Redesigning public spaces to accommodate social distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has made gathering in public spaces a challenge, with physical distancing recommended as a means of minimizing exposure. Much of existing public shared spaces cannot accommodate social distancing. As a result, infrastructure owners/operators have adopted different design strategies to promote physical distancing in public shared spaces. But have they been effective at improving public compliance?

A project implemented by the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, that repurposed several travel lanes served as a case study. Using video data, researchers Maged Gouda, S.M.ASCE; Jie Fan; Kelly Luc; Shewkar Ibrahim, Ph.D., P.Eng.; and Karim El-Basyouny, Ph.D., P.Eng., investigated the effectiveness of the redesign, usage patterns, physical distancing violations, and the impact the redesign had on traffic safety. The video footage covered all the shared spaces, and the team was able to account for accurate measurement of distances to check compliance.