I did not expect to write this post when 2020 started. This shows how quickly the coronavirus has impacted our lives. I wish I knew when the new normal would start so I could create some consistency in my life. While I am not sure how many months physical distancing will last, it appears that physical distancing will shape the new normal. Since I have struggled to maintain at least six feet from other people when walking and biking, how can tactical urbanism be used to quickly and cheaply create spaces that allow people to maintain at least six feet from other people when walking and biking?
What is the issue?
Before share how my question could be answered, I want to make sure you understand the issue that I have been experiencing. Spencer Boomhower at Toole Design Group created this video that shows the issue.
While I do not live in Portland, I have experienced similar physical distancing issues when I visit Portland. Portland’s Safe Streets Report shows some of the major challenges that the Safe Streets Initiative is trying to resolve. The below four issues match four numbers on the below photo.
- a need for additional space for walking
- a need for wider sidewalks
- transit stops without space to safely wait for the next bus
- a need to reinforce physical distancing guidance to support local businesses
I believe maps are also a great way to show the issue. I found sidewalk width maps for New York City and Washington, DC. I used to live in the DC region, so I am more familiar with the DC map. As the below map shows, many sidewalks in one of the most walkable cities in the US are too narrow for physical distancing.
While I thought about using Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) maps to show whether bike lanes and trails are also too narrow for physical distancing, LTS analysis is not limited to bike lane and trail width so the LTS maps would not have been accurate for showing whether more space is needed for physical distancing. Due to this, I decided to show the below graphic from this International Transport Forum COVID-19 Transport Brief. The red lane on the left shows the pre-coronavirus existing bike lane. The red lane on the right shows how much space is needed to provide people with enough space for physical distancing.
How can tactical urbanism be used to resolve the issue?
While a long-term solution could be widening sidewalks, the coronavirus is killing people today due to the lack of space to physically distance from other people. I believe quick, inexpensive tactical urbanism projects are needed to resolve this emergency issue. As the below graphic shows, Portland’s Safe Streets Initiative shows how tactical urbanism projects can be used to resolve the emergency issue. Hopefully, some of these short-term projects are converted to permanent projects.
Since I have not seen a Safe Streets Initiative in any Oregon suburbs, I hope Portland’s initiative will encourage other cities throughout the Portland region to create safe spaces for people to do physical distancing. I have been advocating for Oregon City, which is where I live and work, to create a Safe Streets Initiative so I can safely do physical distancing when I am walking, biking, and waiting for the bus. I have learned through my advocacy work that people in suburban cities frequently say “we are not Portland” or “we do not want to become Portland”. Due to this, do you know of any suburban cities that have implemented a Safe Streets Initiative?
Future Blog Post
The coronavirus is also impacting my vacation plans. I was hoping to visit South America for the first time on this two-week Colombia trip. Since the coronavirus forced Colombia to lockdown, I have not scheduled my Colombia vacation yet. Due to being furloughed every Friday until the end of July (extended to Labor Day if the laws get extended) because of the economic crisis created by the coronavirus, I actually have no summer vacation planned because I would be ineligible to receive unemployment benefits from the CARES Act and Oregon Work Share if I took a vacation. While I am nervous about doing my first workation, I plan to continue working remotely as I visit family and friends in Colorado, North Carolina, and Minnesota from after work on July 9-August 2. What would you like to see me write about during my workation?