Shared Curbs

22 May 2020

What changes are being made to extend sidewalks and who is making them?

The Shared Streets approach will be applied to lower volume residential streets; however, there is also a need for more pedestrian space on busier arterials and in commercial districts so that pedestrians are able to safely maintain physical distance in these locations.

The basic approach is to shift all uses over by 5-10 feet - the sidewalks get extended into the parking lane and parking space is transitioned into one of the driving lanes. Similar to our approach with Shared Streets, extended sidewalks will be implemented with cones and other easily moveable materials that allow us to make adjustments very easily, if needed.

The Mobility Division is planning and implementing this intervention in phases and with close coordination with businesses and with a focus on high-volume or congested locations. In addition, given the extreme density of the city and the multiple demands on our open space and outdoor areas, as we implement extended sidewalks, we are working closely with several other divisions and departments in the city, including Public Space and Urban Forestry, Infrastructure and Asset Management, and Economic Development among others to understand all of the competing uses, the needs of businesses, and potential impacts from construction projects and detours.


What changes are being made to parking and who is making them?

We are working to convert some 2-hour metered parking spaces to temporary short-term parking (15 minute) spaces in business districts and in front of businesses. We are doing this by placing bags over parking meters and installing new 15 minute parking signs.

Similar to the work being done to expand sidewalks in certain high traffic and commercial areas, we recognize that some residents do need to drive to make essential trips. Additionally, as businesses reopen, many of them will continue to operate in more of a pick-up/drop-off capacity. Because of these resident and business needs during the pandemic, the Mobility Division is working with the Parking Department, the Infrastructure and Asset Management Department, business owners, and others to understand, plan, and implement needed changes to parking policies during this time.


Why are we expanding sidewalks and adding short term parking spaces?

We have all noticed (and we have heard from many of our constituents!) that many sidewalks in Somerville are not wide enough to maintain necessary physical distancing during this time. We know that people need to be out and making essential trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, food banks, and we all need space to be able to make these trips safely.

Additionally, as businesses reopen and the weather gets warmer, there is even more need for space - space for people to wait in line to enter stores or for curbside pickup, space for more people to get out to enjoy the warm weather, and continued space for people who do need to drive to have short-term parking spaces for curbside pickup.

Shifting the uses of the public right-of-way - expanding the pedestrian space while maintaining space in front of businesses for short-term parking needs - allows us to make better use of our limited sidewalk and street area to balance these competing demands while also following public health best practices of maintaining physical distance.


How do people use Shared Curbs?

It is critical that we all appreciate that the implementation of an approach like Shared Curbs can significantly change the mobility landscape for some of our residents who rely on wide sidewalks with smooth, uninterrupted surfaces and accessible curb ramps. Part of practicing physical distancing and each doing our part to keep our community healthy is making sure that people who need to use the sidewalks (instead of the expanded pedestrian area in the streets) are able to, and that residents who are more vulnerable or have mobility impairments have the right-of-way when maneuvering sidewalks.

The city’s intention with expanding sidewalk space is to allow more room for physical distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart) and to creatively accommodate the multiple uses that our sidewalks and streets must meet - walking, rolling, waiting in line, driving, to name a few. Expanded sidewalks are NOT places to gather or play outside of individual households; everyone should continue to maintain at least 6’ of distance from others outside your immediate household.


If I’m a business owner, how can I request to be considered for a short-term parking space?

Fill out this survey and someone from the Mobility Division will be in contact with you.


How can I give feedback or report a problem?

In addition to giving us feedback right on this page (by taking the brief survey, adding to the map, or asking us a question), you can also email us at Transportation@somervillema.gov.


You can also always give feedback by contacting the City’s 311 Constituent Services Division by calling 3-1-1 (TTY 866-808-4851) or 617-666-3311 from outside the City. You can reach 311 via the 311 mobile app, twitter (@311Somerville), or email (311updates@somervillema.gov).


Are other cities doing this?

Yes. Along with our strategies for Shared Streets and hands-free signals, numerous cities in Massachusetts, around the country, and around the world are implementing temporary solutions to expand sidewalks and provide short-term parking during this time. Here’s one good example from across the river in Bookline.

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