Just a few months ago, U.S. roadways began to see a decline in roadway traffic as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic canceling major events and keeping people out of the office and safe in their homes.
As the months have passed since various states began lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus, one thing has become clear: many folks have grown restless from being stuck at home all day. Even as more states have opened back up, many are still attempting to limit interaction with others, while simultaneously trying to spend some much-needed time outdoors.
I can personally attest to this as someone who has been working remotely at home for the past four months—now more than ever, getting outside is such a refreshing experience after spending an overwhelming amount of time indoors. The trouble comes when trying to avoid others while I take walks. Sure, I personally choose to wear a mask, but not everyone in my neighborhood does so while spending time outside. And there is only so much space for one to keep their distance from other pedestrians.
Which brings me to one of the topics featured this month. The city of Austin discusses the changing transportation landscape in the feature “Austin Transportation operations shift to meet community needs during COVID-19”. The city has adopted a Healthy Streets Initiative, which is designed to open street space for walking, running, biking, and other activities that promote physical and mental health, while limiting automobile access in select areas designated as a Healthy Street zone. With a directive from the Austin City Council, Austin Transportation staff worked to open six street segments throughout the city so people could more comfortably use these low-traffic areas for activities like walking, wheelchair rolling, running, and bicycling with enough space to maintain physical distance, through the use of “soft closures.” The areas designated as Healthy Streets include signage informing travelers to drive slowly for the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other travelers not using a motorized vehicle.
Speaking of safety, another feature this month addresses efforts to meet Vision Zero—a goal to achieve zero traffic-related deaths or serious injuries on roadways. The Vision Zero team from the city of Chicago shares some of the progress made in the feature “Vision Zero program makes quick and effective changes to roads for traffic safety”. This includes the recently developed High Crash Corridor Framework Plan to organize upgrades to roadway design. The plan includes guidelines for infrastructure improvements on the 70 miles of High Crash Corridors (HCCs)—streets identified to have higher concentrations of severe traffic crashes in the Chicago area. This plan recommends varying degrees of design interventions that include rapid delivery projects (RDP), capital improvements, and street transformations.
You can read these features and more on safety by visiting the Traffic Safety channel of the Traffic & Transit website. You can also check out our final feature for this month: “High Resolution Traffic Monitoring at the Speed of Light,” which discusses how the Georgia DOT is exploring innovative fiber optic sensing technology for traffic speed detection.
Happy reading, and stay safe!