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Boston to look at expanding sidewalks onto roadways, creating more dedicated bus lanes

COVID-19 Media Availability 5/11/20

Mayor Walsh said today that city transportation planners have started looking at expanding sidewalks out into the street, at least temporarily, to give restaurants and other businesses more room to conduct business as the weather gets nicer and they're still constrained by Covid-19 social-distancing requirements.

At a City Hall press conference, Walsh said the extra space would let restaurants add more patio seating to make up for the loss of seating inside their establishments.

Walsh said the effort would extend across all the city's business districts.

He acknowledged some people have asked him to just completely shut the restaurant-line Hanover Street in the North End, and he said the city will look at that, but the problem with the idea is public safety. Unlike in the Back Bay, which is a grid, which allows the city to shut down Newbury Street a couple times a year, the North End is the ultimate classic cow-path Boston area. He added the problem is compounded because the neighborhood's fire station is itself on Hanover Street.

Walsh said adding dedicated bus lanes could help the T run more frequent service as people go back to work to increase social distancing on certain traditionally congested routes, such as bus lines that connect South Boston with downtown.

Walsh added that his directive last week shutting down all public festivals and events only applies to city streets and spaces, and not to private facilities, such as Fenway Park.

He pointed to Major League Baseball's announcement it will try to start its season in July. "I'm not expecting fans to be in the stands in July right now," he said, adding, "I could be wrong, and I hope I'm wrong."

Walsh added that even as businesses begin to re-open, he is not expecting all office workers to immediately rush back to the office. He said that at City Hall, he's expecting that once it gets the OK to fully re-open, as many as 75% of workers would continue to work at home; and that managers have been asked to be especially careful with their employees who might be at higher risk for Covid-19 complications.

He said he saw more people wearing masks this past weekend, and urged people to keep it up. He said police have not written anybody a ticket for going maskless and said he will order them to do so only if things get out of hand.

Walsh said people need to stop maligning residents and staff at Boston nursing homes.

He said that as of May 9, 252 residents of the 39 nursing homes in Boston have died. That's 48% of all Covid-19 deaths in Boston, he said.



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Unlike in the Back Bay, which is a grid, which allows the city to shut down Newbury Street a couple times a year, the North End is the ultimate classic cow-path Boston area. He added the problem is compounded because the neighborhood's fire station is itself on Hanover Street.

FYI: It's a lot easier for pedestrians to move out of the way quickly than it is for cars stuck in traffic on a narrow road.


I can get not wanting restaurants to set up patio tables, etc to make sure there's room for fire trucks, but I don't see how closing the road to personal cars but not emergency vehicles makes anyone less safe here.


Leave your car at home and you won’t get stuck in traffic.

Edit. I just reread your comment and get what you are saying now.

We can assume you've never taken a bus.

Have you ever driven in a shared car-pedestrian space? It's REALLY slow going.

I expect people get out of the way pretty quickly when you are a 25 ton firetruck with lights, sirens and horns.

How fast is the truck moving while people get out of the way quickly? Much slower than on a street. An emergency responder isn't going to plow through a pedestrian mall at 25 mph, even with the siren going.

How fast is the truck moving while stuck in traffic? Much slower than on a street full of pedestrians. An emergency responder isn't getting through traffic jams easily, even with the siren going.

False dichotomy. The only options aren't traffic jam or pedestrian street. Most streets don't have a traffic jam most of the time.

But to answer your question, I'd estimate that a traffic jam where cars can squeeze to the sides would allow a fire truck to move about the same speed as a fire truck in a pedestrian mall.

Where the cabs seem to do about 40.

Washington Street doesn't feel like a pedestrian mall. It feels like walking in an abandoned street, so hardly anyone does it. And you're exaggerating -- cabs don't go 40.

Meanwhile, on actual pedestrian-friendly streets like Winter, how fast do the cabs go? They don't. There are delivery trucks, but they don't go 40 either, more like 5.

I've been in crowds where emergency vehicles had to show up before, and in my experience people are pretty quick to move out of the way once they hear those.

Thought experiment:

If you were driving a fire truck in an emergency, and you had the following hypothetical options to get to your destination, would you choose to drive on:

West Street with the cars?

Or Winter Street with the pedestrians who you think would quickly get out of the way?

The UK government is investing 2 billion (pounds right?) to boost cycling and walking both during and after the lockdown.


The £2 billion plan starts with £250 million to enable local authorities to pay for “pop-up” cycling and walking infrastructure to cater for physical distancing during lockdown.

And it really stresses urgency in implementing these measures:

And it’s this new rule book that is most exciting transport professionals: it removes time-consuming obstacles, it could prod reticent local authorities into action, and it stresses urgency. For some “active travel” advocates it’s compressing 30 years of campaigning for protected space for cyclists and pedestrians into just weeks.

And yes I realize this is national vs. local comparison, so its not entirely the same. The points of rapidly implementing these measures is whats really important.


Not a biker but I like seeing all the stuff that is coming from this. We need more of this, and it needs to stay.

Sad that it took a pandemic and people staying home to realize that we waste more space on black pavement for cars and less on actual space for people.

Glad to see bus lanes being snuck in here. Lets hope it stays. lets hope all it stays. But knowing our track record at "new exciting things that should stay".. they don't and its back to 'business as usual'

I hope the pandemic changes "business as usual". We need more opens spaces for people.

Just another item on that "horrible things we've learned during the pandemic about our country, our society and our way of life... that gotta change like now" list


Pandemics have changed our city in the past and will change it now. Parks were developed as a result of past cholera epidemics. I look forward to what this pandemic will bring to our city.

This is WAY overdue and so needed right now.
The city needs to ban smoking too. Not only are smokers not wearing a mask, if they are infected, their virus droplets are carried along with their secondhand smoke. Something to think about next time you smell it.
Nicotine addicts have plenty of smokeless options and have had for years.


I love the smokers (i was one myself)

Pulling the mask down to have a puff. I saw one guy kept putting up/pulling down the mask every few seconds to take a puff.

tbh I see so many mask faux pause that I get this overwhelming sense of "we're doomed" when I see it happening


*jazz hands*


Please show me a single reputable source that backs up the assertion that COVID is being transmitted through "nicotine droplets" passed along by smoke.


Mallika Marshall. This is what she wrote:

The virus doesn’t necessarily hitch a ride on smoke, but whenever someone smokes or vapes, they’re breathing out respiratory droplets. So if you’re near someone who is smoking and you can smell the smoke, and that person is sick with COVID-19, you’re at risk of getting sick yourself. Not to mention, long-term secondhand smoke exposure can damage the lungs and make you more susceptible to coronavirus complications.

So, the smoke may not be a vehicle, but it's an indicator that there's potentially-infected-person exhaust there, which you should avoid breathing.

The T needs to start limiting the number of passengers to comply with social distancing rules. It will be a major vector for infections once businesses start to return to full operation. If everyone else has to, why should the T be exempt?


If they do that, the MBTA needs to tell us the schedule and how many they let on the vehicles. This is so people can plan, especially after the first day of it.


Try standing in 20 degree weather for a #9 bus in the morning and can’t board more than 10 people due to social distancing. People will not stand for that.


Because that's exactly what you're suggesting. Crowded buses and trains need to be a thing of the past otherwise they're going to be major vectors for COVID infections. Masks won't do anything if you're shoulder to shoulder with 30 people for an hour. Nevermind all the stagnant air everyone is breathing in. Picking and choosing when to social distance doesn't work. It's all or nothing.

How do you propose providing enough service so buses limited to 10 people can carry everyone? The T would love to hear from you, considering they haven't been able to provide enough service on South Boston routes when buses can fill to physical capacity.

(I'm not convinced that a bus limited to 10 people is actually safe, but that's a separate issue.)

The afternoon bus lane on Washington Street (going from Forest Hills to the Roslindale Sq) still hasn't been put into place. It was originally pushed back to Spring 2020 despite the success of the AM lane, and yet the city has done nothing up to now...

Similarly, the repainting of the Silver Line bus lanes all along Washington Street in Roxbury/South End was scheduled for Winter 2019/Spring 2020 - again, nothing has been done, even though it is long overdue - the lanes were first (and last) painted at least a decade ago.

Sure, Covid might have thrown in a wrench or two, but painting the street is nothing compared to the (uninterrupted) GLX or Blue Line work. The fact that bus lanes are falling off the priority list is troubling.

We might have the "most diverse" elected city government ever, but that doesn't seem to translate into much tangible impact for the people that they allegedly represent.


that diversity is almost all within the powerless council. Marty's office is pretty much old school and that's where the rubber meets the road.

Well, if it was scheduled for Spring 2020 implementation, it's kind of easy to see why it might have been delayed at the moment.

The virus will be a distant memory by time the city comes up with a plan, debates it in half a dozen committees, listens to frivolous complaints from neighborhood associations, puts it up for vote in city council, and finally sends out the transportation department to close off the roads.

Might be just in time for the next pandemic, but don’t see them moving fast enough to do anything for us this time around


This is not going to become a distant memory. It's much more likely to be the beginning of a new age in human history. Immunologists have been warning us for years that something like this was going to happen, and now it has. That does not mean it's not going to happen again. Even if we develop a vaccine for this virus, that won't protect us from the next one. That fact is going to make us change the way we live our lives. It's already happening, and the Trumpist clamoring to reopen all the closed businesses is just going to kill a lot of people and illustrate that the old economy has to change.

What do you do for your community, go on bike rides to brew pubs? Get your nose out of whatever device you are addicted to, and do something for people other than yourself.

Neighborhood associations are by and large groups of people doing something against not for other people.

the North End is the ultimate classic cow-path Boston area

Come on, Adam. That's been debunked over and over again. The North End is what it is because it used to be a peninsula barely attached to the rest of the city by a land bridge. The hill was subdivided as evenly as possible but then the land around it was backfilled and new streets were added to the backfill rather than reorganizing everything. That's led to shells of streets around nuclei of other streets.


Here in West Roxbury the opposite is happening. Drivers park there cars on the sidewalks, further narrowing them. This has always been an issue but is worse now that we are trying to stay apart from each other and drivers are speeding even more, making walking into the street every time a MAGAmobile blocks the sidewalk. 311 reporting is useless, they mark as 'area clear' even when the vehicles are still there.