NY Times Extols The “Magic Of Empty Streets”

Contributing opinion writer Allison Arief, whose focus is design and architecture (do we really need opinion on that?) is super thrilled with all these empty streets, forgetting that they’re empty because people are scared, sick, and dying. They aren’t working, they’re fearful of getting booted from their homes, losing their cars, having no money to eat. But, hey, Modern Socialists see an opportunity

The Magic of Empty Streets
Social distancing gives us a rare chance to fix cities.

We’re in week four of sheltering in place here (it feels like week 40). It’s a completely unfamiliar situation in so many ways. As someone who has lived in cities her whole adult life, for me it’s especially strange to experience a time when all the things I love are no longer available. Nearly everything is closed — restaurants and shops, libraries and museums, and of course all schools. All nonessential workers are under a mandatory work-from-home order.

But these efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus have also offered us a rare experiment: We can see our cities for the first time without the choking traffic, dirty air and honking horns that have so often made them intolerable.

Throughout the world, the coronavirus has forced extreme changes in our behavior in just days. And we’re already seeing the impact of those changes: On Monday, for example, Los Angeles had the cleanest air of any major city in the world.

Yes, changes that have decimated our economy, but, it’s easy for people like Allison who’re getting paid to write this stuff to be cavalier about empty streets being magic.

As a die-hard urbanist, it’s heartening for me to see how many people are adapting, turning the city into a pedestrian paradise. Parks are populated to an extent I’ve never seen before (though some are too populated). Streets are crowded not with cars but with people — and accordingly, pedestrian fatalities (and subsequent emergency room visits) have plummeted.

Yeah, they’re doing it because they have nothing else to do because they are not working and not making money.

Streets are also quieter. Skies are bluer than I’ve ever seen. I saw a dad in the park last week doing a Zoom meeting from a lawn chair while his kids played on the grass. People are saying hello, people are offering to help neighbors, people are rediscovering board games and puzzles, bread-baking and canning.

OK, I can agree with her on that. We do tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. I like giving a smile to all the people I see on the greenway when I go for a walk.

If streets become so much safer, if air quality can change so much in just weeks, can we be more hopeful about our efforts to combat climate change?

Pedestrian advocates have suggested converting traffic signals to four-way stops so that people aren’t bunched up in groups waiting to cross. There’s also a move to deactivate “beg buttons,” that thing you push when you’re trying to get a “walk” signal to cross the street. We shouldn’t be touching them now, obviously, but more broadly, they’re designed not so much for pedestrian safety but to serve drivers. Anything that puts pedestrians first and cars second will have a significant impact on the quality of city life and, ultimately, the climate.

What will things look like in the future? How will we navigate our cities? Will we be able to wander in and out of stores and cafes as we do now? That remains to be seen: In China, information design has crossed over into surveillance, requiring citizens to use software on their smartphones that dictates whether they should be quarantined or allowed to go out in the world. Each individual is assigned a QR code based on a health assessment: A red QR code confines you to two weeks of self-quarantine, a yellow one indicates one week, and a green code means that you can move around as you desire.

Germany plans to introduce coronavirus “immunity certificates” to indicate who has recovered from the virus and is ready to re-enter society. It is likely that similar ID’ing mechanisms will emerge here in the United States and elsewhere. Working to ensure that this sort of visual marking of health status doesn’t devolve into profiling, discrimination or worse is essential.

Those sound like wonderful ideas to control the population, don’t they?

Ultimately, what we really need to figure out is how the world gets put back together. Our new Covid-19 reality shows that behavior can change. It is also, however, making it glaringly apparent how poorly existing systems (and places) have been working for most. Time and tragedy create opportunity — in this case an opportunity to make them work for all.

She doesn’t really answer the “how”. I’m betting we can figure out what she wants. No cars, everyone riding the bus or walking or biking. Government in charge.

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11 Responses to “NY Times Extols The “Magic Of Empty Streets””

  1. formwiz says:

    I’m waiting for the piece when they start talking about moving anybody who isn’t “right-thinking people” into Dachau-on-the-Brazos.

    If streets become so much safer

    Last I heard, crime had gone through the roof.

    • John says:

      Well, again formwiz you seem to be grossly misinformed
      NY Daily News April 2 reports best quarter in 25 years for low crime and March down 6%
      The bad news is almost 2000 Americans died yesterday if the epidemic that Trump said 6 weeks ago was being “well taken care of“
      This was the virus said yo be fake news dreamed up by the Dems to make Orange Man look bad

      • formwiz says:

        First, I’d take anything the Daily Dirt says with a Lot of salt.

        The bad news is almost 2000 Americans died yesterday

        You don’t care about Americans dying, you just want something you think makes Trump look bad. And Col Birx finally admitted CDC is trying to run up the numbers, so it is probably half that and maybe more. The people that died are the bitter clingers, the racists, the homophobes, the white nationalists, the Christianists you hate so much
        .
        Who do you think you’re kidding?

        Considering Fauci said we’d have 2 million dead and you said (were hoping, actually) we’d have 16 million dead by yesterday, I’d say it is well taken care of.

        It is. It isn’t even a bad flu.

      • david7134 says:

        John,
        First, why were you in jail? We need to know this.

        Now, it is obvious that you and jeff have no idea what a leader is. Trump down played this virus at the same time he was putting on a full court press to contain it. Yes, he used the word hoax but not in reference to the virus, only the press coverage that was obviously trying to make him look bad. But you and jeff do not understand the fine job that the media has done in pushing the negative image of Trump. I attribute that to your weak mental capabilities. Trump has also tried to mitigate the panic that the press was trying to stir up and thus was implying that the virus was taken care of. And, the virus was being contained until Europe allowed contaminated people into its borders and allowed infected people to come here. But what were the Dems doing, the intelligence committee was not reviewing any portent information regarding foreign threats as it was being used in a sham impeachment, the Dem leadership was crying that any actions being taken were racist and not paying attention to CIA documentation that covered the threat, the Dems slow walked any recovery efforts just to be a-holes (something they are good at).

        So, john, what have you done for your fellow man over the last several weeks. You have spent your time saying very stupid things, that is your specialty.

        • Elwood P. Dowd says:

          dookie,

          America sees what a leader ISN’T every day. Trump is not a leader. He’s a bully and a loudmouth with little knowledge of, or allegiance to, America.

          Trump is a whiny titty baby lashing out at the press, reporters, Dems, Inspector Generals, the imaginary “Deep State”, daily. He hogs credit for any favorable developments and denies responsibility for any unfavorable information. He’s a calculating sociopath.

          It’s not happenstance that the US is having such a bad time with this pandemic.

          I was on a call yesterday with a pulmonologist treating SARS-CoV-2 patients and he claimed the pulmonary effects of this virus were much different from critical influenza patients. The Covid patients have an ARDS-like syndrome (and perhaps more than one type) while almost all influenza deaths are related to secondary bacterial lung infections, often caused by antibiotic resistant strains.

          • david7134 says:

            Jeff,
            And what does your conversation with a pulmonary guy have to do with anything? I know, some how you think that makes you important.

            Now, how does Trump have anything to do with infection rate and death. He stopped travel from China despite the fact that idiot liberals were calling it racist. He has provided for every need of the panicked liberal governors and mayors. Trump is fulfilling his role in terms of helping leaders of the states.

            See, Jeff, you are a bigot, not well educated, very hateful and prejudiced, everything you falsely assign to the people here. Trump will go down as one of our great leaders, Obama, one of the worse.

            I asked you last week to tell us what is wrong with Trump, you can’t. Oh, Trump does rightfully jump the media. They constantly try to portray him in a bad light, ask got you questions and try to use the daily press conference to stimulate panic at a time when Trump is trying to show optimism.

            Jeff, you are a tiny little man-child, grow up.

          • formwiz says:

            America sees what a leader ISN’T every day. Trump is not a leader. He’s a bully and a loudmouth with little knowledge of, or allegiance to, America.

            excrement

            Having built a billion dollar fortune, successfully run for President, and resuscitated a stagnant economy, and won the love and admiration of almost everyone, I’d say that makes him a great leader, certainly better than Zippy ever was.

            But Jeffery, desperate to have something against the man who has beaten Lung Pao Flu, is whining just like Susan Rice in her Gray Lady piece today, one comment of which wails, “We are now nothing more than hostages here, in our own country”.

            We should be so lucky.

            <i.Trump is a whiny titty baby lashing out at the press, reporters, Dems, Inspector Generals, the imaginary “Deep State”, daily. He hogs credit for any favorable developments and denies responsibility for any unfavorable information. He’s a calculating sociopath.

            No, that was Zippy, and Trump was the one who pushed chloroquine against the “advice” of all the “experts”.

            BTW Even the Demos have admitted the existence of the Deep State. Take John McLaughlin, “Thank God for the deep state”.

            It’s not happenstance that the US is having such a bad time with this pandemic.

            We are? Deaths are way below forecasts, in fact, the “model” had to be readjusted down yet again to a total of 60,000 deaths and, doubtless, that will have to be rewritten.

            If anybody’s had a bad time, it’s all those dictatorial Democrat governors and mayors who saw this as another chance to defy Trump until it was obvious Trump was right and they would need Federal help to manage the Lefty-generated panic and market crash.

            I was on a call yesterday with a pulmonologist treating SARS-CoV-2 patients and he claimed the pulmonary effects of this virus were much different from critical influenza patients. The Covid patients have an ARDS-like syndrome (and perhaps more than one type) while almost all influenza deaths are related to secondary bacterial lung infections, often caused by antibiotic resistant strains.

            Really?

            I was talking to my doctor and he said the only people really in trouble are those with existing respiratory problems (COPD) or a compromised immune system (diabetes, heart).

            So why do I have a problem with your claim you just happened to be on a call yesterday with a pulmonologist treating SARS-CoV-2 patients ?

            Maybe because it never happened.

      • Jl says:

        So John-still waiting for you to show where Trump said the virus was a hoax, as you asserted earlier.

  2. formwiz says:

    And to update: now the model says 60,000 dead, just like a regular flu.

    5 gets you 10 it’s half that by the end of the week.

    • david7134 says:

      Form,
      They can’t model this illness. It changes and is predominantly attacking the chronically ill. It’s main issue is the morbidity which is almost impossible to factor in. If our hospitals were not harmed by Obama, we likely could have avoided destroying our economy.

  3. Dana says:

    The lovely Miss Arief has, inadvertently, told us what the patricians — and anyone who has a column with The New York Times can certainly be considered a patrician — want: all of the beauty and shops and restaurants and services of a major city without all of those commoners, all of those plebeians, clogging the sidewalks and streets, getting in her way, making too much noise, and just being there in her field of view.

    You see, for the patricians, the plebeians need to make their deliveries in the early morning, from 3:00 AM to maybe 5:30, and then get off the streets, get out of sight before the patricians make their way out of their Central Park West apartments and Tribeca lofts to their professional positions on Wall Street and Radio City and, of course, Times Square. The cooks and waitresses should have already gotten to their places of employment, and be ready to serve them at Bluestone Lanes or St Kilda Coffee or Green Symphony Deli. Maybe around 10:30 to 11:00 the cooks and cute blonde waitresses can be out to work at the much more elegant lunch spots.

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