Rethinking Streets for Physical Distancing

Marc Schlossberg, University of Oregon



Re-designing cities and streets to make them safer, more comfortable, and ultimately more used by people on bikes has been undergoing tremendous growth in cities across the country as well as in transportation research, yet we have witnessed a significant acceleration in the re-use of city streets for non-automobile use during the COVID19 pandemic.  In the last few months, cities around the United States (and world) have quickly repurposed their streets at unprecedented speed and scale to be more flexible to accommodate people on foot, bike, or scooter.  This was done because transit and ridehaling use plummeted, employment came to a halt resulting in dramatic declines of personal car use, and social distancing and shelter-at-home orders created a need to access public space in new ways and the street is usually the largest source of public space in any city.  At the same time, bicycle purchasing significantly increased and more people and families began experiencing their streets by foot or bike in completely new ways.  As some communities began relaxing their social distancing measures, many streets in restaurant areas ‘opened up’ for more restaurant seating in order to increase tables that could not be accommodated within restricted inside spaces.
This project takes advantage of the diversity of flexible street changes that have occurred over the last few months and compiles many into a case study book in the same format as the two previous Rethinking Streets publications. Similar to those other volumes, this one will be highly visual and include a diversity of examples of both street re-use and community type so that transportation planners and engineers, local elected officials and other city staff, and the general public can quickly understand how other communities rethink how to use street space for an expanded set of uses beyond the movement and storage of private automobiles.
The goal is to create a resource for all communities to use, learn from, and adapt for their own local contexts.  The previous two books have close to 10,000 international downloads and the goal of this project is to make an equally accessible and useful resource as communities across the country will likely need to wrestle with flexible and changing streets as the COVID19 pandemic continues to endure for the foreseeable future.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
January 31,2021
UTC Grant Cycle:
NITC 16 Round 3
UTC Funding: