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COVID-19 may alter the future of how we navigate work and leisure

March 24, 2020

There has been a significant drop in automobile use both across Arizona and throughout the country in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to Ram Pendyala, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University, Phoenix traffic may have reduced by 30% or more since schools closed and businesses encouraged workers to stay home to help control the spread of the virus.

“Many people are working remotely as part of social distancing measures to combat COVID-19,” Pendyala said. “And that mandated isolation certainly has an impact on human activity. From a transportation perspective, it means reduced traffic and energy consumption, cleaner air and less wear and tear on our roads — all good things for sustainability.

“But the lack of traffic is not really a good thing. Traffic is a sign of economic and social vitality. Mobility is a sign that people are interacting with each other, businesses are thriving and society is functioning. It’s only the adverse effects of traffic that we don’t want.”

man's portrait

Ram Pendyala



Forecasting travel demand to better manage traffic, promote sustainable transportation and support infrastructure planning is a focus of Pendyala’s work as a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

His research into human preferences and behaviors related to transportation offers insights on the impact of social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak in America.

“For example, this experience could prompt us to think differently about the nature of work in the future,” Pendyala said. “On the one hand, we all enjoy the first weeks of telecommuting. But then workers begin to feel isolated and employers start getting concerned about productivity. We might see some increase in people working remotely on a permanent basis, but likely for only a part of each week, as opposed to the full-time telecommuting we see now.”

Pendyala also points out that public transportation ridership has dropped by as much as 60% during recent weeks. Though transport agencies like Valley Metro have instituted more stringent disinfection protocols, public fear is widespread and difficult to overcome.

Even alternatives to public transportation from ride-sharing services to micro-mobility are suffering, as people grapple with uncertainty about how the new coronavirus is transmitted.

“Do you want to get into the Uber or Lyft vehicle that has served other passengers? Are you going to use the scooter that so many other people have handled? Are you carrying disinfectant wipes with you everywhere you go?” Pendyala said. “These are questions that we’re asking now.”

Pendyala explains that the impact of COVID-19 may alter logistics services too, as people begin to have more goods delivered to them rather than driving to a local retailer where they would jostle with crowds.

“But those packages are handled by many sets of human hands. Are we going to see more robotic handling of our packages?” he said. “All of these issues are part of the discussion.”

Pendyala notes that these initial weeks of disruption can have a significant impact on how we plan to spend our time.

“But much depends on the duration of this state of affairs,” he said. “If virus-driven restrictions are lifted in a month or so, you will see people rebound to their previous habits rather quickly. They’ll return to the office and go shopping for that furniture they delayed buying. At the same time, we could see a sudden surge in leisure travel. There could be so much pent-up demand that people will rush out to ball games or take that trip to Disneyland.”

By contrast, Pendyala said that if efforts to control the virus limit our lives for a longer period, such as a year or more, the changes to our routines may become more lasting. 

“For example, the closure of restaurants, movie theaters and similar establishments has many of us rethinking recreational experience,” he explains. “So, people may look to enjoy more time in the great outdoors, both now and in the longer term.”

Though even if more of us begin to embrace activities like hiking and camping, the way we travel to our favorite coasts, mountains and national parks could change in the wake of the current crisis.

“Airlines have been decimated by COVID-19,” Pendyala said. “People are concerned about sharing tight spaces with others, and that mindset may persist for a while. Consequently, air travel could take quite some time to recover. Alternatively, cars give us a sense of control over our surroundings. So, we could see a real increase in driving for medium-distance and even long-distance travel.”

In the end, Pendyala believes that we are not likely to see enormous, lasting effects on daily life.

“As the world recovers from the virus, we’ll all go back to spending a third of our lives earning a livelihood. The kids will be back in school and we’ll want to connect with friends and family just as we always did,” he said. “The return of these rhythms of life means that any permanent changes from the virus will likely be rather modest.”

Top photo: Social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced traffic across the country — such as along this stretch of the 101 freeway near Tempe, Arizona — since schools have closed, travel plans have been canceled and more people work from home. Photo by Erik Wirtanen/ASU

Gary Werner

Science writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-5622

 
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Sun Devil stitches

March 24, 2020

Hayden Library-inspired knitting pattern to keep your hands busy and your mind relaxed while practicing social distancing

Hayden Library, which reopened in January after a $90 million renovation, was scheduled to have its grand opening on March 25. Alas, as with so many events in the age of COVID-19, that celebration has been postponed.

But we can still pay tribute from our couches with a knitting pattern inspired by the midcentury panels on the library's exterior. There are two versions below — one more closely resembling (or attempting to resemble) the building and another that has fun with the honeycomb pattern (I prefer that one). 

Exterior of Hayden Library in Tempe

Look at those gorgeous midcentury panels on Hayden Library's exterior. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

A few thoughts:

• This pattern can easily adjust to whatever weight yarn you have on hand (I used Yarnspirations Caron in Sunflower, because it looked like ASU gold). If you need to purchase some, keep in mind that many craft stores are now offering free curbside pickup (please stay safe and keep your distance from anyone outside your household). But let's be honest: If you're able to understand the patterns below, you probably have five years' worth of yarn stashed away at home.

• If you've always wanted to learn to knit, YouTube can be a great teacher. There are bushels of yarn teachers on that website; find one whose style fits you. And don't forget about that relative of yours who knits or crochets; now would be a great time to FaceTime or Skype with him or her, learn some skills and bond with far-away family.

• The patterns below have not been test-knitted by anyone, so if you spot an issue, please email me (contact info is at the bottom of this story).

• If you're anything like me, any stress you're holding in your body can translate to tighter stitches on your needle. And there's a fair bit to be stressed about these days. I went up one needle size than was called for on the yarn label and may have gotten away with going two sizes bigger. 

Not a knitter? What other clever campus-inspired creations might you think up — a cake that looks like ASU Gammage, a mini Fletcher Library made out of gingerbread, a to-scale model of the Polytechnic campus' Aviation Building using Hot Wheels, a baking-soda volcano that bears a striking resemblance to "A" Mountain for your kid's remote-learning science fair ... Creativity can do a lot to distract from the day's stressful headlines.

One final word before we get to the patterns: If you find your mind distracted by the news of the day and you mess up a stitch, give yourself grace. Learning to undo stitches is as much a part of knitting as making the stitches in the first place. Take it slow, breathe deeply and be gentle on yourself and others. We're going to make it through.

Hayden version 1: Honeycomb variation (yay!)

Knitting pattern

Precise gauge isn't super important; just make sure the resulting fabric isn't too stiff. On my sample (medium/4 yarn, U.S. size 10 needles), each honeycomb section was 4 inches wide.

Work in multiples of 14 stitches plus 1 stitch, plus edge stitches (in this case, 8 edge stitches). So if you wanted five repeats of the pattern across your row, for example, you would cast on 79. Also, you don't have to use stitch markers, but they're awfully handy in alerting you you're at the edge stitches.

CO. Knit four rows. Start panel pattern.

Panel pattern:

Row 1: K4, place marker, purl to last 4 stitches, place marker, K4.
Row 2: K4, slip marker (sm), knit to stitch marker, sm, K4 (basically, just knit across the entire row).
Row 3: K4, sm, purl to second marker, sm, K4.
Row 4: K4, sm, P1, *P5, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in front), P6*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 5: K4, sm, *K6, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in back), K5*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, K1, sm, K4.
Row 6: same as row 4.
Row 7: same as row 5.
Row 8: same as row 4.
Row 9: same as row 5.
Row 10: same as row 4.
Row 11: K4, sm, purl to second marker, sm, K4.
Row 12: K4, sm, knit to stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 13: K4, sm, purl to second marker, sm, K4.
Row 14: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P11, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 15: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K11, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 16: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P4 K3 P4, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 17: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K3 P5 K3, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 18: same as row 16.
Row 19: same as row 15.
Row 20: same as row 14.

Repeat panel pattern until desired length is reached; end after a row 13. Then knit four rows and bind off.

Hayden version 2: Trying to mimic the building (slightly less successful)

Knitting pattern

Precise gauge isn't super important; just make sure the resulting fabric isn't too stiff. On my sample (medium/4 yarn, U.S. size 10 needles), each honeycomb section was roughly 4 inches wide.

Work in multiples of 14 stitches plus 1 stitch, plus edge stitches (in this case, 8 edge stitches). So if you wanted five repeats of the pattern across your row, for example, you would cast on 79. Also, you don't have to use stitch markers, but they're awfully handy in alerting you you're at the edge stitches.

CO. Knit four rows. Start panel pattern.

Panel pattern:

Row 1: K4, place marker, purl to last 4 stitches, place marker, K4.
Row 2: K4, slip marker (sm), K1, *K5, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in front), K6*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4. (NOTE on rows 2-4 on this version: When it's time to slip the stitches, you'll have to move the working yarn from back to front or vice versa. Everywhere else in these two patterns, when it's time to slip stitches, your yarn will naturally be on the correct side.)
Row 3: K4, sm, *P6, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in back), P5*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, P1, sm, K4.
Row 4: same as row 2.
Row 5: same as row 3.
Row 6: same as row 2.
Row 7: same as row 1.
Row 8: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P11, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 9: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K11, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 10: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P4 K3 P4, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 11: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K3 P5 K3, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 12: same as row 10.
Row 13: same as row 9.
Row 14: same as row 8.

Repeat panel pattern until desired length is reached; end after a row 7. Then knit four rows and bind off.

Thanks to "400 Knitting Stitches" from Potter Craft for the "Raised Paving 2" pattern that inspired these.

Penny Walker

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

480-965-9689