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Closing some city streets to enable walkers and bikers right thing to do during pandemic | READER COMMENTARY

A bicyclist uses the marked bike path that runs along North Charles Street. But with substantially less vehicular traffic during the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore has an opportunity to close down entire streets to cars and trucks to further facilitate biking and walking.
A bicyclist uses the marked bike path that runs along North Charles Street. But with substantially less vehicular traffic during the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore has an opportunity to close down entire streets to cars and trucks to further facilitate biking and walking. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

We agree with Dr. Keshia M. Pollack Porter and Eli Pousson of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (“Baltimore should close some streets for walking, biking during pandemic,” April 28). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance encourages outdoor recreation close to home, but many Baltimoreans — especially those with lower incomes — lack safe spaces to do so nearby. Opening up more streets for social distancing would address this problem and it can be done quickly, easily and cheaply.

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of U.S. cities have opened up streets to create more space for socially-distanced walking and biking. Oakland limited vehicular traffic on 74 miles of streets, Philadelphia closed some streets within parks to car, and Washington, D.C., expanded sidewalks around grocery stores in locations in every ward in the city.

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Baltimore has expanded walking and biking access on 1.5 miles roads at Lake Montebello and in Druid Hill Park. It’s a start, but Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the Baltimore Department of Transportation should create more open streets and slow streets throughout the city and not just within parks. Eleven members of the City Council have called on the city to do this. Right now, trade-offs between car traffic and giving people the space they need are minimized as traffic volumes continue at historic lows.

When the lockdown started, it was understandable that Baltimore did not open streets immediately. City leaders were understandably deluged with emergency matters and this policy approach was relatively novel. Six weeks later, as the need to open streets has become clearer, and as many other cities have managed to do just that, our understanding has given way to disappointment that Baltimore may once again pass up the opportunity to embrace a smart public policy innovation. We ask the city to please act now and open up select streets to non-vehicular traffic.

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Andrew Dupuy and Phil Lovegren, Baltimore

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