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City to pilot program closing portion of streets for social distancing

Charlottesville is moving forward with a pilot program to partially close streets to make social distancing easier for cyclists and pedestrians as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The pilot program will start Wednesday on the Belmont Bridge, which has a sidewalk on only one side of the road. Pedestrians will essentially share the bike lane to facilitate social distancing.

As traffic volumes have declined due to the pandemic, cities across the country have started partially or periodically closing streets to allow an increased number of cyclists and walkers to keep a safe distance.

Because Belmont Bridge/Ninth Street Southeast only has a sidewalk on one side of the road, people have to step into the roadway to pass each other.

The city will place traffic barrels on the street to keep vehicles from the shared-use area. Those safety measures will be in place for at least one week while the city collects public feedback.

The plan had stalled after the city’s traffic engineer and bicycle and pedestrian coordinator presented a plan in May to close or partially close five streets for a program aimed at increasing recreational safety amid the pandemic.

The plan presented also proposed similar measures on Shamrock Road/Trailridge Road; Westwood Road; Franklin Street; and the John W. Warner Parkway.

City spokesman Brian Wheeler said the length of the program could be extended. Asked about expanding to other streets, Wheeler said no definitive plans have been made. He said city staff and management will determine next steps after evaluating the pilot.

Southbound bicycles are only permitted on the asphalt section of the path while northbound cyclists will use the northbound travel lane. Pedestrians, who will be able to pass with six feet of distance between each other, are asked to give an audible signal when passing others. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians on the path.

Feedback on the program can be submitted to bikeped@charlottesville.gov.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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