In early May, Asheville on Bikes provided feedback to several members of the Asheville Multi-Modal Transportation Commission who were preparing a set of recommendations for changes to Asheville’s streets to create more opportunities for social distancing and commerce. We are still supportive of those changes that allow for business and people to safely operate in the right of way. We want you to read the pdf that was provided to City staff on May 15th, 2020.
Download the MMTC COVID-19 PDF
That linked pdf is not an official City of Asheville plan, and we know that City staff are working on their own plans that incorporate at least some of the ideas shown in this draft. We urge them to publish their plans and a timeline for making changes to our streets to make our community safer and to help ailing businesses who are now reopening.
Four important truths about the COVID-19 pandemic
- Personal interactions and commerce are best conducted outdoors, where the risk of spread is lower;
- People with strong immune systems and good health fare better when infected;
- Maintaining some social distance and mask wearing is prudent and both should be a normal practice;
- This pandemic is not ending anytime soon, since the disease will recur until we have a vaccine safely administered to a large number of people or achieve equivalent herd immunity.
To accommodate those facts, we want the City of Asheville to re-purpose the public right of way to make more space for commerce, social distancing, for people on foot, or for riding a bicycle.
These changes should be made with paint, tape, movable barricades, and other similar temporary materials. This is a form of tactical urbanism, as a crisis response.
It’s imperative we allocate some of the extra space to help our local businesses by allowing them to more easily serve customers outside. We have written to the City of Asheville asking them to act and make these changes – you can read our April 29th letter here. We also tested our sidewalks directly and found that, in most places in Asheville, it is currently impossible to follow the guidelines for controlling the spread of COVID-19.
Learn From Other Cities and Experts
Jeff Speck laid out the clear rationale for these changes in a recent presentation for the City of Boston. You can watch his excellent Boston COVID-19 presentation here.
Tampa, FL released an excellent plan. Read the Tampa plan here.
Oakland, CA created a network of low speed streets using only a map drawn by the City and volunteer actions from neighbors. Learn about how they did it in this 2 minute video.
Use the NACTO COVID-19 Response Kit
This kit is excellent and has been released by one of the most highly trusted authorities on City Planning and street design in the United States, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
The NACTO crisis response guide shows street designs, materials, and examples. The guide is written for problem solvers, city staffers, and citizens who are working during the crisis. You can download the NACTO COVID-19 Response Guide here.
The City of Asheville Should Act Now
Our new downtown delivery zones are a small step in the right direction but we must go further and faster. As a City, we should not wait, because waiting means people get sick who might have otherwise avoided illness. The safest path forward is to make changes to our streets now, then test and tune as we go.