The Colombian capital of Bogotá is opening 76km (47 miles) of temporary bike lanes to reduce crowding on public transport and help prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), as well as to improve air quality.
This will expand the 550km (340 miles) of existing permanent bike lanes.
Further, 22km (13 miles) of the new lanes were converted overnight to open on 17 March by reconfiguring car lanes. The original proposal was to add 117km (72 miles) of temporary bike lanes in total but this was scaled back following evaluation of the activity in the first lanes.
A statement from the Mayor’s Office said: “The bicycle, being an individual means of transport, represents one of the most hygienic alternatives for the prevention of the virus, especially in this first preventive stage in which it is recommended to avoid close contact and crowds.” [translated]
Mayor Claudia López said Bogotá is facing a “triple threat” of poor air quality, seasonal respiratory illnesses and now the coronavirus, which could put too much strain on the healthcare system.
“We can’t withstand that pressure,” she is quoted as saying in a video posted on Twitter.
Bogotá recently topped the list of cities most impacted by traffic congestion in Inrix’s Global Traffic Scorecard.
From Friday to Monday (20-23 March), Bogotá will also carry out a social isolation ’lockdown drill’. López said the initiative will help city officials understand the reasons why citizens have to go out, in order to offer alternatives.
On Monday, Colombia blocked entry to all non-residents and closed schools as its coronavirus action ramps up.
New York has also seen a surge in biking due to the COVID-19 outbreak. NYC’s Department of Transportation said it had seen a 50 per cent increase in cycling on all East River Bridges, compared to 2019 figures.
In a further example of street re-organisation to tackle the pandemic, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced the Seattle Department of Transportation is converting on-street parking spaces near restaurants to temporary loading zones to enable kerb-side meal pickup.
She said this would facilitate social distancing and support small businesses, particularly restaurants, which are “bearing the brunt” of efforts to combat the pandemic.
“We are looking for ways to do our part to keep businesses operating in this public health emergency,” Durkan said.
Sam Zimbabwe, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, added: “Being flexible with our kerb space and making it easier for people to access our restaurants is one way we can help.”