The notion of what is possible in Transport Planning is currently being redefined. In recent weeks, cities and towns around the world have shown that significant change can happen everywhere and instantly, irrespective of local legal and administrative specificities. Temporary transport schemes have already transformed places and are laying the ground for more permanent change. Tactical Urbanism is the most visible sign of this trend, but the wider toolbox displayed by local authorities around the globe to allow physical distancing also includes less flashy changes.
This blog is a journey through a few of these inspiring transport responses to the spread and continuing circulation of the coronavirus.
A #PopUpBikeLane can be made of various materials depending on local practice. Their implementation is suddenly made easier by the drop in traffic volumes, allowing vehicle lanes to be reallocated to cyclists and scooter users.
The German capital has been one of the fastest cities to put temporary cycle infrastructure on the ground in response to Covid-19. They have even formalised this type of infrastructure by developing guidelines for installing or widening cycling facilities through temporary bike lanes. Traffic tape and reflective plastic posts are used to transform car lanes into cycle lanes, and to shift existing parking lanes so that they remain accessible to vehicles without a need for them to cross the cycle lane.
Figure 1: Pop Up Bike Lane on Gitschiner Straße (Source)
Ride a pop up cycle lane (video)
Also much cited for its quick response, Bogota extended the existing network of bike lanes with 35kms of temporary bike lanes. Traffic cones are used to reallocate general traffic lanes to cyclists, and personnel patrol the routes to ensure safety as well as to provide information.
Figure 2: Temporary bike lane corridors (Source)
The German city of Stuttgart kept it simple with traffic cones to reallocate a vehicle lane:
Figure 3: Stuttgart temporary cycle lane (Source)
The French city of Montpellier resorted to plastic barriers on a busy bridge where cyclists were riding on the narrow pavement. With just 5,000 euros worth of works, they added a bidirectional cycle track on the bridge, filling in a missing link between two existing cycle routes. About 15kms worth of temporary cycle lanes are planned for implementation throughout the city.
Figure 4: Tweet by Velocite Montpellier about the new temporary cycle track (Source)
Starting in early May, the city of Milan will transform 35kms of streets, seizing the opportunity of reduced traffic congestion. The “Strade Aperte” (open streets) plan is a combination of space reallocation to the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians, speed limits lowered down to 30kph, and changes to priority rules on selected streets.
Figure 5: Example of proposed widened footpaths and temporary bike lanes in Milan (Source)
San Francisco’s neighbour launched its Oakland Slow Streets program on 10 April with a few piloted “soft closures” kicking in the next day and an ambition to eventually turn 74 miles (119 kms) of its roads into slow streets. This web map shows the up to date extent of the program. Schemes involve signage, cones, and barriers forbidding through traffic. Non-motorised road users are encouraged to use the carriageway in order to maintain a safe distance of 6ft (2m) from each other.
The approach to building community support taken by the City of Oakland is interesting: they release new tranches of slow streets for community review and use the online feedback to prioritise which streets will be slowed down in the next phases. A survey on the whole program is also ongoing and has shown strong support from the community. This way of involving the community may prove vital in turning this program into a permanent state of affairs further down the line.
Figure 6: Oakland Slow Street closed to through traffic (Source)
Distance between people is not all. Steps have also been taken to avoid infections through touching street furniture, starting with pedestrian push buttons at crossings. Like many others, Los Angeles, Calgary, and Auckland have proceeded to automate pedestrian crossings.
In terms of area-wide measures, Brussels is leading the way by turning all streets within its inner ring road into a shared space (“zone de rencontre” which means “meeting zone”) starting at the beginning of May. This will give priority for pedestrians and cyclists to use the carriageway and reduce speed limits down to 20kph in the historical city centre, the area of which is shown on the below map.
Figure 7: Brussels City Centre Area that will see 20pkh speed limits. Note that this is not a map showing the new restrictions. (Source)
The list is growing as local authorities inspire each other and adapt their streets and public spaces to the era of physical distancing. Practitioners, researchers, and information seeker can (try to) keep up with this collaborative database of transport responses to Covid-19.
At a national level, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency have recently announced the Innovating Streets Pilot fund, one application of which is temporary transport interventions in response to Covid-19, similar to the examples in this blog. More information on the fund and how to apply is available here.
This is the fifth 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:
Keep an eye out for Bubble Blog #6!
Blog written by Benjamin Walch, Transportation Planner