Posted on: April 9, 2020 at 10:30 AM    

As we establish our new normal of life in a bubble, it has been really encouraging to observe how our transport infrastructure is being ‘repurposed’ to fit our current needs.

I’m based in central Auckland and I was slightly worried about how physical distancing might work in the denser parts of our country. Not to worry, with the lack of motor vehicles people are claiming back the space in the streets. Bus lanes, transit (T2/T3) lanes and on-street parking are re-purposed as social distancing lanes, providing the perfect additional space to manoeuvre around foreign bubbles. However it can be a bit scary when buses decide to continue to use this space, pushing us all back onto the footpath.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency have just released an innovating streets pilot fund, with a funding assistance rate of 90%. Within the example project descriptions ‘Emergency bike lanes or footpath expansions to make more space for social distancing in response to Covid-19’ is included, a great opportunity to formalise this repurposing of space for the short term! Roads in areas with high population densities and no berms/minimum width footpaths are sitting ducks for this type of emergency intervention, perhaps also an opportunity to trial space for micro-mobility? For details see: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/roads-and-rail/innovating-streets/about/pilot-fund

In the meantime, we have the following tips for keeping yourself safe when repurposing road space and working together:

  • Plan your route/side of the road to face oncoming traffic so you can see cyclists or other vehicles approaching and avoid conflict
  • Manoeuvre around those less able bodied than you – its not fair to expect a 70+ year old person to jump down the kerb out of your way!
  • If possible road controlling authorities should work with bus operators to discourage them from using bus lanes in the interim, where the space is required for physical distancing and traffic volumes are low.

This is the second blog in our series of 'Bubble Blogs'. During the COVID-19 lockdown, our 'People and Places' team will reflect on insights and experiences related to the work that we do. See also Bubble Blog #1: Reclaiming the Streets and keep an eye out for Bubble Blog #3: Walking Superheroes!

Blog written by Courtney Groundwater, Associate Transportation Engineer

Physical distancing lane