Mexico City’s built environment overwhelmingly embraces the human scale, so you rarely feel like you’re out of place. Think about being in the Financial District of Manhattan or Center City in Philadelphia, where there is a total absence of human scale. Now think about Roscoe Village in Chicago, Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C., Bayswater in London, or the French Quarter in New Orleans; these are places that have magnificent human scale.
In Mexico City’s creative-culture epicenters San Ángel, Coyoacán (the former homes of Frida, Diego, and Trotsky), Colonia Roma, Colonia Hipódromo, and Colonia Condesa, you will be completely overtaken by a streetscape that wraps you with an embrace, an energetic bohemian culture, and some of the best food, street art, nightlife, shopping, and entertainment any city has to offer. Buildings in these neighborhoods interact beautifully with the street. Plazas serve as focal points to a rigid and porous grid system. The streetscape is vibrant and diverse, and commercial uses occupy nearly every available square foot of the ground floor. Residential units and office spaces are directly above the commercial podiums.
The most enchanting design aspect, however, are the beautifully mature trees lining the streets, which not only form a magnificent canopy, but also reinforce a sense of the human scale unrivaled anywhere else in North America.
The author bikes through Montrose. Photo by Adam Socki.
The new issue of Cite explores “speculative ideas for the near future,” as guest editor Nicola Springer writes in her introduction to the issue. Here, urban planner Carson Lucarelli discusses his choice to sell his car — in one of the most car-friendly cities in the U.S. To see all the content from “The Future Now,” click here.
I live in Houston, and I got rid of my car. I’ve been living carless for a few months, in fact. It’s not that I hate cars; I grew up a “gear head.” Sundays meant helping my dad wash the family vehicles in the driveway. My mom used to say that they looked like they came off the showroom floor. In high school, my buddies and I used to tinker on cars. We were known as the Greasers. We even converted a Jeep to four-wheel drive — no easy task for a couple of 17-year-olds, but it still runs today.
But as I matured and transitioned through my education and training as an urban planner, I began to see automobiles for what they really are — tools of convenience that have facilitated one of the largest shifts in urban development that the world has even seen. Some would argue that that shift is much to the detriment of humanity, community health, and the environment. But this story is not about why auto-centric development has marred progress. Instead, it’s a retrospective, autobiographical approach at how going carless has impacted a sole Houstonian.