Case Study: Laura's story as a Local Pathways Fellow

Case Study: Laura's story as a Local Pathways Fellow

"One year after, I look back at the Fellowship feeling grateful and inspired. Some elements of my project concept note have been incorporated in the work of 500 x La Paz. Even though the pandemic has paused on further steps of my project, I have learned a lot and hope to apply this knowledge to this and future projects of mine. As an urban journalist, I have also written a piece about the challenges of and potential solutions for my project area."

Project: Improving Walkability in Mexico City

Fellow: Laura Puttkamer, 2019 Local Pathways Fellow (Mexico City, Mexico)

CHALLENGE

Even though the official Walk Score for Mexico City is at 100% (Walkscore, 2019), it seems to be the case only in the city center. If you venture out to the city's surrounding areas, you will quickly see that pedestrians have very low priority there. Streets are stuffed with cars, motorbikes, buses, minivans, and many other modes of transportation. Pedestrians have to make their way along poorly designed sidewalks that are overcrowded, filled by informal vendors, or simply non-existent. Crossing a street in Mexico City can take up to 15 minutes as traffic lights for pedestrians are rare. So in many cases, to cross, pedestrians have to climb stairs and use an overpass, which is only suitable for young and healthy who are not carrying a big load. Any other person would struggle.

           

                   

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SOLUTION

For this project idea, Laura decided to combine two issues - lacking walkability and lacking participation. She was inspired by community meetings in the eastern borough of Los Reyes, one of Mexico City's poorer areas. Here, residents regularly get together to improve public space, clean up their neighborhood, and work on the community spirit (like women's groups or the "500 x La Paz" organization).

Laura's idea was to provide residents with paint and encourage them to mark the space they need for walking. A similar project in Mexico City's city center had already created more space for pedestrians by coloring zebra crossings, creating new crossings, and making the existing sidewalks wider. One of the country's largest paint companies, Comex, supports these kinds of projects. This urban intervention does not need a lot of planning and could be a starting point for demanding better pedestrian conditions in the outskirts of the city. It is also essential for poorer boroughs in Mexico City to gain attention from politicians, who typically focus on the wealthy areas of Mexico's capital.

While entire Mexico City needs to improve its walkability, it is a particularly convenient solution for inhabitants of the poorer areas. After all, their security is at stake. Ideally, these efforts should be supported by the government. But any urban planner is capable of organizing this. Media attention would help drive awareness of the important issue of improving walkability and pedestrian safety.

At the same time, it is important to incentivize walking over driving in the city. Walking more could also tackle prevalent health issues such as diabetes. For that purpose, the project needs to make walking "cool" and combine it with a sense of civic pride. Community efforts could significantly increase participation. A parallel campaign should endeavor to reduce car usage in Mexico City since better sidewalks alone cannot completely tackle the problem.

           

                   

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A WORD FROM THE FELLOW

One year after, I look back at the Fellowship feeling grateful and inspired. Some elements of my project concept note have been incorporated in the work of 500 x La Paz. Even though the pandemic has paused on further steps of my project, I have learned a lot and hope to apply this knowledge to this and future projects of mine. As an urban journalist, I have also written a piece about the challenges of and potential solutions for my project area.

Laura Puttkamer, Local Pathways Fellow (Mexico City, Mexico)

         

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