13 May

Mapping Social Distancing in Urban Spaces

By Maya Garcia Fisher

At this current moment in time, it’s crucial that people maintain social distancing at all times. While this is easy to maintain at home, it becomes much harder when people need to leave their homes for the essentials. It’s often hard to predict how many people will also be on the hunt for groceries and household supplies, especially when living in urban environments that are known for their crowded environments and narrow sidewalks.

People are turning to technologies that can help inform civilians about how to effectively social distance. Sidewalk Widths NYC, designed by urban planner Meli Harvey, uses sidewalk data collected by the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to create a map that details the width of each street in New York City. Users can simply click on a street to see which streets are more easy or more difficult to maintain the required six feet of distance from one another.

Geospatial Data Scientist Matthew Holden was shocked by how people in his community would routinely move into the street to maintain social distancing while out and about. “While considerate, people should not have to make an on the fly mental calculation between potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19 or stepping into traffic.” After learning about Harvey’s map of the New York City area, Holden was inspired to create one that could be utilized in Washington D.C. Sidewalk Width D.C. was published by Holden after Harvey shared their code on Github and encouraged others to adapt the same map to their own cities.

At the current moment, New York City and Washington D.C. are the only American cities entirely mapped to help aid social distancing efforts, but be on the lookout for your city!