Cities world-wide have taken the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to improve and expand pedestrian infrastructure, providing residents with a sense of relief and pursuing long-standing goals to decrease automobile dependence and increase walkability. So far, due to a scarcity of data and methodological shortcomings, these efforts have lacked the system-level view of treating sidewalks as a network. Here, we leverage sidewalk data from ten cities in three continents, to first analyse the distribution of sidewalk and roadbed geometries, and find that cities present an unbalanced distribution of public space, favouring automobiles at the expense of pedestrians. Next, we connect these geometries to build a sidewalk network –adjacent, but irreducible to the road network. Finally, we compare a no-intervention scenario with a shared-effort heuristic, in relation to the performance of sidewalk infrastructures to guarantee physical distancing. The heuristic prevents the sidewalk connectivity breakdown, while preserving the road network’s functionality.