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By Dana Hendrickson

The Silver Linings Of Social Distancing In Menlo Park

Uploaded: May 27, 2020

Social distancing measures have severely limited the activities of most Menlo Park residents, business owners and workers, and influenced many of their thoughts and behaviors. And naturally, most of our attention is on negative impacts - economic, social and psychological – and the resulting hardships. But there are a number of big silver linings. An extraordinary number of bicyclists now ride on the streets of Menlo Park and roads of Portola Valley and Woodside. The majority were not regular riders before the pandemic, and many previously did not even own a bike. According to a recent story in the New York Times, bike sales have mushroomed as Americans sought relief from the constraints of social distancing measures. Bike shops are sold out and sales backorders are at an all-time high. Bike riding is a great way to stay fit, enjoy the outdoors and share experiences with friends and family. So, I am happy with this collective response. Full disclosure: I bike a lot. This is just one example of the positive effects of social distancing, and I mention a few more in this post.

I invite you to share your observations about how social distancing, has affected you, your family and our community. How long do you think these effects will last? What changes could affect the future of Menlo Park?

Community Silver linings

1. The air here is much cleaner and the natural environment much more beautiful than I ever imagined thanks to much lower vehicle emissions.

2. Imagine what it would be like if more businesses permanently shift office workers to telecommuting. This would greatly reduce traffic congestion and shorten travel times during commute hours.

3. Shifting workers to telecommuters would likely mean lessen the upward pressure on local home prices and apartment rental rates and might reduce the area housing shortage

4. If the number of local commuters was permanently reduced, Caltrain might not need to expand its commuter services nor build more grade separations. The latter would save money and eliminate expected years-long disruptive construction projects in Menlo Park and neighboring cities.

5. More residents are helping others, e.g., making masks, delivering groceries to house-bound seniors; donating money to local non-profits; and generally behaving more civilly and graciously. Hopefully, this kindness will continue.

6. There are many more people walking on our streets than ever before. Hopefully, this is the start of a long-term pattern of healthy and enjoyable exercise. Also, I think this makes us feel more connected and that’s a good thing for all of us.