In response to COVID-19, local governments are making changes to transit and active transportation systems in their cities: “striping new bike lanes, retooling traffic signals, suspending transit fares, closing some streets to vehicle traffic, and taking other temporary transportation measures… Some of the measures are as simple as flipping a switch: Perth, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand, and Boston, Massachusetts are among the global cities that have automated crossing signals so that pedestrians don’t have to touch “beg buttons” that may be contaminated. Other changes are technically easy, though they may be harder for comptrollers to swallow as government revenue tanks with local economies: At least 50 cities, including Los Angeles and Detroit, have suspended bus fares. At least ten, including London and Glasgow, have made bikeshare systems free, and at least a dozen (not on the map) have lifted parking fees and enforcement. A few large cities, with established communities of pedestrian and cyclist advocates, have taken more drastic actions. At least nine U.S. and Canadian cities, including New York, Minneapolis, and Vancouver, have temporarily stopped or limited access to vehicles on certain corridors in order to help walking, biking, and outdoor respite-taking happen in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Bogotá, Mexico City, and Berlin have all expanded cycling networks to make way for bikes, which have emerged as the non-car mode of choice in a time of social distance. Around the world, calls to increase urban sidewalk space to allow for safer pedestrian use are getting louder… several of these measures — free transit fares, car-free streets — have been championed for years by urban sustainability advocates as measures to reduce vehicle congestion, traffic fatalities, and carbon emissions. Sadik-Khan hopes that some of these Covid-19 emergency actions could serve as testing grounds for more lasting change, and that in a few cases, cities could make them permanent.”
The New York Times reports on the socioeconomic inequities in who can afford to stay home and self-quarantine, and who can’t. “It has been about two weeks since the Illinois governor ordered residents to stay at home, but nothing has changed about Adarra Benjamin’s responsibilities. She gets on a bus nearly every morning in Chicago, traveling 20 miles round trip some days to cook, clean and shop for her clients, who are older or have health problems that make such tasks difficult. Ms. Benjamin knows the dangers, but she needs her job, which pays about $13 an hour. She also cannot imagine leaving her clients to fend for themselves. “They’ve become my family,” she said. In cities across America, many lower-income workers continue to move around, while those who make more money are staying home and limiting their exposure to the coronavirus, according to smartphone location data analyzed by The New York Times. Although people in all income groups are moving less than they did before the crisis, wealthier people are staying home the most, especially during the workweek. Not only that, but in nearly every state, they began doing so days before the poor, giving them a head start on social distancing as the virus spread, according to aggregated data from the location analysis company Cuebiq, which tracks about 15 million cellphone users nationwide daily… “Covid-19 is exposing a lot of the structural disadvantages that low-income people face,” including a lack of job security and uneven access to health care, said Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied the essential work force. “The well-off are employed in industries where they are at a desk, and so there are some advantages built into these high-income neighborhoods during this pandemic,” he added.”
The Guardian investigates “six missing weeks” in the US response to COVID-19.“The US response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort,” Ron Klain, who spearheaded the fight against Ebola in 2014, told a Georgetown university panel recently. “What’s happened in Washington has been a fiasco of incredible proportions.” Jeremy Konyndyk, who led the US government’s response to international disasters at USAid from 2013 to 2017, frames the past six weeks in strikingly similar terms. He told the Guardian: “We are witnessing in the United States one of the greatest failures of basic governance and basic leadership in modern times.”
Detroit faces a surge in COVID-19 cases, with officials warning that the city’s high rates of poverty and prevalence of chronic disease leave residents especially vulnerable. “Dr Teena Chopra, professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University, who is working with coronavirus patients at Detroit medical center (DMC), said: “The high rates of social disadvantage and higher comorbidities make the city of Detroit more vulnerable to Covid-19. So these are the reasons why Detroit is, as far as predictions is concerned, showing the steeper curve and steeper than even New York.” About a third of people in Detroit live in poverty… Public health data from the state of Michigan shows coronavirus is having a disproportionate toll on the state’s black residents. In a state where only 14% of the total population is black, at least 35% of people who have been confirmed to have coronavirus, and 40% of the dead, are black… The former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed said the problems are so ingrained that the city is still “playing from behind”. He added: “They’re trying to battle a pandemic in a city where tens of thousands of people have their water shut off every year. And they’re trying to battle a pandemic in a city that had a 36% foreclosure rate on homes that were owned not too long ago. “And so preparedness is behind and it’s behind because you’re battling not just Covid, but you’re also battling the history of poverty and loss of access to basic resources that people in the city have suffered for a long time.”
New research estimates that “nearly half” of people in US report the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting their mental health.
For a smile: NPR spoke to Billy Barr for his tips on surviving physical distancing—something he’s been practicing for 50 years as the only resident of Gothic, Colorado, where he lives in an abandoned silver mine.