The *New* *Improved* Mexico City
Mexico City is a dirty, overcrowded, polluted stinky city, right? Not so fast…. Maybe it used to be all of those things, but times have changed. New regulations and new attitudes are helping turn this huge metropolis into a greener, calmer and healthier place to be.
When I first visited Mexico City in 1987, I immediately got a ‘cold’, had difficulties breathing, my eyes hurt and it smelled really bad outside.
Since then, the government has committed to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges posed by such a large population. They have made huge industrial technology improvements and imposed regular vehicle emission inspections. They implemented a strictly enforced program where people cannot use their car one day out of the week, hopefully motivating them to use public transport instead.
The subway has been expanded and you can move from one side of the city to the other quickly and easily. In central, you won’t see big diesel spewing buses, instead there are many smaller microbuses going all over the place. They are much more efficient and as long as you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, they are a good way to get around. Something else new are bicycle taxis. They are like rickshaws, but a little more modern. If you don’t have far to go, this is a handy and fun mode of transportation.
Environmental conditions are constantly monitored and reported, making people aware on a daily basis just how things really are. The education system is bringing change as well. Younger generations are now learning about littering, recycling, and the importance of caring for their surroundings. Thin non-biodegradable plastic bags are now banned in stores. There are garbage cans everywhere along with signs encouraging people to use them.
A new program that is having startlingly good success is ‘Ecobici’ bike-sharing.
You register online and you then have the option of using a bike from any of the many locations. You buy credit similar to ‘pay as you go’ options for cell phones. When you reach your destination, you just leave the bike at the nearest ‘bike stop’. Whoever thought you’d see dedicated bike lanes in the heart of busy Mexico City!
Instead of having the entire center of the historical district open to traffic, they have closed off one of the main streets, now allowing only pedestrians. This makes it so much more pleasant to walk around. Although it gets really crowded too!
Something that makes me especially happy is the amount of green space.
For example, along Reforma, which is one of the busiest, most important arteries in the city, there are many parks, with pine trees, park benches and lots of beautiful sculptures… and even a carousel for the kids to play on.
Instead of seeing concrete and skyscrapers everywhere, you notice the swaying palm trees and lavender colored jacarandas. And you remember that you really are in Mexico!
The environment of the classic government buildings has changed as well. Instead of the usual restored heritage buildings, complete with murals and classic sculptures, we discovered a calming Zen garden full of pyramids with water swirling around in gentle spirals. It’s good psychology, the fountain relaxes you so much that you can bear the long waits that bureaucracy causes….
My visit to Mexico City this year opened my eyes to the changes that can be made, must be made and are being made to care for Mother Earth.