Virus shutdown could open up streets

A New York hurtles headlong towards becoming the world’s next coronavirus epicentre it is moving to close traffic-sparse streets to cars and open them up to bikes, runners and walkers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for the car ban so that people have more room for social distance outdoors while exercising.

“You have much less traffic in New York City because non-essential workers aren’t going to work,” said Cuomo.

“Get creative: open streets to reduce the density. You want to go for a walk? God bless you. You want to go for a run? God bless you.”

“But let’s open streets, let’s open spaces. That’s where people should be," Cuomo added.

Why just New York? Surely this kind of advanced thinking is something we should encourage to spread?

While Australia at this stage has nothing like the level of confirmed cases as New York, our streets too are becoming eerily quiet.

The governor said he has tasked New York City authorities with producing a density reduction plan immediately.

The plan should identify which streets across the five boroughs should be closed to traffic, Cuomo said.

Streets make up 80% of public space in New York City, and taking some of that area away from cars would give pedestrians and cyclists more room to keep a safe distance from one another.

The City has agreed with Cuomo’s plan, but said street closures must come with enforcement to prevent crowds from forming.

It says that the City's Summer Streets program that closes some major thoroughfares to cars across the city would be an initial model to start with.

Joe Cutrufo, a spokesman for street safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said planned street closures for the New York City Marathon and other major parades show that streets can be closed to cars without interrupting essential services.

New York City last week announced plans to install temporary protected bike lanes on Second Ave. near the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and on Smith St. in Brooklyn to cope with the increased number of people using bikes rather than public transport.

Learn more about cities that are turning to the trusty bicycle to help them navigate this unprecedented challenge to global health.

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