Public Spaces and COVID-19
Due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, St. Louis and cities across the world are witnessing an unprecedented increase in the usage of our parks, trails, and other public spaces. However, even though exercise and outdoor activities have been deemed essential, many of our public spaces don’t provide room for residents to maintain proper social distancing. This has unfortunately led governments to close some beloved public spaces.
To help address this problem many cities, including St. Louis, are closing streets and creating new spaces so people can still be active while maintaining proper social distancing during stay-at-home orders.
Our communities have the opportunity to create more public space for people to safely walk and bike. As advocates for walking, biking, and healthy living across our region, Trailnet is here to help them accomplish that.
Why do we need to convert more of our public space for people?
- Creating more public space allows people to stay active while maintaining proper social distancing
- More public space can help to reduce overcrowding on our park, trails, and sidewalks, preventing the need to completely close existing spaces
- Maintaining social distance on sidewalks, trails, and streets requires expanded sidewalks and new ways of sharing streets and public space.
- Many communities in St. Louis do not have adequate sidewalks for people to practice safe and proper social distancing
- Walking in the street is becoming more common as people practice proper social distancing, however, this increases their risk of getting hit by car traffic
- Families and vulnerable populations are at risk of injury and infection in over-crowded parks and trails
- People who rely on public transit could have an option to safely bike or walk to their destination, avoid overcrowding, and help prevent exposure.
What can our communities do to provide more public space?
Temporarily close roads in parks to car traffic
This has already been done in several St. Louis City Parks including Tower Grove Park and partially in Forest Park, but if all area parks followed this model, it would allow residents to social distance properly while staying active.
Temporarily close specific roads to non-essential car traffic
Residents who live on the streets, delivery vehicles, and emergency vehicles should all be able to access the temporary closures.
Temporary lane conversions
- As vehicle travel decreases, this provides an opportunity to temporarily convert car-travel lanes to extended sidewalks or bike lanes to allow more space for social distancing.
- Provide communication to important community decision makers.
- If a group of residents or a neighborhood wants to close their street to essential traffic only, community leaders should be accessible and provide an easy and hassle-free system to allow residents to create public space in front of their homes.
What Trailnet is doing to push these ideas forward?
Talking to local leaders about these challenges and opportunities
Trailnet has been communicating with local leaders to present challenges people are facing and exploring solutions to these challenges. We are also providing resources and guidance for communities that want to create more public spaces.
Collecting data on existing conditions
We created an interactive map and form for residents to use – which will identify public spaces seeing the greatest use and overcrowding. This will help identify optimal areas to convert into public spaces.
Gathering partners and recording recommendations
Trailnet and community partners are working together to identify optimal locations to convert into public space based on numerous factors and the data provided by the public.
How can you get involved?
Get educated on ideas and best practices
There are numerous articles and examples of best practices on creating public spaces across numerous countries and cities. Trailnet has been compiling these resources, which you can access here.
Reach out to your local leaders
Contact your local government personally about opportunities to create public spaces in your backyard
Provide them with ideas and solutions on how we can improve conditions during this pandemic