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brooklyn bridge sidewalk
Photograph: Shutterstock

Interactive map shows most NYC sidewalks aren’t wide enough for social distancing

By
Shaye Weaver
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If you've had to zig-zag across streets to avoid coming into close contact with others, you're not alone—most city streets aren't wide enough to properly social distance, according to a new map created by Brooklyn urban planner Meli Harvey.

Harvey, a 32-year-old Brooklyn resident, gathered information from the city's planimetric sidewalk dataset to create the map, which you can access at sidewalkwidths.nyc. Now, you can actually see which sidewalks are better to avoid during this period of social distancing.

The map shows the city's grids and streets, block by block, as different colors. Hovering over a given sidewalk tells you how wide it is and whether you can safely distance yourself by six feet there—blue lines mean there should be enough space, and red means it's just too narrow. There's a lot of red.

Notably, there's tons of red all over Dyker Heights, Flatbush, Astoria, Downtown Manhattan, the West Village and the Lower East Side.

This is important information, especially since the fine for not social distancing is $1,000 and the number of confirmed cases is at nearly 135,000 in New York City.

"When the pandemic hit, all of the sudden the rules that governed how people interact in public space we're turned upside down," Harvey tells us. "Everyone became hyper-aware about how qualities of the street impacted their ability to maintain social distance. I wanted to document one factor that plays an important role in determining the ease at which someone can socially distance on the street."

To do this, she had to determine how to measure the sidewalks with what little information the city has published about sidewalks.

"I hope this map can contribute to the conversation around how we use public space, and where street closures might be an appropriate measure," she says. "However, pandemic aside, I hope people will think more about how our public spaces create our experiences as pedestrians. The map serves as a artifact of how the planning practices of the last centuries have impacted our pedestrian landscapes."

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