Parking Lots, Public Spaces, Social Distancing, and Safety

By Rob Reiter

Six months into dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are finding ways to keep commerce moving amid many restrictions on use, occupancy, and physical spacing.  In addition, the sharp drop in the use of public transportation has increased the pressures for re-purposing some very valuable real estate — curbs, parking lots, and parking structures.

Restaurants are expanding out onto sidewalks and curbside locations all over the United States; more than 8,000 permits have been issued in New York City alone.  Exposure of diners and waitstaff to passing vehicles has already been documented with security camera footage from more than a half-dozen injury accidents since late June.

Restaurants are also expanding into their off-street parking areas–physical distancing requirements along with the attraction of fresh air and sunshine for people who have been staying home for so long have made such arrangements very popular. Some restaurants are handling this better than others.

Retailers of all stripes have jumped onto the curbside bandwagon at shopping malls, regional centers, and basic strip centers.  Companies providing services for retailers report doubling and re-doubling of retailers offering it along with customers taking advantage of the convenience and safety that the service offers.

I expect that 2021 will see the start of a national campaign where “Share the Curb” will become a battle zone between restaurants, retailers, rideshare providers, and local merchants like salons and small retailers who want to keep parking near their stores convenient for their customers. Read more about what this means for the parking industry and why safety is a big concern in this month’s issue of Parking & Mobility magazine.

Rob Reiter is co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council.