Alameda makes room for social distancing by closing some streets to drivers

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of Alameda introduced a slow streets pilot program Thursday, shutting down a section of two streets to through traffic so residents have more space for social distancing while exercising.

Sarah Coombs and 10-year-old Donovan took advantage of the space and ran in the middle of Pacific Avenue Thursday morning.

RELATED: Oakland closing several streets to allow proper social distancing for joggers, cyclists

"We weren't crowded before but I think having more space is great. We have found that there's a lot of people who come out to run and walk and they stop and talk to each other. I am glad to see that happen but it's nice to have more space for everyone, too," Coombs said.

The soft closures are in place on Pacific Avenue between Grant and Oak and Versailles Avenue between Central and Fernside.

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Soft closure means residents can still drive on the streets, so cyclists and walkers and runners still need to be aware of traffic. But the hope is that there will be fewer cars and people will have more room to socially distance while exercising.

"I think it is a good idea primarily to keep people focused that we still need to continue with the social distancing. It will help us be more aware I think about the situation we are at. It's not going to go away soon," said Biance Brockl, who was out for a bike ride Thursday.

The idea started in Oakland where officials created 74 miles of slow streets three weeks ago. San Francisco then followed with 13 miles of soft closures.

Residents say Alameda isn't as compact as those cities and they weren't quite sure they needed the closures, but said they will enjoy them.

RELATED: Alameda joins 'slow streets' movement during COVID-19 pandemic

"Personally it won't affect my life as much but maybe people who can't get around or are less mobile will have more security with streets being closed," said Joe Perse.

Former Science teacher Steve Williams sees the streets as a potential classroom. He mapped out the solar system with sidewalk chalk so kids can learn, safely, as they walk. He spaced out each planet so people can see how far apart they are from each other.

"The idea here is, let's expose them to Science. They are already out walking and full of energy and trying to figure out stuff. Let's put some words on the ground, give them some dots, the experience of walking a little bit to get to one planet... a hike to get to the next," Williams said.

The streets will be softly closed for 24 hours a day through, at least, the end of the shelter at home order.

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