Monday, November 28, 2011

Mexico City Gets It, Bikes & Pedestrianization that Is

From conversations with several friends who are from the Distrito Federal, it seems to be leading the way back from the brink in Mexico as cultural capitals tend to do. From their estimation, this is largely due to a generation from 22-35 or so that have been educated elsewhere, traveled the world, seen other places, and have returned home to start programs/businesses like their bike sharing program. When new ideas gain a foothold in a place there is naturally a backlash by conventional wisdom and the preservation of the status quo. Ideas are always battling, competing for critical and decisive mass in order to assert themselves. Witness the memetic competition in action:
This past summer, Mexico City radio station Imagen was forced to place one of its commentators, Angel Verdugo, on indefinite suspension over disparaging remarks he made about the city’s bicyclists. Calling them a “new plague,” Verdugo also accused the bicyclists of putting on “European” airs. The commentator reminded them that Mexico City is not Paris, and that “here is the concrete jungle.” As if that were not enough, Verdugo invited drivers to “throw their vehicles at them, immediately.” Not surprisingly, the statements provoked widespread outrage.
Of course, and inevitably, the best ideas always win (eventually). The new idea always has to bear the burden of proof. And slowly but surely we're all learning it, sharing it, spreading it so that the world can be a safer, more fair, more just, more opportunistic and empowering place to live:

In the 1950s, Mexico City was redesigned along the model of U.S. cities like Los Angeles, with a focus on large suburbs and grand avenues. That, in turn, made the Mexican capital dangerous for pedestrians. The current government is trying to reverse that trend by putting pedestrians and cyclists first. The biggest challenge, however, may be getting the city’s drivers on board. Car owners are used to being kings of the road. Even so, at least in the areas where the new measures have been implemented, change is brewing.

City authorities say that reducing the commuting time will have a direct economic effect. For starters, cars are expensive. “It’s estimated that an average person has to spend three hours worth of work every day to pay for a car,” says Jesús Sánchez, a private consultant. Cycling and walking are far cheaper. They’re also healthier, and therefore less burdensome on the health system.

The costs of a car-based system (city) are exponential, as our burgeoning debts, both public and private, attest. Likewise, the savings AND beneficent profits (socially, environmental, and economic) of a less-car dependent system are similarly exponential. But in a good way.