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We Shouldn’t Have To Say This: Expanding Sidewalks Does Not Spread COVID-19 – Streetsblog USA

There are some city leaders who fear that if they make streets too pedestrian-friendly, it will encourage walkers to crowd the streets, spreading the virus more. It won’t. Here’s why.

Source:Creative Commons.
Source:Creative Commons.

dvocates around the world are calling for city leaders to give walkers more space on our streets for social distancing — but mayors fear that if they make streets too pedestrian-friendly, it will encourage walkers to crowd the streets, spreading the virus more.

It won’t — and to understand why, we need to understand why the concept of of “induced demand”  simply doesn’t apply to the sidewalk.

If you haven’t heard the term before, “induced demand” is a very real traffic phenomenon that occurs when cities add lanes to their roadways in an attempt to cure congestion, only to encourage drivers to use the new asphalt, which ends up slowing the flow even more. (An even more elegant way to explain it is with the urbanist aphorism that “curing congestion by adding more lanes is like curing obesity by buying bigger pants,” which is usually attributed to the planner Lewis Mumford.)

Toronto Mayor John Tory seemed to subtly reference the phenomenon in a letter earlier this month, when he explained that he was hesitant to explore open streets policies in his cities because it might  “inadvertently encourage…higher pedestrian demand and social gathering.” (Emphasis ours.) Countless local leaders have made similar arguments in the last few weeks to justify their own reluctance to widen sidewalks and keep walkers safe from COVID-19 transmission, as well as to justify closing some essential pedestrian spaces altogether, like parks.

But induced demand is a phenomenon in the world of auto traffic — and the term is virtually never applied to the pedestrian realm. And the reason why is because expanding sidewalks is fundamentally different than expanding a highway, for two primary reasons:

No time savings for walkers on wider sidewalks

First: the phenomenon of induced demand is primarily about road user speed, rather than road capacity. When a state DOT adds a lane to a highway, they’re making a misguided attempt to prevent driver slow-downs — which doesn’t work, because as soon as drivers hear about highway whatever’s spiffy new upgrade, they rush to try out what they think will be a “faster” route, and clog it up again.

Read on >>>> Source: Streetsblog We Shouldn’t Have To Say This: Expanding Sidewalks Does Not Spread COVID-19 – Streetsblog USA

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