Tab Combs Profile picture
22 Feb, 33 tweets, 14 min read
In 2020, @carlosfpardo and I reviewed over 1000 local mobility responses to #COVID19. Our findings are published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives.
Here, we summarize our key takeaways and link to the open access article. 🧵
It all started in March 2020, when I thought "hey I should make a list of ways cities are responding to this virus thing." And I put out a call for information on twitter. (2/)

Little did I know how much information y’all (the twitterverse and rest of the world) had for me. You almost broke my google account. (3/)
Luckily the amazing folks at @pedbikeinfo noticed and said, “you look like you could use a hand with that data. Can we help?” (4/)
Not long after, @carlosfpardo asked me, “whatcha gonna do with all that data? I have an idea…” And then he, @larottafelipe, & @CaroFeNdez transformed my spreadsheet into a snazzy database with distinct categories, fancy filters, and new variables. (5/)
Kudos to @diagiraldo & @Miguel_CuellarS for using their programming skills to organize everything. It wasn't easy. (6/)
Carlos & his team also integrated 2 other datasets in with mine: (1), from @WEF @numoalliance @tsrcitsberkeley @tuminitiative @TNO_Research @POLISnetwork @UrbanismNext @Transport_Links (& others) and (2) one from planner @mikelydon. (7/)
These 3 very different datasets were merged & harmonized and voila: the #ShiftingStreets database was born. (8/)
Integrating, merging, cleaning, & verifying the data took several weeks. SEVERAL. Many people poured TONS of effort into this massive new spreadsheet of actions that happened Mar-Aug 2020. And this is just a first step. (9/)

Meanwhile, @jpmarin & his team at @datasketch created a nifty open source visualization platform where you can see all this data in graphs and maps – check it out ⤵️(10/)…
Carlos & I then sat down to write. Our goals: lay out a roadmap for others to use & build on the data, make preliminary observations abt what actually happened on streets around the world, identify takeaways for transport planning, & establish an agenda for future research. (11/)
What happened on the streets? A LOT. Most of the actions we found took place in North America, Europe, & Latin America. We didn’t find much in Africa or Asia…we’ll explore that in our next article. But for now, suffice it to say that many cities are doing many things. (12/)
The largest share of those many things is reallocation of traffic lanes to walking & cycling (13% of actions), followed by partial street closures (11%), #streateries & the like, automation of walk signals, and creation of emergency transport plans. (13/)
We have a chart that explains what all these actions mean. If it's hard to see here, go check out the hi-res version in the paper. (14/)
We also organized these actions according to where they took place in space (e.g., intersections, parking lanes, entire roadways). Again, you can see a high-res version in the article. (15/)
And we categorized actions based on their apparent purposes according to press releases & civic websites. Given (or implied) reasons for action included moving people (46%), public health (29%), and economic recovery (16%). (16/)
Finally, we plotted the uptake of actions over time. There’s a cool story here, we think, and we plan to explore it more in the future. You can read the short version in the article. The solid black line in the picture is ‘create street space for peds & bikes,’ btw. (17/)
So what? Here’s what. First: it’s clear that improving conditions for walking, cycling, and other non-driving road uses is actually possible, quick, and (can be) easy. It’s cheap & requires no additional road space. (18/)
A newfound tolerance for temporary materials makes it possible to actually trial, tweak, & (if needed) trash new ideas, potentially shortening the timeline for analyzing, modeling, projecting, debating, and delaying ped/bike facilities for years upon years (19/)
However, there are some important parts that could have gone a lot better. There are big questions about public engagement, consistency with existing plans, sustainability & equity in implementation, management, enforcement… (20/)
Cities were in crisis mode, & there’s clearly much work to be done to make sure they’re better equipped to address such disruptions in the future.

Amazing ppl like @TamikaButler & @DrDesThePlanner & @ctbrown1911 have had a lot to say about this, btw. Follow them. (21/)
What’s going to become of all these actions? Excellent question. Some have already been discarded; others have already been made permanent. But most we don’t know about (yet)…if you have on-going info about actions in our database, pls send it to us (22/)…
There’s still much to learn. Our paper ends by setting out five main areas for further research. 1st: how did cities’ mobility responses to COVID-19 arise? We’ve deduced what we can from press releases, news articles, and social media, but we really need to dig deeper. (23/)
2. Have cities’ COVID-19 responses  changes in travel patterns & behaviors? We can’t tell with our data, but we & others have been working different angles to answer this question…for example, check out the European Mobility Atlas (24/)…
3, super crucial: How were benefits from cities’ COVID-19 responses distributed? There’s a ton of evidence that the answer here is “not equitably...” (25/)
...Mobility disparities can’t be solved with pop-up bike lanes, and 2020 laid bare the fact that the transport sector has a long way to go to address systemic injustices in who gets to use streets. (26/)
4. Are walking & cycling facilities implemented quickly, with temporary materials, as safe as (or safer than) conventionally deployed facilities? Or can they be? This would be a really good thing to find out. (27/)
And 5: How has COVID-19 shaped how cities conduct public engagement, and how does public engagement shape cities’ responses to disruptions like COVID? (28/)
...Some cities’ approaches may serve as bright lights, and hopefully a new set of best practices for truly just, participatory planning practices will start to emerge from these examples. (29/)
Side note: if you want to learn more about these bright lights and emerging best practices, I highly recommend watching @BikeWalkNC’s two keynote presentations from their 2020 summit, by Oakland CA’s @warrenmobility and @DCRPCarolina’s Dr. Danielle Spurlock (30/)
OK, that about sums it up. But before you go read the paper, please check out our data. And if you know of actions we missed, or have more to share about what happened in your city, please let us know! (31/)
Ha. Almost forgot. Here’s the paper, titled “Shifting Streets COVID-19 Mobility Data: Findings from a global dataset and a research agenda for transport planning and policy.”

Please check it out (it’s open access)! (32/32)…
THIS! This was the action that inspired me to start collecting data about how cities were reallocating street space during the pandemic. 👇

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More from @DrTCombs

25 Jun 20
At long last, I'm thrilled to announce the publication of this groundbreaking, fully illustrated book on strategies to transform streets for bicycles. First time author.
Hit me up for an autographed copy.
In all seriousness, we started this project after her kindergarten teachers made a veiled threat to hold her back b/c she refused to write on command.
After schools closed, we wanted to see what would happen if we let her write about something she was passionate about...
...& gave her a purpose (i.e., a "book deal").

2 months later, we've got 25 gorgeous pages, some legit good ideas, & 1 very proud rising 1st grader.

Moral of the story: kids don't like appreciate busy work either. Give them a chance to show off w/ their own passions instead!
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