Boston Mayor Marty Walsh discussed creative ideas to maintain social distancing in public spaces as the City looks toward reopening plans during a media briefing on May 11, 2020.
The City has been looking for ways to expand space for pedestrians, small business customers, cyclists, and bus commuters. Starting at 7:25 in the video, Mayor Walsh shares some possible solutions:
- Expanding sidewalks in business districts to help with physical distancing, especially where people wait in line for businesses following new capacity guidelines;
- Opening entire lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, which could also calm traffic speeds.;
- Expanding bus stops and making buses priorities on the road.
If the City decides any of these strategies will help meet social distancing and public safety goals, proposals will be developed for specific locations and shared with the community for feedback before proceeding.
Walsh went on to say that restaurants likely will not open at 100% capacity and many do not have outdoor dining, so is there a way to give restaurants some outside space? One member of the media asked specifically about Hanover Street in the North End, where restaurants are small and sidewalks are tight. Would Mayor Walsh consider shutting down Hanover St. to vehicles entirely so restaurants could bring tables onto the sidewalk?
Walsh said there are some public safety concerns with this because it could be difficult to get emergency vehicles in and around the area without the use of Hanover Street. He re-emphasized that the City is looking at many different ideas and will be reaching out to the community for input.
For buses, Mayor Walsh discussed the need to minimize crowds on buses, potentially through new dedicated bus lanes to allow for more frequent service.
In a recent NorthEndWaterfront.com poll, voters were pretty evenly split on the idea of closing Hanover St. to cars in order to expand dining, with 50.3% of voters saying, “Yes, let’s try it,” and 41.27% voting, “No, don’t shut it down.” In a lively conversation in the comments section, those in support said it would benefit North End businesses and allow for a better pedestrian experience. Those against the idea expressed concerns that this would only benefit tourists and cited the issue of fire trucks needing to exit the Hanover St. fire station.
The Boston City Council recently discussed options to reallocate street space to create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists, both in terms of maintaining social distancing as well as continuing the efforts of Vision Zero to make city streets safer. The Council will have a hearing on implementing changes for safe streets during and after the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, May 12 at 5:30 p.m.