Photographs and Text by Sergio Ruiz
When I first learned about the shelter in place orders in San Francisco and other Bay Area counties, my first instinct was to go out and photograph as much as I could. Never mind the fact that I had only begun to process the effects this might have on our cities.
As an active transportation planner by day and photographer on the side, I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime event and I needed to document a story that continues to unfold. It's the end of April as I write this, with at least another month of sheltering in place just announced, and I still don't fully know what that story is.
I know I'm fortunate to be able to continue working from home. I'm relieved to see many projects continue to move forward, even as future funding becomes less certain.
Transit agencies are really struggling right now; I'm grateful to be able to commute across the bay on BART if I need to (as an essential worker). Bay Area cities are grappling with maintaining social distancing while also rolling out Slow Streets programs to promote people-oriented communities. Freeways remain at half capacity (or less), at least for now, further highlighting inefficiencies in our current system. Unhoused residents are some of the most vulnerable and are struggling more than ever.
I do know that the planning field — and society — will never be the same.
The pandemic will force us to (re)learn what it means to be resilient, sustainable, and equitable. We should take this pause to reassess and strengthen the role of active transportation as we adapt to a new reality. In the meantime, I will always have a camera on me to capture the stories in front of me.
Sergio Ruiz is a San Francisco-based transportation planner and frequent contributor to Planning. His photographs were featured in the January 2019 special issue on San Francisco.
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