10 intervenciones en las ciudades que mitigan el contagio de la COVID-19 y a largo plazo mejoran la salud en general

10 Urban Interventions to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 and Improve Public Health in the Long Term

Carrer Pau Claris ciclista COVID
Photo: Mònica Moreno/Ajuntament de Barcelona - A cyclist with a mask is riding through the expansion of the bike lane on Pau Claris street (Barcelona).

Can cities make quick fixes to slow the spread of COVID-19? Could these changes also help to improve our overall health and well-being? Low-cost, temporary interventions that cities can implement quickly are known as tactical urbanism. One example would be widening pavements to allow more physical distance between people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since these rapid interventions often improve the overall health and well-being of the population, they may be made permanent to improve the urban fabric and promote public health.

Tactical urbanism interventions designed to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus also improve air quality, reduce noise levels, encourage physical activity, reduce the risk of traffic accidents, benefit mental health and prevent non-communicable diseases. They also promote social equity—provided that the health of vulnerable populations and essential workers is prioritised—and can reduce the demand for health services.

Low-cost, temporary interventions that cities can implement quickly are known as tactical urbanism. One example would be widening pavements to allow more physical distance between people during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ten urban interventions designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are summarised below. Cities should consider implementing these interventions at least until a treatment or vaccine becomes widely available. Most of these measures could be made permanent to benefit people more broadly in the long term.

1. General recommendations

  • Discourage people with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection from using public spaces and public transport
  • Encourage physical distancing (minimum 2 metres) and avoid crowding
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Expand public spaces
  • Restrict access to public spaces if physical distancing is not possible
  • Prioritise interventions for vulnerable groups and essential workers
  • Promote traffic safety through information campaigns and enforce the rules of the road
  • Provide clear, accessible instructions about physical distancing rules and the changes introduced through tactical urbanism (areas affected, uses allowed and special hours)

2. Expanding pedestrian spaces and cycle networks

  • Encourage walking and cycling
  • Widen and lengthen pavements and cycleways and improve connections to promote physical distancing and traffic safety
  • Reduce pressure on parks and public spaces by widening pavements and adding cycleways in the surrounding area
  • Create protected cycle lanes
  • Expand bicycle parking areas
  • Establish special hours and routes for vulnerable populations (e.g. older or immunocompromised people) to walk or cycle
  • Expand pedestrian and cycling infrastructure using existing proposals
  • Encourage cyclists to wear helmets

3. Providing recreational paths (for cycling, walking, running, etc.)

  • Create and expand existing networks
  • Enforce physical distancing
  • Avoid crowding
  • Establish special hours for vulnerable populations
  • Use traffic-management protocols for recreational cycleways to support the expansion of new pavements and cycle lanes

4. Adapting parks and public spaces

  • Keep open large public spaces (e.g. parks and squares) that allow for physical distancing
  • Enlarge smaller public spaces
  • Enforce physical distancing
  • Expand parking areas for bicycles and scooters
  • Establish special hours for vulnerable populations
  • Avoid crowding by providing information and establishing visiting hours for different population groups

5. Adapting traffic lights, signage and speed limits

  • Replace button-activated traffic lights with automatic systems
  • Adjust the timing of traffic lights to favour pedestrians and cyclists
  • Add clear, accessible signage to support tactical urbanism measures
  • Incorporate recommendations about staying home and practising physical distancing into permanent and temporary signage
  • Reduce speed limits throughout the city

6. Adapting public transport, shared micromobility and vehicle sharing

  • Implement strict cleaning protocols and ensure effective ventilation of vehicles and stations
  • Allow rear-door bus boarding
  • Suspend manual fare collection or offer free public transport to prevent passenger interaction with bus drivers and ticket-office employees
  • Distribute masks, goggles, gloves and hand sanitiser to drivers and passengers
  • Limit passenger-driver interaction
  • Enforce physical distancing
  • Leave an empty row between passengers
  • Reduce maximum capacity and increase service frequency on high-demand routes
  • Install physical barriers (sneeze guards, etc.)
  • Establish special hours for vulnerable populations and provide support services for essential workers
  • Promote bicycle-sharing schemes
  • Expand parking areas for bicycles and scooters
  • Offer shared micromobility systems (scooters, bikes, e-bikes, etc.) at bus and metro stops to encourage intermodal travel and reduce time spent in enclosed spaces and physical proximity
  • Discourage vehicle sharing (carpooling, vanpooling, etc.)

7. Concentrating motorised traffic

  • Channel motorised traffic into a small number of routes and create car-free streets
  • Where possible, restrict delivery vehicles to main streets outside of office hours (early morning and late afternoon) to avoid overlap with cyclists, pedestrians and other modes of transport.

8. Adapting essential businesses

  • Designate bicycle shops as essential services
  • Widen pavements to accommodate queues outside shops and create spaces for enlarged outdoor restaurant terraces and open-air markets
  • Avoid crowding
  • Enforce physical distancing rules
  • Designate loading and unloading zones

9. Provide non-motorised access to COVID-19 testing sites

  • In countries where COVID-19 testing sites and other health services can only be accessed by car (United States, South Korea, etc.), provide access by other modes of transport to reduce pollution levels and promote social equity

10. Adapting shelters and services for homeless people

  • Provide and adapt shelters and services for homeless people to allow for physical distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures


Related contents

Infographic: Tactical Urbanism for COVID-19: Short-Term Interventions with a Long-Time Health Vision