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On the need to change mindsets about bike lanes

Public acceptance of bike lanes has grown during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were few supporters especially among local government units and national agencies that seem to be comfortable with the status quo. Few like Iloilo and Marikina had any bike facilities worth mentioning. The pandemic was supposed to change that and it did for many. However, the acceptance and the gains seem to be eroding as we return to face-to-face activities and the ‘old’ normal situation.

I’m sharing below an article on the need to change mindsets about bike lanes and cycling in general:

Thompson, C. (January 24, 2023) “The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/the-battle-over-bike-lanes-needs-a-mindset-shift/ [Last accessed: 1/27/2023]

To quote from the article:

“Maybe bike lanes will always be fraught, until enough of the public is finally in a true lather about climate change—and it seems reckless to not have them.

Crises, after all, have a way of opening people’s eyes to possibilities. During Covid, restaurants and cafés lost so much business that cities nationwide began allowing them to build curbside seating areas where people could sit, safely, in the open air. It greatly reduced parking—but because, well, crisis, shop owners didn’t see any way around it. Patrons loved the outdoor seating so much that cities are making it permanent: A New York City study of several streets closed during Covid found storeowners making more than before, and diners digging the al fresco lifestyle. If data won’t change minds, customers might.”

There are two opposing sides on this matter. On one side are advocates who naturally will push for bike lanes and will promote them as The solution (emphasis mine) rather than one of a cocktail to address the transport mess we are in. On the other side are conservative, status quo types (or car-lovers as bike advocates will call them) who believe cars should have the roads to themselves. Unfortunately, many in government and particularly in transport agencies are with the latter. Perhaps they should be the first ones that need to be converted to favor active transport?

On getting started on bike commuting

Here is another article on bike commuting. It really is a challenge to get people into bike commuting even if their workplaces or schools are close to their homes. What more for people who have to travel longer distances between their homes and workplaces or schools?

Bassett, E. (December 1, 2022) “The No B.S. Guide to Getting Started Bike Commuting,” Medium, https://erikbassett.medium.com/the-no-b-s-guide-to-getting-started-bike-commuting-5dd0cbb87e5b [Last accessed:

To quote from the article:

“Assume you’re invisible until proven otherwise.

Like every city I’ve lived or ridden in, yours probably paints pictures on the ground and calls them “bicycle infrastructure.” Road designs encourage excess speed; vehicles aren’t meaningfully separated from cyclists and pedestrians; there are conflicting rights-of-way at intersections, driveways, and so forth.

And that is not right. It’s a sad commentary on urban “planning” in most places that anything but car use requires this degree of paranoia. It points to a profound dysfunction that few (with any serious influence) are willing or even interested to change…yet.

But unless or until it improves, the only viable response is to assume you don’t exist in the eyes of whoever’s driving nearby. “If I weren’t here, would they gun it to make a right turn on red?” Well, assume they will. “If I weren’t here, would they merge up there?” You guessed it: assume they will.

This is unquestionably the worst aspect of bike commuting, and if it’s too stressful in your situation, that’s perfectly fine. But in the spirit of a “no-B.S.” guide, I’d be remiss not to drive home a life-saving lesson that all these years of cycling have so deeply ingrained in me.”

The author also states the difference between bike commuting and sports biking including noting the differences in the objectives or goals for each.

Why do we keep widening roads?

I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.

 

Safest airlines in 2022/2023?

One magazine published an article recently about the safest airlines in the world. This is very relevant as people have returned to traveling during this period despite the pandemic and the new strains coming out. It is useful especially for people who are traveling overseas since airline choices might be very limited for domestic routes. Here is the article:

Puckett, J. (January 5, 2023) “This is the safest airline in the world,” Condé Nast Traveler, https://www.cntraveler.com/story/the-safest-airlines-in-the-world?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_010623_2&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight_Afternoon [Last accessed: 1/7/2023]

To quote from the article, the basis for the ranking is as follows:

“The site’s staff analyzes each airline’s records for crashes over the last five years, serious incidents over two years, audits from aviation’s governing bodies and associations; fleet age, expert analysis of pilot training, and COVID protocols. In addition to these criteria, each airline that makes the list is also at the top of the industry in terms of safety innovations and have added cutting-edge aircraft to their fleets, like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787…”

There are not so many Asian airlines in the list especially if you don’t include the Middle Eastern airlines. Only Singapore Airlines, EVA Air and Cathay Pacific are in the list. I was expecting at least one Japanese airline and perhaps Thai Airways to be in the list. I was not surprised Philippine Airlines was not on the list considering the criteria.

There’s a separate list for low-cost carriers in the article and Air Asia is one though there are actually several Air Asia companies operating out of Southeast Asian countries. It would be nice to see how Air Asia Philippines compares with the mother company based in Malaysia. Cebu Pacific is categorized under LCC’s but with so many of these companies around the world, it won’t be a surprise they didn’t rank among the Top 20 either.

Shared article: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them

I’m sharing this article on active and micro mobility modes from Todd Litman, published in Planetizen.com:

Source: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them

From the article:

“Common Active Transportation Leverage Effects:
Shorter trips. Shorter active trips often substitutes for longer motorized trips, such as when people choose a local store rather than driving to more distant shops.
Reduced chauffeuring. Better walking and bicycling conditions reduces the need to chauffeur non-drivers (special trips to transport a passenger). These often require empty backhauls (miles driven with no passenger). As a result, each mile of avoided chauffeuring often reduces two vehicle-miles.
-Increased public transit travel. Since most transit trips include walking and bicycling links, improving these modes supports public transit travel and transit-oriented development.
-Vehicle ownership reductions. Active mode improvements allow some households to reduce their vehicle ownership, which reduces vehicle trip generation, and therefore total vehicle-miles.
-Lower traffic speeds. Active travel improvements often involve traffic speed reductions. This makes non-auto travel more time-competitive with driving and reduces total automobile travel.
-More compact development. Walking and bicycling support more compact, multimodal communities by reducing the amount of land devoted to roadways and parking, and creating more attractive streets.
-Social norms. As active travel increases, these modes become more socially acceptable.

The article is a must read if we are to understand how important active transport and micro mobilities are in the context of today’s transport conundrum. Of course, part of the contextualization and perhaps ‘localization’ on these modes will be related to land use or development. The latter is a big challenge especially for the likes of Metro Manila and other rapidly developing cities in the Philippines where housing in the cities (related to compact development) has become quite expensive and has driven more and more people to live in the suburbs. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this has resulted in more pressure to develop transportation systems but infrastructure development cannot play the catch up game given the limited resources for their construction. Meanwhile, services are also behind in terms of quality and requires reforms and rationalizations.

On reducing driving and its inherent risks

Ever since the automobile was invented and eventually mass-produced, there has been an increasing risk associated with motor vehicle traffic. Laws, policies and regulations have also been influenced to favor the car rather than people. And so we now have what is termed as a car-oriented and dependent transportation system that seems so difficult to undo as most people appear to be enamored by the car. Owning a car (or even a motorcycle if you want to extend this idea of individual ownership) remains an aspiration to a lot of people.

Here is a link to the compact version of a comprehensive report by Todd Litman that presents and argues for a new paradigm where driving is considered a risk factor. There are data and a table comparing old and new traffic paradigms to help us understand the situation and what needs to be redefined or re-framed in order to achieve our safety targets or vision.

Litman, T. (October 20, 2022) “Driving as a Risk Factor: A New Paradigm,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/119287-driving-risk-factor-new-paradigm?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10202022&mc_cid=beacdc2a04&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/28/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Safer vehicles, roads, and driving may reduce crashes but achieve few other goals, and sometimes contradict them. Transportation demand management and smart growth policies increase safety in addition to helping to achieve other planning goals, and so can be considered win-win solutions.

More comprehensive safety analysis tends to support social equity goals. Many conventional safety strategies, such as larger vehicles with more passenger protection, and wider roads with fewer intersections, tend to increase walking and bicycling risks. In contrast, lower traffic speeds, TDM, and Smart Growth tend to improve safety, mobility, and accessibility for people who cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive.”

The key takeaway here should be that people should have the option of not driving at all in order to reduce the risks associated with driving as well as reduce congestion. A more comprehensive

On making streets safer through woonerfs

One of the new things I learned when I was taking up transportation planning as an undergraduate student in the 1990s was about the woonerf. Our teacher then was a Visiting Professor from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He introduced to us many concepts in that elective course that paved the way to a number of us proceeding to specialize in transportation. What is a woonerf? Well, here’s a nice article defining the woonerf and providing some examples:

Ionescu, D. (October 6, 2022) “What is a Woonerf?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/woonerf?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10062022&mc_cid=9d60b3d668&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/10/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Translated as “living street,” a woonerf employs strategies like traffic calming devices and low speed limits to force drivers to slow down and safely share street space with pedestrians, cylists, and others, often without raised curbs separating cars and pedestrians. In the Netherlands, where the woonerf originated in the 1960s, motorized traffic within woonerf zones is limited to walking speed…

…A woonerf is not a pedestrianized street, but rather one where multiple users and vehicles co-exist. However, a woonerf can be converted to car-free uses using bollards or other barriers. The woonerf maintains utilitarian uses like loading docks and parking while making the roadway safer and more accessible to non-drivers.”

There should be many applications to the woonerf in the Philippines especially in areas where the dominant land use is residential and through traffic should be discouraged. This is goes well with the complete streets concept that is now being promoted and in fact pre-dates the concept and was well ahead of its time.

On having daily walks to improve health and wellness

We begin October with an article about walking, health and wellness. I can relate to this article as we take daily walks, usually in the mornings. One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to more hours from home (rather than at the workplace) is that we have been able to schedule and increase time for our walks. And this has led to a healthier lifestyle for us.

To quote from the article:

“When it comes to brisk walking, “at these moderate levels of effort, you are able to increase your aerobic capacity,” Dr. Singh said. In addition to the long-term health benefits, such intensity would also lower blood pressure, moderate blood sugar levels and lower the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

The key is to walk at an intensity that is manageable but also slightly pushes the boundaries of what is a comfortable pace.

“That constant slow stress on your body is what leads to fitness gains,” Dr. Singh said. “If you’re just getting started, this is probably the easiest way to get started and stay committed, consistent and injury-free.””

On the air that you breathe when inside aircraft

I am sharing a different kind of article this time. It is still on transportation but more health-related in the sense that the article’s topic is about the air passengers breathe when inside a plane. This is very relevant as we continue to grapple with COVID-19 and other diseases such as influenza, while also trying to get back to our normal activities including traveling whether for family affairs, work, recreation or other reasons.

McGee, W.J. (September 20, 2022) “How clean is the air on planes?” Condé Nast Traveler, https://www.cntraveler.com/story/how-clean-and-safe-is-a-planes-cabin-air?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_092122_2&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight [Last accessed: 9/21/2022]

Obviously, there are concerns about the air inside the cabin. But there are other items that one needs to be mindful of if you are truly concerned with the risk of infection.

To quote from the article:

“But some experts have expressed more doubt about the ability to completely scrub the air for zero chance of spreading flu and COVID. “Transmission of infection may occur between passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft, usually as a result of the infected individual coughing or sneezing or by touch,” WHO warns. Cabin crew members agree with this assessment. “It’s naive to think an airline can protect passengers 100 percent because you’re in an enclosed space for however long the flight is,…””

The article also provides the following recommendations to travelers (quoted directly from the article and highlights mine):

  • If you’re concerned about aircraft cleanliness, try booking the earliest flight possible that day, as most airlines do a deep-clean each night. And if your itinerary allows it, consider nonstops rather than connecting flights, to limit your exposure to multiple dirty cabins.
  • Wipe down your airline seat and surrounding area with a sanitizing wipe to kill any lingering flu virus; pack an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and wash your hands often.
  • The CDC recommends that most travelers get a flu vaccine in September or October; it also advises to get up-to-date with your COVID vaccines and boosters before any travel.
  • Practice social distancing throughout your journey—at check-in, security screening, boarding, baggage claim, etc. Select seats apart from other passengers (often in the rear) and ask to be moved if possible.
  • Although there is no longer a mask mandate for air travel in the U.S., the CDC still advises travelers ages 2 years and older to opt to wear a face mask in indoor areas of public transportation—such as airplanes, trains, buses, ferries—and in transportation hubs like airports.

There seems so many of what are being termed as revenge travel these days. Many people were not able to travel particularly for family (visits, homecomings) or recreation (vacations) the past 2 years. They are now traveling again as more countries open up for tourism and more people have been vaccinated or gained immunity from the virus. The recommendations above should be heeded as there’s really nothing to lose if we follow them and particularly continue good practices to avoid infection.

 

On the impacts of bicycle use

I’ve probably read a lot of posts on social media advocating for bicycle use. Here is another article that provides us with evidence about the impacts of cycling on travel, emissions and health:

Timmer, J. (August 20, 2022) “Here’s What Happens When Countries Use Bikes to Fight Emissions,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/bike-more-curb-global-emissions/ [Last accessed: 8/24/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Globally, adopting a Danish level of bicycle use would reduce annual emissions of CO2 by 414 million metric tons, approximately equivalent to the UK’s emissions in 2015. Boosting that to a Dutch level would eliminate nearly 700 million metric tons, or most of the emissions from Germany in that year.

The researchers also noted that countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have much lower rates of obesity than their peer countries. Based on the known health risks there, they estimate that, globally, we’re already avoiding 170,000 deaths annually due to cycling. Expanding this globally, they found that Denmark-equivalent bicycle use would prevent 430,000 deaths per year. Dutch levels of cycling would prevent 780,000 deaths.

That said, the vulnerability of cyclists to cars poses its own lethal risks. But these aren’t anywhere close to outweighing the benefits from exercise and lower obesity. (They’d add about 90,000 and 160,000 additional deaths per year for the two levels of use.) And if fewer drivers are using cars, there’s a chance that those numbers would come in even lower.

It’s worth noting that these numbers almost certainly underestimate the benefits of shifting to bikes. Bicycles use far fewer resources to produce, and they last longer than most cars. Maintenance is likely to be far less resource-intensive as well. So simply focusing on the use of the bike omits a lot of things that would show up in a detailed life-cycle analysis.

The researchers are certainly correct that there are a lot of locations where weather makes cycling a less-than-ideal option—and the range of places where heat makes it a positively dangerous option is expanding in our changing climate.

But some of the other issues are less severe than they might appear at first. For example, the advent of bicycles with electric assist means that hilly locales aren’t necessarily the barrier they might have been a decade ago. And while a number of countries have large open spaces where cars will remain a necessity, the trend toward urbanization means that most people in those countries will live in places where cycling can be made an option.

So, the biggest barrier is likely to remain the social will to rethink transportation.”

Indeed, social will (as well as political will) is perhaps the biggest barrier in our country. Many people may not agree but the evidence for this is so clear and obvious  that one has to be naive or oblivious to not see it. How else will one explain people sticking to their cars and more readily shifting to motorcycles rather than the bicycle. Of course, there are other factors to be considered and the article actually cites wealth and geography as strong prerequisites in developing a cycling culture. We need to do much more to determine where interventions are needed including land use planning and land development as well as the provision of affordable housing closer to workplaces, schools, shops and other places of interest (Hello 10- or 15-minute cities!).