Government to fund extra wide footpaths to maintain social distancing

Author
Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 12 Apr 2020, 2:07PM
Streets like High Street in Auckland could soon become common place. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Streets like High Street in Auckland could soon become common place. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Government to fund extra wide footpaths to maintain social distancing

Author
Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 12 Apr 2020, 2:07PM

The Government is helping councils expand footpaths and roll out temporary cycleways to help people keep 2 metres apart after the level 4 lockdown is lifted.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said when people begin to return to city centres after the lockdown "we want them to have enough space to maintain physical distance".

"Some of our footpaths in busy areas are quite narrow. Temporary footpath extensions mean people can give each other a bit more space without stepping out onto the road," she said today.

Funding will come from the Innovating Streets for People pilot fund, which supports projects using "tactical urbanism" techniques such as pilots and pop-ups, or interim treatments that make it safer and easier for people walking and cycling in the city.

"Footpath extensions would use basic materials like planter boxes and colourful paint to carve out a bit more space in the street for people walking, like we've seen on High St and Federal St in Auckland," said Genter.

"A number of cities around the world, including New York, Berlin and Vancouver, have rolled out temporary bike lanes to provide alternatives to public transport, which people may be less inclined to use in the short term.

"Councils are able to use highly-visible plastic posts, planter boxes and other materials to create temporary separated bike lanes where people feel safe.

"It's now up to councils to put forward projects." The NZ Transport Agency will help councils make the changes.

"While planning can start during lockdown the rollout of temporary changes will not happen while we remain at alert level 4.

"Councils can apply now for funding from the NZ Transport Agency, who will cover 90 per cent of the cost of rolling out temporary changes to the streetscape," Genter said.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the money would help his council develop widened footpaths and new cycleways in areas including the city centre and South Auckland where programmes are already under way.

"In the past two weeks we've seen a surge of individuals and families in their bubbles heading outdoors and making the most of the walking and cycling in their neighbourhoods, with some locations seeing a 100 per cent increase in use compared to the same period last year," Goff said.

Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said: "Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have successfully trialled tactical urbanism treatments like planter boxes and paint in the city centre to create new cycleways and wider footpaths.

"Additional funding would enable us to quickly widen more footpaths in busy areas and deliver more separated cycleways so people can enjoy their streets and keep a physical distance at the same time."

Ellison said the funding could speed up major projects like Access for Everyone in the city centre and the Safe and Healthy Streets programme in South Auckland.