Adapting Public Spaces During Covid-19
Broward County, FL
Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization
Completed in 2020
Inspiring Agency Partners to Act!
Adapting Public Space in Response to Physical Distancing Recommendations: Embracing the "Temporary" as the New Normal.
“Everyone wants to know when this will end. That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”
– Devi Sridhar, public health expert at the University of Edinburgh
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced cities around the world to come up with response measures to meet the needs of a changing environment. This includes adapting our public spaces and streets.
As cities seek to keep up with the rapid changes brought by the pandemic and support both local economies and healthy habits, it’s been a time to experiment, using streets as testing grounds for change. This new reality has challenged cities to think about how they can best provide for an increased demand for people walking and biking around neighborhoods while adapting to physical distancing recommendations.
Tactical urbanism is a methodology used to implement quick-build projects aiming to demonstrate through a proof of concept the transformative power of interventions in the public space. It’s been a popular choice to install temporary measures that improve spaces for people, and during COVID-19, it’s been a response tactic to challenges that include:
• Sidewalks being too small to maintain physical distancing
• Increase in vehicular speeds
• Need for safe and accessible bicycle and public transit routes
• Access to public spaces
Across the world in the past few months of COVID-19, there have been a variety of livable streets response strategies, from pop-up bikeways to temporary parklet programs to operational changes at signalized intersections. These strategies are helping residents get comfortable during reopening phases as more people navigate streets at a time when being out in public poses health risks.
As the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (Broward MPO) prepares to roll out their own tactical urbanism program, they’ve started engaging with partner agencies to understand how they can best support tactical urbanism efforts in those communities. On June 23, 2020 the Broward MPO hosted a webinar where representatives from the City of Tampa, City of Charlotte, and City of Fort Lauderdale shared highlights of their COVID-19 response strategies to date.
The Time Is Now
Although shelter in place orders have ended for the most part, the health risk of the coronavirus is still very real. Summertime, when many people look for ways to get outside, is an important time to implement measures like the ones shared during the webinar to promote a safe environment for those who are walking, biking, dining, and supporting local businesses.
At Urbë Studio, we’ve worked on tactical urbanism projects ranging from transforming parking lots into a new public space in the heart of Downtown Miami, to demonstrating how a multi-lane roadway can be narrowed to provide for protected bike lanes and safer pedestrian crossings. This type of work is exciting and rewarding, as it provides us all the opportunity to be creative and respond to ever-changing circumstances to keep our communities moving forward as they respond to immediate needs, and also help envision the type of places they want to be. We would be happy to discuss ideas or challenges specific to your city related with tactical urbanism interventions or quick-build strategies, and invite you to reach out.
Thank you to Broward MPO for having this collaborative conversation and to all of the panelists for their insights! You can learn more about Broward MPO’s Complete Streets program here.
Tactical urbanism is not about achieving perfection; it’s about implementing impactful interventions that leverage short term action for long term change.
Image Credit: City of Tampa
Image Credit: City of Charlotte
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