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San Diego creates more room for walking and cycling on its streets amid Covid-19

The city is introducing a “slow streets” pilot programme to repurpose certain public streets to create more outdoor space and encourage safe walking and cycling.

The slow streets programme will create more space for physical distancing in San Diego
The slow streets programme will create more space for physical distancing in San Diego

San Diego has announced a pilot programme to create more outdoor space for recreation and exercise while still observing public health rules for physical distancing amid the Covid-19 crisis.


The aim of the “slow streets” programme is to repurpose four roads around the city to provide more room for residents to walk, run and cycle, and – at the same time – reduce congested foot traffic at parks, beaches and outdoor trails.


Crowded spaces


The National Association of City Transportation Officials (Natco) recently published a set of rapid response tools for cities to manage the Covid-19 crisis that included relieving crowded spaces like trails and parks by opening certain streets to walking and bicycling.


“[The pandemic] has forced us to rethink everything we do and how we go about our daily lives, and what we need right now are more safe spaces for San Diegans to stretch their legs with a walk or a bike ride,” said Kevin Faulconer, mayor of San Diego.


“This pilot programme is about creating more space outside your place by closing a few streets to give people room to be active and maintain their physical distance from others trying to do the same.”


The changes include:

  • Creating slow streets: the city will close select streets to through traffic to prioritise pedestrian and cyclist use and prioritise cost-effective transportation for essential workers during a time of economic strain and decreased transit service
  • Reopening commuter bikeways: San Diego will reopen key bikeways as transportation corridors to connect essential workers to their jobs. This includes major commuter bikeways like the SR-56 Bikeway, the San Diego River Bikeway from Ocean Beach east to Mission Valley, Rose Creek Bikeway, Rose Canyon Bikeway, the SR-52 Bikeway and Murphy Canyon along I-15 and Lake Hodges Bridge
  • Enhanced pedestrian street crossings: existing buttons will be replaced with larger buttons that can be pushed with a forearm or elbow to eliminate touching potentially contaminated surfaces. The signal length-time has already been changed in key areas to a shorter default time, reducing wait times
  • Communicating right-of-way and pedestrian safety: the Transportation & Storm Water and Planning Departments will develop a public education campaign to increase pedestrian awareness and safety practices for shared roadways that adhere to social distancing requirements.

Slow streets will be installed at Diamond Street from Mission Boulevard to Olney Street, Adams Avenue over the I-805, Howard Avenue from Park Boulevard to 33rd Street and a portion of roadway in District 4.

“Safe, outdoor spaces for residents to access their jobs and essential needs by biking and walking is critical during this time.”

Mayor Faulconer is also working with council members to evaluate additional opportunities for slow streets that are feasible from an engineering and safety standpoint, as well as supported by advocates and the community.


“We’re pleased to see this initiative move forward with input from mobility, environment and community advocates,” added Andy Hanshaw, chair of San Diego Mobility Board.


Commuter bikeways


“Safe, outdoor spaces for residents to access their jobs and essential needs by biking and walking is critical during this time. These include the existing commuter bikeways that also make these connections. We look forward to helping identify additional streets that build on this network.”


The City’s Sustainability, Transportation and Storm Water and Planning departments worked closely with the community and transportation stakeholders to develop this plan. Organisations involved included San Diego Mobility Board, Circulate San Diego, San Diego Bicycle Coalition, BikeSD and the Climate Action Campaign.


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