Emergency Lanes for Distancing and Deliveries - Make Essential Walking, Cycling and Rolling Safe
Reallocating road space that is not being used during the pandemic is a great way to keep people walking, cycling and rolling safe from traffic and the virus. Such emergency lanes and car free streets are being rapidly implemented Vancouver, Kamloops, North Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Brampton, Oakland, Denver, Louisville, New York City, Bogota, Vienna, Mexico City and Minneapolis.
Officials in Colombia's capital have expanded bike routes, encouraging people to abandon crowded public transportation and the risk of catching the coronavirus.
TransLink is significantly reducing bus capacity to enable distancing. Only 50% of seats will be available and standing is to be avoided. Drivers will not pick up new passengers until seats are available. Expect other transit agencies to do the same. This makes it even more critical to enable more people to cycle, road and walk.
Some Essential Workers Are Cycling
People doing essential work in health care, pharmacies, grocery stores, emergency response and other areas need safe transportation. Those who don't own motor vehicles may also not want to take transit because of the lack of physical distancing and the possibility of touching a surface with the virus on it. Cycling, walking or rolling can be a good option but streets need to have sidewalks that are wide enough to pass and protected bike lanes so they are less likely to get injured. Many sidewalks are 2m or less, too narrow to allow people to pass each other by at least 2m or enabling people to line up waiting for food or to enter busy shops.
In London, health care workers are being loaned electric bicycles for free by Transport for London so they can avoid using crowded public transit. In Victoria, a bike shop is offering free rentals to health care workers.
Bicycle Delivery People Need Safe Streets
People delivering food, medicine, and other essential supplies by bicycle to those who can't leave home need to have safe streets so they aren't injured by motor vehicles or hazards. It will be tough to get treatment for all but the most serious injures and the last thing we need is more people in already crowded hospitals.
Bicycle Delivery Could Help Many Businesses Survive
With restaurants able to only offer delivery and takeout. With the high cost of operating, maintaining and ensuring a motor vehicle, delivery by bicycle the best way to make sure that delivery is affordable to businesses and customers while offering reasonable pay to workers (although this often isn't happening and needs to be addressed). Emergency lanes could be essential for the survival of many restaurants and cafes. Unfortunately, most streets with restaurants do not have protected bike lanes making them unsafe work environments. However, with many other businesses closed and people being unable to sit down, there is little demand for parking on many streets.
People will Need Space for Safe, Recreation and Exercise
When some restrictions are lifted enabling more people to go outside, there will likely be a greater demand on many paths and sidewalks. With many recreational and fitness activities still restricted, walking, cycling and rolling will be one of the only options available to many people. More space will be needed so people can maintain safe physical distancing. This will likely be required through the summer and into the fall.
Quickly Create Emergency Lanes - Then Work on Making them Permanent
Emergency lanes should be quickly created by reallocating traffic and or parking lanes separated from motor vehicles with cones, temporary curbing, planners, posts or jersey barriers on higher speed roads. They should then monitored and upgraded address safety, traffic and access issues. As traffic will likely remain low for months, if not years, permanent measures can be implemented incrementally over the next several months to help address issues.
One option might be to try innovative new measures like Centre Right Left Turn Lanes that could make more effective use of space while providing protected signal phases for those cycling, walking and rolling.
Use Infrastructure Stimulus to Make Lanes Permanent
With the Federal Government committing to developing an Active Transportation Strategy and stimulus funding soon to be available from the Federal and Provincial Governments, now is the time to start planning for permanent safety measures for those who walk, cycle and roll.
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Background Photo: Fernando Verga | The Associated Press