People of all ages, races, and ethnicities deserve access to safe outdoor spaces. Especially now, when data suggests that COVID-19 transmission rates may be significantly lower outdoors than indoors, and when safe, distanced exercise is encouraged by public health officials as a part of COVID-19 response efforts, we must strive to support our communities with public policy and urban design that create opportunities for healthy outcomes.
To reduce the further spread and resurgence of COVID-19 and to help individuals better manage their personal risk as societies and commerce re-open, city governments can provide infrastructure that supports safety and the ability for individuals to comply more easily with public health guidelines around physical distancing. These efforts are critical during the pandemic and into the future because of the tremendous benefits of physical activity for reducing the risk of heart disease, improving mood, mental health, and weight control, along with significant benefits for one’s immune system.
Healthy, safe, and equitable communities are possible—communities where everyone who wants to walk has access to well-maintained sidewalks, where bicyclists have access to dedicated bicycle lanes that are part of city-wide networks, where kids can play in the road, and where transit users can travel safely and reliably. These strategies can be adopted and implemented by city leaders who embrace the urgent need for lasting change during this unprecedented time.
Keshia M. Pollack Porter, PhD, MPH
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health