What the Pandemic’s ‘Open Streets’ Really Revealed

To get a better understanding of the relationship between Covid-era open streets and urban inequality, myself and Yuqing Zhang, a student at Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, examined the geography of pandemic-inspired road closures. In our research, we found a total of 163 different programs during 2020 and 2021 across 157 U.S. municipalities (41 cities contained multiple programs, and several counties organized programs). California launched the most programs, with 37, but 35 states ultimately closed off streets to vehicular traffic. Of these, the majority (84%) were designated as temporary (a total of 18 are being considered for permanent status, as of summer 2021), and the vast majority (94%) lasted less than six months. These findings comport with the 2020 Menino Survey of Mayors from Boston University, which found that of the mayors surveyed, “very few … plan to make these closures permanent.”