed was how nice and peaceful it was without traffic and subwoofers booming out bad music with people just cruising for cruisings sake.
    There was a nice amount of people and much more relaxed than with traffic around.
    Couldn’t have been better.

    I think the city could’ve saved a few bucks and not placed the honeybuckets out. Not really any point for that. (not sure what they were thinking there)

    It would be cool if there was some sort of entertainment or something to attract more people, but it’s really nice the way it is.

  • GenHillOne September 7, 2008 (3:38 pm)

    Speaking of cruising – and the related subwoofers – whatever happened to the anti-cruising rule (law?). Anyone know? I remember it coming out years ago. Is it just too hard to enforce? The lack of it does seem to be the biggest pro to the day.

  • Pete September 7, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    How much of our tax dollars were spent to promote and put on this effort today. There were all of those signs to put out and pick up, all of the city employees down there to enforce it today….seems there should be a better use for these scarce city resources. I still see folks lined up at the food banks, sleeping on our streets and more streets to fix than you can shake a sitck at. We need to get our prioroties straight here folks.

  • lina September 7, 2008 (4:19 pm)

    my husband and I biked down from our house at 35th and roxbury earlier in the day and it was a really relaxing adventure down to alki. I definitely enjoyed the break from the cars noise and exhaust. we saw lots of familiar faces and liked the more relaxed pace the area seemed to move at. I was supportive of this idea from the beginning and feel like each year the city will refine it and make it even better. Sure, there are things that they can improve on but I feel like I have seen and heard a lot of negative views on this. really, it was a short period of time, on a sunday. come on now, we as a community should be able to embrace this and be able to give constructive feedback where it is due and enjoy the parts that are good. I had a really fun day down there.

  • JayDee September 7, 2008 (4:52 pm)

    OK, I was wrong–we were not inundated by hordes of reckless out-of-towners, and the peace was kept by the way higher than normal police presence (Refreshing to see so many, on Segways, Super-Segways, and on foot.)

    The streets in the hood were filled by slightly more-anxious drivers trying to find parking, but not so bad. I still wonder what the point of the experiment was and why it was necessary, but at least it seems to have been uneventful.

  • chas redmond September 7, 2008 (4:57 pm)

    Whether you liked the car-free Alki day or not, make your comments to Dawn Schellenberg, at SDOT. So far the city says they’ve received a lot of negative comments but very few positive ones. Having spent the better part of Sunday at the Sustainable West Seattle/Feet First table, right in front of the bath house, I can say that there were a very large number of folks with positive comments. In order for the city to get an honest assessment, those who have positive comments or constructive criticism definitely should email Dawn. It seems that those who are unhappy have made a large noise already. Of course, if your opinion was negative and you haven’t weighed in yet – send email to Dawn Schellenberg, at SDOT. Personally I really liked the more casual atmosphere. By the way, SPD has a large presence on Alki on weekends throughout the summer so today’s presence wasn’t that much larger – just a bit cooler thanks to the cops on bikes and cops on Segways.

  • JanS September 7, 2008 (5:55 pm)

    Pete…if this had never happened today, there would still be people lined up at the foodbank, in the unemployment line, sleeping on our streets ad infinitum. There’s a place for everything, and I do agree that more needs to be done with the problems of people out there. But..then again, there was less pollution in the Seattle air today, if only for a little while.
    JayDee…uneventful, as bumper to bumper traffic? no noise and air polution from a myriad of cars?no fights? no crotch rockets lined up all over the place? a peaceful afternoon on a beautiful day? OK..I guess that can be uneventful :)

    and from the last picture, it looks like quite a few people are using the new Lady Liberty Plaza..nice.

  • therooster September 7, 2008 (6:12 pm)

    Looks like it was fun! I wish we had taken the bus down to enjoy it.

  • Mary T September 7, 2008 (6:23 pm)

    We were there for hours and this was really fun! Actually though, i have to say that we walk Alki regularly on sunny Sundays, and I thought there were a lot *fewer* people than there usually are. Maybe because they were spread out over the street? Maybe. But there didn’t seem to be as many on the beach. I thought it would be a lot crazier, but in fact it was a lot more relaxing than it usually is. We are exhausted — we don’t have bikes, so we did what a lot of people did and parked on a side street near the Water Taxi. That’s a long walk! Good for us, though. Our dogs have been asleep ever since we got home.

    We’d love to see more stores and restaurants with stuff out on the street; we thought that was a little under-utilized. There was a tea place from the U district selling iced tea for a dollar midway between the beach and the water taxi — now that was a good place to be! How come local businesses didn’t do that?

    We had fun though and would do it again.

  • Todd September 7, 2008 (6:28 pm)

    I’m appalled by the closure, I LIVE on Alki and was greeted by rude police officers when I left for work, and upon my return. I’m a nice guy, I wear a smile naturally and I have impeccable driving skills. I was surprised by their demeanor…

    The attitude of the officers, accompanied by the shear fact that they closed MY STREET, (the long arm of the government has a scary reach) reinforced the fact that Car Free Sundays are cool, unless you happen to live where they’re occurring Lina. It’s not fair at all to the locals. Unless you’re going to close the whole city to automobiles, it’s not fair at all and we weren’t even recompensated (yet, although I hear there’s been a motion to file a class action lawsuit against the city by members of the 3 neighborhoods this took place in).

    The tax payers payed BIG TIME today, and for what? To “save some gas”? More people drove around looking for parking and wasted gas and spent emissions today than perhaps any other day this Summer. I have to admit it was great having no cars with sound systems, or the fast motorcycles. But at the end of the day this is Alki Ave SW, a major thoroughfare. How would you feel if they closed your street down? Today was another example of a dismal failure of a government in action.

  • WSB September 7, 2008 (6:51 pm)

    Todd, sorry to hear you had a bad experience. But this is the absolute first mention I have heard of any kind of lawsuit. I’m curious – what would people supposedly be suing over? Did anyone talk about suing because Alki was closed the evening of the 4th of July? It was pretty much the same sort of setup, as you probably know. I would have to do research to figure this out for sure but I would bet the city has the right to close its streets at any time for any reason to anyone. (If I find out I’m wrong, I’ll update in the wrapup post later tonight!)

  • Diane September 7, 2008 (7:27 pm)

    This event was SO WONDERFUL!!!
    I went down about 2pm til after the streets opened again to traffic at 6pm
    spent the first hour or so hanging out at the beautiful new Liberty Plaza, which was a very happening place, with lots of folks taking photos, sitting on new benches, reading the bricks
    then took the stroll up Alki, and it was fantastic; so peaceful, so quiet, so filled with happy, happy people walking, biking, skating, strollering, visiting with each other; this is by far the best experience I’ve ever had on Alki Beach and hope for many, many more; would love to see this every day
    and the businesses sure didn’t seem to be hurting any; Duke’s decks were packed; there was a line 30 deep out on corner waiting to get into Pegasus just after 6, as I was leaving; there were tons of bike rentals out enjoying the open road
    thanks chas for tip on who to contact with positive feedback; I will for sure follow up with much praise and requests for many more of these wonderful car-free days
    and thanks as always to TR and team for fantastic coverage

  • austin September 7, 2008 (7:31 pm)

    Such a great time on the beach today. Too bad the gas addicts gripe so much, but such is life. Now lets see some better bus service for those who can’t or won’t get on a bike.

  • carraig na splinkeen September 7, 2008 (7:57 pm)

    A neighbor was partying until 5 am this morning and we are wondering if we can sue them for loss of a night’s sleep.

    Today was fabulous and we never encountered rude police officers (we also reside in the no driving area). Seriously, if folks cannot get out of their cars on a day like today in a location unique as Alki is, we are, well, doomed comes to mind.

  • Kyle September 7, 2008 (8:23 pm)

    Todd, I am in agreement with you on this issue. I live on Alki as well and had a similar experience as you did. Working, like most people do during the week, Sundays is the day I run errands and such. The officer who was “guarding” my street had the nerve to inform me that I could drive if I really needed to, but that it was recommended that I did not. What!? So now I am supposed to wait until 6 to run errands because the Government decided to close the street I live on to cars so people can play in the street? Give me a break.

    In addition, I find it offensive that the City is cutting the budget in many areas, yet can find the resources to man every access point with a Police Officer or two. Should we really be spending money on such political ploys such as car free days?

    Finally, to those who call people who drive “gas addicts”, I highly doubt you live in the Alki area. In order to get anywhere you have to drive – or waste half of your day on bus transfers.

  • Kyle September 7, 2008 (8:27 pm)

    And just a follow up about the cost, it appears that it cost about $15,000 per Car Free Day.

  • ann September 7, 2008 (8:31 pm)

    I think it sounds fun, we had other plans though. I guess I can see the point of someone who lives there. It’s as if the city is telling you what your plans will be for the day. No, you can’t spend one of the possibly last nice weekends working on your yard, which might involve big trips to Home Depot…You must enjoy Alki car free today.

  • add September 7, 2008 (8:44 pm)

    We stopped by briefly just after 6pm to check out the new Statue of Liberty plaza – it really looks terrific.

  • A September 7, 2008 (8:59 pm)

    I don’t get this at all. It sounds dumb and I can guess that the businesses in the area suffered because of it. Completely stupid idea and not really sure of the purpose. Please stop the madness!!

  • austin September 7, 2008 (9:01 pm)

    You’re right Kyle, I don’t live on Alki. I do however live a ten minute bike ride from alki point, so I’m not sure what you’re getting at. You prove my point by saying “In order to get anywhere you have to drive”.

  • jeannie September 7, 2008 (9:08 pm)

    My partner and I so enjoyed the clear air, the quiet, and the safe streets. No car or motorcycle noise and exhaust, no cruisers blasting their stereos – just the sound of the breeze and the birds. People of all ages (and their dogs) were having fun and seemed so carefree. The cops were smiling and friendly, too. I emailed the city and told them I would love to see this happen once a month from May through September.

  • 44th & Graham September 7, 2008 (9:10 pm)


    Interesting. You pay taxes, probably even higher taxes because you live on Alki…but that street belongs as much to the unpopular seattle-ites driving those cars with subwoofers as it does to you, a resident with a private house on a public right of way.

    Maybe I could file a class-action lawsuit the next time PSE or SCL close down my street for utilities work? Ridiculous.

    If gas prices aren’t telling you something about how all of us we should be reducing consumption…well.

    Obviously, three neighborhood car-free days will not reverse the constant damage we are doing to the environment, but it’s mostly about getting exposure and convincing people about small (or big) things we all can do to make a difference.

  • JanS September 7, 2008 (9:32 pm)

    Perspective…Calif. Ave. gets closed to traffic for about the same amount of time one day a year for the Hi-Yu parade. The junction has closed off streets for 3 days for the West Seattle Street Festival. I know I’m impacted by the parade…but it is what it is. Sue someone? Why? for what reason? because I was inconvenienced? It just seems like something frivolous that would tie up courts.

    I realize that this impacted people who live right on Alki. There were weeks and weeks of warnings…and both Todd and Kyle seem like bright guys…couldn’t come up with an alternative for just a few hours? I think that was part of it…think a bit, and see where perhaps you can change your (transportation) behavior for just a little while…JMHO :)

    Mr. Redmond (above) gave a name where you can put in your 2 cents…:)

  • WSB September 7, 2008 (9:40 pm)

    By the way, we’ve mentioned this a couple times already, but throwing it in here too: Another street-closing event is coming up two weeks from today – the first-ever Junction Car Show, which will celebrate cars, by blocking off car traffic in two and a half blocks of The Junction, Sunday 9/21. WSB is a co-sponsor. (Car-Free Day, as a city event, didn’t have business sponsors, btw.)

  • Rick September 8, 2008 (6:22 am)

    But hey… if I can get everybody else to pay for something I like…I’m all for it!!! I think it smells a bit of …ummmmm….

  • Jack Loblaw September 8, 2008 (6:42 am)

    Todd & Kyle — The good of the many out weighs the good of the few. Lots of events close streets: Seafair, West Seattle street festival and the West Seattle Parade to name a few. If you don’t like it move back to California. What I personally dislike about Alki are the condos and folks that live in them who think that the beach belongs to them personally since they paid several hundred thousand dollars to live in pressboard palaces. Quit whining– get out of your car and enjoy fresh air on a bike. The Loblaws enjoyed biking the beach yesterday without the usual rowdy types parked along the beach blaring their music.

  • WSratsinacage September 8, 2008 (7:45 am)

    Do the cops have to be rude to people who live in the closed down area though? I think those commenting about Todd and Kyle might feel differently if they were the ones being talked down to. Especially in their neighborhood or at their home.

  • WSB September 8, 2008 (7:59 am)

    Again as an anecdotal data point. I wasn’t there when Todd and Kyle talked with officers. I did travel the entire zone (parts of it twice) and also happened to see officers having goodnatured chats with folks too — including during the half-hour or so I spent camped out on the curb on Bonair near the Alki intersection, where probably two dozen cars went by, and an officer was posted at the sign (as was the case where other streets met Alki). That aside, one thing occurred to me while I was out and about covering the event: The closure zone probably could have been smaller and still achieved the city’s desired result. For example, the stretch from Bonair eastward could have been omitted – closing from Bonair to 63rd would still have turned the main beach zone into a promenade-type atmosphere. I suppose the rest was included because letting non-resident cars up to Bonair would have been pointless anyway – when they got there, they’d have to turn around (or create a dangerous situation with busy two-way detouring up that road), but overall it really was like two zones — the business district, and then the long stretch of businessless.

  • Jen September 8, 2008 (12:17 pm)

    Wow, I am quite surprised to hear that people on Alki are upset about the event yesterday. I thought it was in great spirit for our local community. Alki is a slow moving, laid back neighborhood and I think if you live here long enough, you learn to take everything as it comes. I realize that during the summer, my neighborhood is a major destination for people and I appreciate that it brings them as much joy the day they visit as it does everyday that I live there. Are the traffic jams and huge crowds a pain sometimes, absolutly, but it is a small price to pay to get to live here.

    It made me so happy to see people with their kids riding bikes and enjoying time together. I ride my bike daily on Alki and it was even a thrill for me to get to ride in the street without worry of cars. I saw many smiles and happy folks!

    I honestly wish we did this more often.

  • SLH September 8, 2008 (12:30 pm)

    I’m just not sure having a car-free day at Alki was ALL that much different than any other day…you just had one more lane’s worth of space to walk or picnic or ride your bike in a place that (thankfully) already has plenty of room for all of those activities. As fall approaches, we in the neighborhood will enjoy the benefits of less traffic soon enough. My big hope (as a permanently car-free resident of Alki), was that the car-free day might possibly draw attention to the fact that public transportation to and from Alki on Sundays leaves a lot to be desired.

  • EAO September 8, 2008 (2:38 pm)

    Let’s make Alki car free EVERY WEEKEND just like Golden Gate Park in SF or Central Park in NYC do. Although Alki isn’t a designated “park”, let’s think of it as such. And those empty Huling Bro. lots could be used as a “park n’ ride” for those that can’t get to Alki all the way by public transit (not yet at least) or by bike, walking, etc…

  • jai September 8, 2008 (4:26 pm)

    I, too, live just off Alki but was *pleasantly* surprised by the attitude of the officer that stopped me as I went down the wrong way of a one way street (I figured incorrectly that there would be no cars coming down 58th from Alki given the street closure). He was very courteous when he rightly could have given me an earful.

    Here’s to a repeat next Summer.

  • Diane September 8, 2008 (4:29 pm)

    “those empty Huling Bro. lots” will very soon be multi-story apt/condo/mixed use buildings

  • Peanut September 8, 2008 (4:36 pm)

    First, every argument about Alki eventually involves some bashing of the rich. While that’s always cathartic, many of us who live in the neighborhood and who had impacted streets are renters and not well-off. Jack, please don’t make this an “have vs. have not” argument.

    Second, to Kyle’s point about needing a car to live in Alki, I am an Alki resident without a car and I’m doing fine. It really doesn’t take me much longer to do my West Seattle shopping by bus than it would by car. Now if you’re heading to Westwood or downtown that’s a different story but, as someone else pointed out, the city really gave you fair warning to plan this out.

  • cmc September 8, 2008 (5:42 pm)

    Maybe we can do the same at Sea-Tac next year so some people who don’t have anywhere to go on that Sunday can walk on the runways and enjoy the airport without all the airplane traffic.

  • chas redmond September 8, 2008 (10:16 pm)

    cmc – or perhaps more appropriately, since this is car-free, let’s close the viaduct for 6 hours and all the connected on-off ramps and allow people, skaters, boarders, cyclists and kid-carts and red wagons use it. It’d be a good test to see if we can handle a no-viaduct world and it would give everyone a chance to experience the great and awe-inspiring views one gets from the whole upper deck length. Just being able to look down on container traffic or the ferry dock is a unique view. We should expose everyone in the city to that view. Maybe this could be coordinated with a regular closure for inspections – it’d have to be a decent time of year, though, and we’d really be remiss if we didn’t have it closed to cars through at least sunset.
    (am I kidding, probably not!)

  • WSB September 8, 2008 (10:32 pm)

    Hey, that’s more than half the reason we do Race for the Cure every year. We believe in the cause – Patrick and I both lost our moms to cancer – but it’s also a blast to walk on The Viaduct, and every year now I wonder what route R4TC will take once the Central Waterfront section come down.

  • Chris September 11, 2008 (12:11 pm)

    Being a resident of Alki in the area where the road was closed I was amazed the city felt it was ok to put residents and vistitors alike at risk. With the road being closed, the East bound lane that was suppose to be dedicated to residental and public transportation traffic and emergency (police, fire, aid cars) needs, but was over taken by bikes and pedistrans who felt they didn’t need to move for anyone nor was there any police monitoring this.

    Just one additional note, where were all the police earlier this summer when Alki overtaken by car surfers, drivers sitting out the window and driving with their feet?? When I called to report it I was told, “yeah it’s the first summer day on Alki….” But last Sunday I had to show my ID to get back to my home.

Sorry, comment time is over.