Advocates and the Pandemic

It's difficult to know what to do as a professional safe-and-livable-streets advocate, but here's some perspective and a look at developing policies for work-from-home and events

Sunday Streets on Valencia in 2018. Sadly, it looks as if events such as these are off the table for a least a few months. Image: Catherine Orland
Sunday Streets on Valencia in 2018. Sadly, it looks as if events such as these are off the table for a least a few months. Image: Catherine Orland

As the COVID-19 pandemic steadily worsens, many advocates are recommending that their staffs skip going to the office and potentially exposing themselves and others to risk.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Melissa Lewis told Streetsblog they’re “…encouraging people to work from home, and if people are showing any symptoms of being sick they *must* WFH. And per the city’s recent asks, we’ve cancelled our Family Bike Fest event that was supposed to take place on April 18, as well a handful of other smaller events.”

Starting next week “everyone will be work-from-home and that’s mandatory,” she added.

SPUR cancelled all its public events and is instead holding webinars. For their own staff, “…we are doing just about all meetings on Zoom. People can go to the office closest to them (San Jose, San Francisco, or Oakland) but most are opting to work from home,” said SPUR’s Allison Arieff. “From March 9-20 all staff to work remotely,” wrote Jodie Medeiros, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco. “Internal meetings will all be phone/Skype/FaceTime. External meetings should be phone/Skype/FaceTime or rescheduled.” Walk SF is also postponing Walk to Work Day, although a new date hasn’t been determined.

Bike East Bay seems to be the exception. “We’re monitoring the situation and following guidance from the county health orgs,” wrote Executive Director Ginger Jui in an email to Streetsblog.

Medeiros also has a reasonable recommendation for anyone who is self-isolating but going stir crazy. “We encourage people to get out and walk,” she wrote in an email. “Walking is a great activity during a time when many events and activities are being canceled. Walk San Francisco’s monthly walk on March 15 and our Circle the City walks will continue as scheduled since these walks are limited to under fifty people. We will be well-supplied with hand sanitizer and practice social distancing at these events.”

Larger, more static events in the safe-and-livable-streets arena are cancelled, including Sunday Streets in the “Excelsior at the end of this month, the first Tenderloin event in April, and the Bayview on May 3,” wrote Livable City’s Tom Radulovich on social media. “Our program partners, including SFMTA and DPW, support the program, and we are working to reschedule these events in the second half of 2020.”

Medeiros, meanwhile, added some important perspective, by reminding people about the other epidemic: traffic violence. A 49-year-old man died today, succumbing to injuries sustained last week when he was hit by a motorist when crossing the street at Valencia and 18th Street. He’s the third person to die in less than a month in San Francisco, just from crossing the street.

“With COVID-19, we are all talking about the need to keep everyone in our families and communities as safe as possible,” added Medeiros, in a statement about the man’s death. “We should apply this exact same thinking to traffic safety.”

It’s also important to remember that for most people employed at transit agencies, as well as many other essential services professions, working from home is simply not an option. And for people who aren’t salaried, no matter what the profession, it can be a hellacious choice between risking exposure and risking eviction. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener is pushing for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. “As we move through the COVID-19 emergency, people must be able to focus on our community’s health–slowing the virus’s spread–and not on economic survival,” he said in a prepared statement.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG