Cities and infectious diseases: Assessing the exposure of pedestrians to virus transmission along city streets

A. Psyllidis, Fábio Duarte, R.F.L. Teeuwen, Arianna Salazar Miranda, Tom Benson, A. Bozzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


As cities resume life in public space, they face the difficult task of retaining outdoor activity while decreasing exposure to airborne viruses, such as the novel coronavirus. Even though the transmission risk is higher in indoor spaces, recent evidence suggests that physical contact outdoors also contributes to an increased virus exposure. Given that streets constitute the largest percentage of public space in cities, there is an increasing need to prioritise their use to minimise transmission risk. However, city officials currently lack the assessment tools to achieve this. This article evaluates the extent to which street segments are associated with spatiotemporal variations of potential exposures of pedestrians to virus transmission. We develop a multi-component risk score that considers both urban form and human activity along streets over time, including (a) an assessment of pedestrian infrastructure according to the average width of pavements, (b) a measure of accessibility for each street based on its position in the street network, (c) an activity exposure score that identifies places along streets where exposure could be higher and (d) an estimate of the number of pedestrians that will pass through each street during weekdays and weekends. We use Amsterdam in the Netherlands as a case study to illustrate how our score could be used to assess the exposure of pedestrians to virus transmission along streets. Our approach can be replicated in other cities facing a similar challenge of bringing life back to the streets while minimising transmission risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1610-1628
Number of pages19
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Amsterdam
  • COVID-19
  • exposure
  • street network
  • urban morphology


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