Ever since COVID19 has spread around the world, the phrase social distancing has become part of our everyday vernacular. But in many cities, it's difficult to social distance when most of our open space is used for driving. One thing that has been very apparent is how much of our public space has been given over to cars. When cars are off the streets, you see this vast amount of wasted space. Most cities lack infrastructure to walk and bike making it difficult for people keep their distance. In the City of Los Angeles, parks, trails and beaches were closed which adds an additional layer of frustration to get some fresh air (now that air pollution has dropped).
And, now that traffic is lighter, drivers are speeding A LOT more! Pedestrians and cyclist are already crammed to the edges of our streets and if they go more into the street, they put their lives on the line from speeding drivers. Even during a pandemic, it seems like car culture status must be maintained.
At least that's what I thought until I started reading about other cities that are reconfiguring their streets to allow more people to social distance. I believe in the US, NYC was the first to open a street up to people.
The US was not the first to do this. Other countries were opening up streets at a faster rate than the US. Paris, Milan, Barcelona, London, Berlin, Budapest, Vancouver, Bogota, Rome, Mexico City to name a few. That spread to the US with Denver, Cambridge, SF, NY, Oakland and even Kansas City. But where is Los Angeles? The City of Los Angeles was slow to roll this out. And it rolled it out by needing a neighborhood council or non-profit having to apply. But the Slow Streets, has slowly (pun intended) finally arrived in certain Los Angeles neighborhoods.
With an initial failed start in the Del Rey neighborhood, Del Rey with Sawtelle, Mid-city and Eagle Rock now have implemented Slow Streets giving residents a place to social distance by walking or biking with less fear of drivers speeding down their street.
Koreatown has a plan to also implement Slow Streets and should begin this weekend as of this writing.
Hopefully after this is over, we can learn that more public space should be dedicated to people not in cars. We can only hope that after restrictions have eased here, traffic won't spiked back up to pre-COVID conditions, pollution won't pick back up to pre-COVID and car sales (unlike in Wuhan) won't spike. This is not the future we want post- COVID.