PT: Originally published in April. The video is one of the best so far, from the initial use of the Beach Flow Way (so-called since it allows cyclists to sort themselves out by speed and comfort) to the self-sorting that Vancouverites did on Sunset Beach, making it more than ever a Great Lawn.
And more than ever it’s clear: Open Streets are a Thing – one of the lasting changes to come out of the pandemic.
Click here to download video: Beach reallocation
Whether cities like Oakland calls them ‘Flow Streets’ or ‘Slow Streets’, they’re part of a larger movement to reallocate street space for the priorities of a pandemic.
Initial reporting suggested Oakland was going to call these calmed avenues ‘Flow Streets’ – a nice name, but apparently not what was intended:
Oakland will slow down a whopping 74 miles of streets to vehicular traffic starting this weekend to give pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists more room for social distancing.
It’s part of an emergency measure called “Oakland Slow Streets,” an effort to give residents more space to walk, run, and cycle safely through neighborhoods as shelter-in-place orders remain in effect. …
Note: This won’t be a total closure to cars, according to East Bay Times, but instead a way to “publicize roads to be especially alert of cyclists and pedestrians.” Local traffic and emergency vehicles will still be allowed on the roads.
It really is important to emphasize that these streets are not ‘closed,’ and never were intended to stop all vehicle traffic. But even in Vancouver, the Beach Avenue reallocation is being termed by some as ‘closed’ – as though any restriction on cars is all that matters. It’s a bias we’ll see a lot more in the fight to defund and eliminate any City progress for bikeways, greenways, safe streets, traffic calming, road diets – call it what you will. For opponents, It comes down to the same thing: streets are for cars, and the rest are dispensable frills.
In the meantime, the move to flow or slow streets is, ahem, picking up speed. From the New York Times:
With roads cleared of traffic because of the coronavirus pandemic, some cities across the country have repurposed streets into car-free zones, giving pedestrians and cyclists extra room to spread out and practice social distancing.
Cities including Boston, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif., have closed streets to through motor traffic. Others are extending sidewalks to make more space for pedestrians looking to stay at least six feet apart. And some municipalities are considering adopting similar measures. …
“I’m hoping that as we continue over the next few weeks and months to allocate more now-empty streets to people, it will show people the benefits of a less auto-centric urban environment,” he said in an email. “Showing urban residents what’s possible when you have this ‘blank canvas’ of street space to utilize for walking, biking, running, playing games with neighbors and just enjoying as a new, public neighborhood open space.”
So far, Vancouver has done only one reallocation – Beach Avenue from Stanley Park to Hornby. As more neighbourhoods will want their own versions, and health authorities continue to emphasize the need to ‘stay home,’ the question then is: what’s next?