June 11, 2020

Adapt public space for emerging needs during COVID-19 

Jun 11, 2020

Adapt public space for emerging needs during COVID-19 

Photo of a plaza with people walking and bikingFrom empty highways to quiet train stations, all transportation modes in the Chicago metropolitan region have seen huge declines because of COVID-19. As travel patterns shift in response to the coronavirus,community leaders havean opportunity to promote safe, active mobility as an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles.

To encourage more people to walk and ride bikes, communities should rethink public spaces and create streets that are accessible for everyone, regardless of age, ability, or transportation mode.

Rethinking public space

Social distancing guidelines recommend that people stay 6 feet apart to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, yet many sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate this safety measure. Streets and parking spaces make up much of the public right-of-way and present another option. Cities such as Chicago and Oakland, Calif., have limited through-traffic and slowed vehicular traffic on streets to encourage safe walking and biking, while suburban communities like Arlington HeightsElginHinsdale, and Oak Park are considering closing a block or part of a parking lot for outdoor dining. Other communities can follow suit. In many suburban downtown locations, 20 to 30 percent of land is dedicated to parking, according to a CMAP analysis. 

Montreal, Milan, and D.C. are implementing protected bikeways in roadway space previously used for parking or vehicular lanes. Leaders across the region can reconfigure roadways and other right-of-way space for temporary uses, and gather input on what changes to make permanent. Local travel patterns, important essential destinations, and the Regional Greenways and Trail Plan can be used to identify appropriate routes. 

 

Over forty-five percent of all vehicle trips are three miles or fewer — an easy bicycle ride for able-bodied people. To encourage residents to leave their car at home for some trips, people on bikes need to feel protected from automobile traffic. CMAP’s Complete Streets Toolkit offers various suggestions to improve safety and the state’s capital bill, Rebuild Illinois, has set aside $50 million to pay for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. The annual program is to be awarded competitively through an expanded Illinois Transportation Enhancements Program (ITEP), with provisions to allow high-need communities easier access to the funds. 

Bicycle shop owners have reported huge increases in sales and parents are using the time home with kids to teach them how to ride a bike. Cargo bikes can provide the carrying capacity of a small vehicle for transporting kidsgroceries, and even last-mile freight deliveries. As travel bans ease, communities should find ways to help keep people on bikes. Some people with reduced incomes from COVID-19 may find a bicycle to be a more affordable form of transportation. A bicycle also combines exercise with transportation for people who don’t want to return to a gym any time soon. 

As the region reopens, municipalities and county officials must work together with the Illinois Department of Transportation to remove barriers to active mobility and adapt public space for emerging needs during COVID-19. Bold creativity and quick actions are needed now from leaders across northeastern Illinois to help residents get around safely on foot or by bicycle. 

Which one of these creative solutions could work in your community?

To Top

Jun 11, 2020

Adapt public space for emerging needs during COVID-19 

Photo of a plaza with people walking and bikingFrom empty highways to quiet train stations, all transportation modes in the Chicago metropolitan region have seen huge declines because of COVID-19. As travel patterns shift in response to the coronavirus,community leaders havean opportunity to promote safe, active mobility as an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles.

To encourage more people to walk and ride bikes, communities should rethink public spaces and create streets that are accessible for everyone, regardless of age, ability, or transportation mode.

Rethinking public space

Social distancing guidelines recommend that people stay 6 feet apart to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, yet many sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate this safety measure. Streets and parking spaces make up much of the public right-of-way and present another option. Cities such as Chicago and Oakland, Calif., have limited through-traffic and slowed vehicular traffic on streets to encourage safe walking and biking, while suburban communities like Arlington HeightsElginHinsdale, and Oak Park are considering closing a block or part of a parking lot for outdoor dining. Other communities can follow suit. In many suburban downtown locations, 20 to 30 percent of land is dedicated to parking, according to a CMAP analysis. 

Montreal, Milan, and D.C. are implementing protected bikeways in roadway space previously used for parking or vehicular lanes. Leaders across the region can reconfigure roadways and other right-of-way space for temporary uses, and gather input on what changes to make permanent. Local travel patterns, important essential destinations, and the Regional Greenways and Trail Plan can be used to identify appropriate routes. 

 

Over forty-five percent of all vehicle trips are three miles or fewer — an easy bicycle ride for able-bodied people. To encourage residents to leave their car at home for some trips, people on bikes need to feel protected from automobile traffic. CMAP’s Complete Streets Toolkit offers various suggestions to improve safety and the state’s capital bill, Rebuild Illinois, has set aside $50 million to pay for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. The annual program is to be awarded competitively through an expanded Illinois Transportation Enhancements Program (ITEP), with provisions to allow high-need communities easier access to the funds. 

Bicycle shop owners have reported huge increases in sales and parents are using the time home with kids to teach them how to ride a bike. Cargo bikes can provide the carrying capacity of a small vehicle for transporting kidsgroceries, and even last-mile freight deliveries. As travel bans ease, communities should find ways to help keep people on bikes. Some people with reduced incomes from COVID-19 may find a bicycle to be a more affordable form of transportation. A bicycle also combines exercise with transportation for people who don’t want to return to a gym any time soon. 

As the region reopens, municipalities and county officials must work together with the Illinois Department of Transportation to remove barriers to active mobility and adapt public space for emerging needs during COVID-19. Bold creativity and quick actions are needed now from leaders across northeastern Illinois to help residents get around safely on foot or by bicycle. 

Which one of these creative solutions could work in your community?

To Top