The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s way of life, but we are all trying to continue to work by adapting how we do business. Part of my job is staying on top of the bridge world. I’ve been reading about the ways COVID-19 is changing bridge operations. I am not talking about the shut downs in transportation projects that the press has already reported on. These are common sense actions that agencies have taken to maintain social distancing.
In some cities, narrow pedestrian bridges have been closed to help prevent people from coming into close contact because the crossing is not wide enough to practice social distancing of two meters or six feet. With the increased use of these spans by pedestrians and cyclists over the past five years, a number of newer pedestrian bridges and sidewalks have been built with widths of 10 to 14 feet [three meters to more than four meters]. Higher traffic may have motivated the rationale, but the wider width yielded an unexpected benefit. Users can pass each other while maintaining the proper social distance. This is an important advantage as walks with your family are one of the few activities allowed right now. One could even say that more family walks is a silver lining.
Older structures with narrow sidewalks on both sides of the vehicle bridge have transitioned to one way pedestrian flow on each side. In some cases, this means more commuters are crossing vehicle lanes. But the change in foot traffic patterns also points to another pandemic silver lining. With vehicle traffic nearly cut in half because of shelter-in-place orders, crossing issues are also reduced.
Some toll bridges are no longer accepting cash payments. This will probably accelerate the current push towards standardizing installation of automated systems.
I hope and pray that you, your families and friends are doing as well as possible. Since humor does help deal with difficult realities, I will close with some bridge humor from one of my favorite comic strips—Calvin and Hobbes. Just click this link if you want a chuckle.