Room to move: COVID-19 street reallocations in four Canadian cities

Authors: Jaimy Fischer, Simon Fraser University, Caislin Firth, Simon Fraser University, Meghan Winters*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Environmental Justice, Canada
Keywords: active transportation, COVID-19, urban form
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Cities are rapidly implementing street reallocations - interventions that expand street space for active transportation or physical distancing - in response to COVID-19. These interventions provide space for walking and cycling, but may impede other mobility needs (e.g., essential workers, deliveries). Informed by mobility justice frameworks, we examined socio-spatial differences in access to street reallocations in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna (British Columbia), and Halifax (Nova Scotia).

We compiled data from websites and media from April - October 2020. From these we described implementation strategies, mapped street reallocations, and documented inequalities in access to interventions. We continue to accrue available data on use and public perceptions of these interventions to understand mobility justice impacts.

Most cities acted swiftly, although failed to seek community input on planning and implementation. The scale of responses ranged substantially: Halifax added an ~ 20% to their bicycle network, and Kelowna closed only one street. Implementation patterns varied, although in all cities, interventions were in areas with fewer children. Aside from in Vancouver, interventions were less likely to be in areas with more people of color. In Victoria, Halifax, and Vancouver, more interventions were in lower income areas.

Cities can use street reallocation initiatives as opportunities to engage with communities and address their mobility needs. To advance mobility justice going forward, it is imperative for cities to understand who benefits from these interventions and whose mobility is disrupted by them, and to welcome communities to transform temporary street reallocations into corridors for their own mobility.

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