How About Some Social Distancing Fitness Zones?

A modest proposal to help Pittsburghers stay healthy during the COVID-19 lockdown

Allegheny County residents can’t do much under the Governor’s new “stay-at-home” order, but we are still allowed (and even encouraged) to bike and walk as long as we follow strict “social distancing” of at least 6-feet between other people. Daily exercise is an important way to remain healthy and boost immunity.

With gyms, restaurants, and shops closed, Pittsburgh’s parks, trails, and sidewalks have become more popular than ever. Google research on community mobility has found that Allegheny County park usage is up by 84%. Even these outside spaces have their social distancing limits when filled with runners, cyclists, people walking dogs, and pushing strollers. 

Pittsburghers are looking for car-free spaces to get some fresh air and exercise. And with good weather on the horizon, these limited facilities will be attracting more people, thus making social distancing more difficult.

Social Distance Fitness Zones

This is why we are proposing “Social Distancing Fitness Zones” in Pittsburgh. These are streets that can be easily closed to cars allowing more residents and their kids to go outside for a run, walk, or roll while making it easy to maintain the required 6-feet of distance from other people. These zones have the added benefit of allowing people to exercise without worrying about fast-moving cars.  

Some great places to start and an easy lift would be several city park roads, such as Highland Park, Riverview Park, and Schenley Park.

Highland Park

Riverview Park

Schenley Park

If last weekend is any indication, the County Parks should also consider this move with the influx of people attempting exercise within limited and constrained spaces.

Some US cities have already begun closing roads from cars, and opening them up for people, such as:

UPDATE: Successful Pilot Closure on April 4 & 5

Thanks to the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for piloting Social Distancing Fitness Zones. The Highland Park loop was closed to motor vehicles on Saturday and Sunday, April 4 & 5 from 2 – 5pm. This allowed people to walk, run, and bike through the park with proper room for 6ft social distancing.

UPDATE May 1: The City created a task force to consider Social Distancing Fitness Zones

Karina Ricks, Department of Mobility and Infrastructure has created a task force with leaders from the transportation, business, mobility and design sectors to create a toolkit for neighborhood and business groups to consider the possible use of sidewalks and partial or full road closures to enhance summertime recreation spaces and to boost commerce in neighborhood business districts. See the full press release here.

UPDATE May 20: Task Force releases recommendations from their findings

Here is the City of Pittsburgh Press Release

Here is the full report (pdf)


  • efhazlett1 says:

    Great idea!!

  • donna2338 says:

    The closure of these roads is a great idea. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, I have been bicycling almost daily to Highland Park. I have observed the number of users increasing daily to the point where it was difficult to pass pedestrians with adequate social distancing if a car was coming. I started avoiding the road around the reservoir yesterday. I strongly urge the closure of the identified roads so that outdoor exercise can be a safe option for all users.

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