Unlike many other cities; Mexico City has had a haphazard approach to COVID-19; people were never forced to stay at home, but businesses were told to close; which had the effect that mobility was reduced by 70% in the early stages of the Pandemic.

Illustration for article titled Thoughts when out and about
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Nowadays we’re plotting a return back to normalcy like many other places in the world, Except of course that we got the pandemic a month or so behind Spain and other countries already experimenting with reopening. In our case, we’re expected to have all business operating by June 15th.

The city is eerily quiet, and as construction, mobility, and other industry is paused, dust has decreased; the streets look cleaner, and the buildings look brighter. Neighbors keep their windows open for longer as the typical noises and odors of regular life disappear.

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It’s kind of astounding to see, I think people are very, very anxious but also feel paused. Those who can, at least. One can’t ignore that millions upon millions of people are bearing a huge weight because of the economic downturn and the government’s inaction. Some estimates point to a quarter billion people globally becoming food insecure because of the economic crisis, and I’m certain a portion of them will be in this country.

But I guess, I ought to focus on the good thing for now: I think people have finally had an opportunity to really appreciate their homes; and maybe some people will do home office more often; some companies have even offered it permanently. There is a psychological trick to separating leisure areas from work areas, but at the same time, time spent commuting must be more costly for productivity.

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I’ve gone for increasingly longer and longer rides on my bicycle, and I can afford to go slower and actually look at the state of things because I have nowhere to be; even without traffic I can regularly get to places near my home faster on a bicycle than on my car or walking. It saddens me that all of the calm and neatness will go away eventually, and we will return to an ugly, dusty, disgusting city.

I read around twitter about some people saying COVID-19 was slowed by America’s bad public transportation network, and, maybe it is something to contemplate; in Spain, Mexico, and the United States the biggest most dangerous outbreaks have been in large well connected cities with a population that is heavily dependant on massive collective public transportation. It is evident that social distancing is literally inevitable when you’re inside a car, with an enclosed cabin, as opposed to literally impossible in a crowded bus.

But, no urban area can afford to have spaces for cars; not in reality... Or else you end up approving urban sprawl like many cities in North America, which actually makes city planning worse, making people want to expand further out.

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If, for the foreseeable future, we won’t be able to use public transportation to its previous potential, what can we do? I mean, many people literally can’t do home office because of their field, many other literally don’t want to do home office and I guess that’s okay. So, more cars?

Perhaps the most daunting aspect is that only a sixth of journeys are made by car in Mexico City; yet we have untenable amounts of congestion. As motorists tend to be richer than public transport users, and thus more likely to be able to use home office systems, the first to really stay at home were those who contributed to 1/6 of journeys... and the city is significantly better now.

(I know the capacity to use home office is not directly linked to car ownership in the US, but both capacity to use home office and car ownership are linked to wealth here, which is why I point it out.)

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I know cars weren’t the sole source of noise, dust, and pollution issues, in fact, COVID-19 might also make people realize that cars aren’t the biggest enemy to climate or life in the city; just one of the easiest targets for regulators.

All of this “calm” is not sustainable, but I think we can at least open up our minds to the idea that we need to have a smarter transportation policy. Obviously not every city is as flat and as densely populated as New York, but I think we really need to start considering more cycling in urban areas. As far as space efficiency vs capability to socially distance, it’s probably the best halfway point between cars and collective, public transportation like buses.

Not everyone moves inside their own community, and most people don’t really have the interest in cycling for too long. But I guess we could also adapt to that. Adapting metros to be more friendly to cyclists might help reduce strain on overground transportation systems likes highways and busses. I also think that further use of home-office might also change the nature of trips; I don’t think any of us would go to the other side of town to do groceries, but we might for a workplace. If trip distances shorten, then sure people should be pushed towards walking/cycling rather than taking their car out.

I dunno, I hope you liked the mural that tries to emulate street art but sort of fails because of the corporate partnerships.

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