Beverly Police enforcing one-way sidewalks in effort to promote social distancing

BEVERLY, Mass. — As we continue to adapt to the new normal, we learn from trial and error what works and what doesn’t to keep people safe and healthy.

Just like grocery stores enforcing one-way aisles for shoppers to promote social distancing, police in Beverly are now doing the same but with sidewalks on a popular stretch of road along the beach.

The new rule now being enforced on a more than half mile stretch of popular Lothrop Street in Beverly has been posted loud and clear on poles as well as on a flashing sign at the entrance to Dane Street Beach.

Residents are asked to keep moving on the sidewalk facing vehicle traffic. Anyone who goes against the rule can face a $100 fine.

“In monitoring the area we noticed there was a tremendous amount of traffic with people walking into each other,” said Beverly Police Chief John LeLacheur. “[So], we had to make changes we had to come up with ideas. [The new rule] gives people the opportunity to keep that six foot distance.”

LeLacheur says an emergency order was issued by the Board of Health to allow police to cite those who don’t comply with the one way sidewalk policy on scenic Lothrop Street between Hale and Stone Streets.

Despite the stay-at-home advisory, the stretch still seems very popular among residents in the area.

“We’re hoping we never have to go there, [that] people are being compliant," said LeLacheur. “All the comments we’ve gotten so far have been positive - now that they know this is what we’re asking them to do they’re doing it.”

LeLacheur says officers that have stepped up patrol have been explaining to people why the rule is in place and that walking in the same direction prevents people from crossing paths and getting too close.

He says the concept seems be catching on in other parts of the city, where it’s not being enforced.

“This little thing about walking against traffic, it may hang over to when things eventually get back to normal,” said LeLacheur.

In larger jurisdictions such as Boston and Cambridge, city officials say they are not considering a one-way sidewalk policy at this time given challenges like accessibility and long walking distances.

Town officials in Brookline say they are considering a proposal to temporarily expand public sidewalks, which could involve making some streets one-way, allowing one lane to be used for extra walking and biking space.