BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore City Council is considering a plan that would temporarily create more space on city streets for pedestrians and bicyclists trying to exercise while also abiding by social distancing recommendations.

The legislation would require the city’s transportation department to create more space on roads for non-vehicle traffic, either by reducing speed limits to five miles per hour and allowing mixed traffic or closing lanes to vehicles altogether. The idea is similar to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s pilot program that closed some streets around Lake Montebello.

Under the proposal, potential closures would be based on city council districts in an effort to make sure they are equitably located.

“It’s very important that we do this legislation equitably so our most vulnerable neighborhoods and the neighborhoods where this is the most needed are considered,” city council president Brandon Scott said.

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Councilman Ryan Dorsey said he hopes the plan will also alleviate some of the congestion on public transit by giving people other options for commuting.

“We still have a lot of people crowding onto buses when it’s still unhealthy and unsafe for people to be in those kinds of confined conditions,” he said.

The city said it realizes that once temperatures reach 80 degrees, it’s going to be harder to stay indoors. And when people head outside, in many parts of the city they’ll find sidewalks that are just five feet wide, which is too narrow to allow for proper social distancing.

“Sometimes you just want to be (able to) have your space be able to move about freely, without worry about putting pressure on other people,” Colin Madden told WJZ while visiting Patterson Park.

Mikel Moore agreed.

“For people that’s not working and don’t have a means to get around, they should still be able to exercise and stay healthy, that’s just an important factor of life,” Moore said.

There will be another hearing on the proposal at the committee level later in the week.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Rachel Menitoff

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