It seems that there are a few different trains of thought when it comes to best battle against COVID-19. There’s the camp that says stay at home… just stay at home at all cost. There’s another camp that feels that people can’t just sit in front of a computer all day, and need to get some fresh air and exercise (considered open-air therapy, infused with more vitamin D).
For those that are in the latter camp, GObike Buffalo is pushing for the further advancements and implementations of “infrastructure interventions” that allow people to get outdoors (walking, jogging, biking), without the risk of breaching social distancing measures.
According to GObike, “Streets and parks are becoming over-stressed and over-crowded with recreational visitors.”
We have seen examples of these types of scenarios taking place all over the world. If you tell people in a quarantined frame of mind that it’s good to go outside for a walk, where do you think they are going to go? Naturally they will go for a bike ride down the street, or to a public park. But if enough people do this, it’s going to present a problem. Therefore, GObike is asking municipalities to get more creative (and safe) when it comes to people interacting with the great outdoors.
Much of our infrastructure–including bike lanes, sidewalks and park paths–currently does not have the width or capacity to allow safe social distancing to be practiced.
“Remaining physically active will help our resiliency in our mental and physical health in this difficult time. But much of our infrastructure–including bike lanes, sidewalks and park paths–currently does not have the width or capacity to allow safe social distancing to be practiced. By temporarily increasing the space available for walking and biking, we can allow residents to continue to meet transportation needs and engage in active recreation while limiting the spread of COVID-19,” said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike. “Equitable infrastructure interventions can also create temporary play and park space for residents in neighborhoods with limited access to parks and recreation opportunities.”
This might just be the perfect time to start to fortify Buffalo’s streets and parks with additional bike-ped safety standards, which many residents have been calling for over the years. With few cars on the streets, and more people out and about on foot and on two wheels, the City is already looking at ways of enhancing infrastructure to accommodate the lifestyle changes. An example of this is Mayor Brown’s decision to close off Delaware Park to motor traffic. To think that cars have been allowed on Ring Road at all is a real head scratcher. Cars… driving.. around… parks? At least create better boundaries between the cars and the bike-ped users.
Over the last few years, GObike Buffalo has been creating temporary pop-up projects throughout the city, such as bike lanes, curb bump-outs, crosswalks, and bike infrastructure refreshes. It is these types of measures that GObike feels will help to ensure that people stay safer during the COVID-19 crisis, while still getting a chance to get outside.
To date, GObike has completed pop-up projects in 31 neighborhoods, with 434 elements.
Much of what GObike has implemented came straight out of the green transportation and urbanist pages of cities such as NYC and Philadelphia. One of the most successful, and fully embraced practices has been the temporary closure of strategically identified streets, which has given residents more room to move about, once again, safely.
Current Gobike recommendations include:
- To allow safe social distancing in recreation;
- Make more space available in existing parks by closing roads in and through parks to vehicular traffic while adjusting parking regulations to accommodate those accessing the parks by car;
- Create additional capacity for passive recreation with open streets at peak times by creating car-free zones on highly-used streets to dedicate to recreation; and
- Create open streets loops within neighborhoods to ensure equitable access to recreation for residents with immediate park access.
To allow safe social distancing for active transportation:
- Reduce underused car lanes on arterial roads and parkways to dedicate space to people; and
- Expand and implement strategic connections for necessary trips using pop-up interventions such as temporary bike lanes, signal timing changes, and other changes to intersections to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross streets safely.
“With warmer spring days, our open spaces and parks are critical to public health. The mayor’s work to provide new safety measures in Delaware Park to promote park-use while maintaining social distance is appreciated,” said Delaware District Councilmember Joel Feroleto.
A full list of recommendations can be accessed at the GObike website.