Tracy Watkins05:00, Apr 12 2020
Life after lock down may look very different to before – and that even includes city streets.
Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has revealed planning is already underway for expanded footpaths and temporary cycleways so people can still keep two metres of physical distance when the current Alert Level 4 for Coronavirus is lifted.
The government is set to roll out millions of dollars in extra funding for the work, which will start as soon as the country moves to Alert Level 3.
Genter said physical distancing would still likely be required for some time, probably until a vaccine or better treatment for covid-19 was available, so temporary solutions that could be put in place quickly were needed.
“When people begin to return to city centres following the lock down we want them to have enough space to maintain physical distance. Some of our footpaths in busy areas are quite narrow. Temporary footpath extensions mean people can give each other a bit more space without stepping out onto the road.”
Funding will come from the Innovating Streets for People pilot fund , part of a wider programme that supports projects using ‘tactical urbanism’ techniques such as pilots and pop-up, interim treatments that make it safer and easier for people walking and cycling in the city.
While that fund allocated $7 million for such projects prior to coronavirus, the cap had been lifted on what could be spent now, Genter said.
There was a $100 million plus underspend on New Zealand Transport Agency spending on strategic cycleways that could be diverted to the project.
But most of the changes were expected to be relatively low cost.
“Footpath extensions would use basic materials like planter boxes and colourful paint to carve out a bit more space in the street for people walking, like we’ve seen on High street and Federal street in Auckland,” she said.
“A number of cities around the world, including New York and Vancouver have rolled out temporary bike lanes to provide alternatives to public transport, which people may be less inclined to use in the short term.
“Councils are able to use highly-visible plastic posts, planter boxes and other materials to create temporary separated bike lanes where people feel safe.”
Genter said some of those emergency measures overseas had been rolled out in a “matter of days” creating hundreds of kilometres of wider footpaths and cycleways with relatively simple materials”.
“We’re talking road cones; pot plants, or big planters are a nicer way to do it but that takes a little more time.”
That physical separation was not just necessary for social distancing but to create a safer environment for walking and cycling, given there was going to be a likely drop off in public transport because of peoples’ concerns about over crowding and the virus.