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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.””

Bike lanes at the UP Diliman campus – Part 1

I had first read about the enhanced bike lanes at the UP Diliman Academic Oval last month from a social media post of a friend. She was present as the delineations of the jogging and cycling lanes were being painted along with the baybayin marks distinguishing UP’s bike lanes from others like it. UP’s bike lanes predate the current ones around Metro Manila that mostly popped-up during the pandemic.

The Academic Oval road original had two-way traffic along its wide carriageway, that could easily fit 4 lanes. Since it became a one-way, counterclockwise road, the lanes had been divided into 3 wide lanes with one lane initially committed to bicycles.

Here are the two lanes designated for joggers/walkers (curbside) and cyclists (median). The pedestrian sidewalk was originally planned to be widened in time for UP’s Centennial celebration back in 2008. That did not materialize. The Academic Oval could have had wider sidewalks for those who are not walking for exercise.

The section in front of Melchor Hall features the words bicycles or bike lane and pedestrian in baybayin. Its certainly a novelty for now and something probably apt for the campus roads but not necessarily for others.

A closer look at the baybayin script along the jogging/walking and bike lanes.

Here’s the bigger picture on the pavement markings.

Approach to an intersection 

The UP colors inform riders about the intersection ahead. These are more visual as they are flat and not rumble strips. The older pavement markings advising riders of the speed limit should be seen in the context of utilitarian cycling (e.g., bike to work, bike to school) rather than cycling for fitness or recreation, which obviously may involve higher speeds and is frowned upon along the oval.

The intersection approach from another angle.

The Academic Oval bike lane is one of the original recommendations of a transport study conducted for the campus about 17 years ago. The study was the basis for the campus being declared as a road safety zone, which among others included a provision for its roads to have a 30-kph speed limit. The one-way counter-clockwise traffic circulation and the jogging and bike lanes, however, are officially a part of what has become a long-term experiment on campus. There are many who oppose the one-way scheme and are vehement against the ultimate plan to have the Academic Oval car-free or car-less (it is mostly car-less during Sundays – part of the “experiment”).

The other new bike lanes on campus in Part 2 of this series.

A Bike Master Plan for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao

Before Active Transport Week concludes this weekend, I would just like to share this collage from one of our staff at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is about the Master Plan developed for the three metropolitan areas in the country – Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.  I will share more details about this soon including a link or links to where you can download a copy of the plan.

The project concluded recently with the submission of the Final Report but most important is the Master Plan document that can serve as a reference for further development of bike lanes in the metropolises. I’ve seen the Master Plan and many of its provisions and recommendations can easily be adopted or is replicable in other cities and municipalities in the country. Perhaps, there should be a National Master Plan?

Take a hike or a walk?

Here’s an interesting article calling for people to go out and spend some time with nature.

https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/doctors-free-nature-prescriptions-treat-chronic-diseases

The prescriptions mentioned are not at all new, content-wise but the article does mention that people tend to follow prescriptions from their doctors. Perhaps the prescription will be treated or perceived as a more serious matter compared to verbal ones that are interpreted as suggestions and not really all that serious? No matter, the important thing is to be active and keep walking, hiking, jogging or cycling.

The UP Diliman campus’ Academic Oval, along which many people walk or jog in the mornings or afternoons. Biking is currently prohibited along the central loop road of the campus.

Article on evaluating transport equity

Here is another quick share of an article on transportation equity:

Litman, T. (February 2, 2022) “Evaluating Transportation Equity: ITE Quickbite,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/news/2022/02/116058-evaluating-transportation-equity-ite-quickbite [Last accessed: 2/4/2022]

Transportation equity is a very relevant, very timely topic as people in the Philippines are just beginning to understand and weigh the advantages of having more efficient transport in the forms of active and public transport over private vehicles.

Sharing an article on the benefits of cycling exercise

Here is another quick share of an article on the benefits of cycling. The article is more about the health benefits that are highlighted here with a study on diabetics:

Putka, S. (July 26, 2021) “One type of exercise reliably lowers your risk of death, says scientists,” Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/benefits-of-cycling-exercise [Last accessed: 7/28/2021]

The article is clear about the impacts not being limited to diabetics or those with other illnesses. Also, while intensity and duration of exercise are mentioned and appear to have the most significant positive effects, the findings extend to relatively healthy people as well as those into lower intensity, less duration exercise. The key is still to be active. Of course, a healthy diet should also be a constant across these cases.

On step counts

Here’s a nice read about whether we need to reach 10,000 steps/day. We often hear or read about people asking how many steps you’re taking on average each day or lamenting or bragging about how many they’re taking each day. Perhaps we don’t really have to take so many? And maybe the key is really about our diets.

Apparently, there is really no need to reach that so-called magic number that is 10,000 steps.

Here is another article:

Landsverk, G. (July 9, 2021) “Forget 10,000 steps — here’s how much you should actually walk per day, according to science,” Insider, https://medium.com/insider/forget-10-000-steps-heres-how-much-you-should-actually-walk-every-day-db6699848f9c [Last accessed: 7/14/2021]

On predicting how new developments will affect pedestrians

I’ve been involved in a number of traffic or transport impact assessment (TIA) projects in the past. In these assessments, not much is usually written about the impacts to pedestrians though we make sure that there is a section discussing their needs (e.g., sidewalks, crossings, footbridges). Unfortunately, even with specific recommendations, there is no assurance that the proponent will revise their designs. The typical TIA in the Philippines is undertaken after there have been architectural plans already prepared if not completed. By completed here, I mean they are practically final from the perspective of the client or proponent. The exception it seems is a big mall chain that seems to constantly revise their plans and for which our recommendations are almost always considered and incorporated in design.

I am sharing this recent article on the development of a new traffic model to predict the impacts of new developments on walkers.

Wilson, K. (April 26, 2021) “New Traffic Model Predicts How New Developments Will Affect Walkers,” StreetsBlog USA, https://usa.streetsblog.org/2021/04/26/new-traffic-model-predicts-how-changes-affect-walkers/ [Last accessed: 5/12/2021]

From the perspective of doing TIAs, I think that there should be a conscious effort of including the needs of pedestrians (walkers) and cyclists in impact assessments. Too often, (and I too am guilty here), there is but a minor mention of their needs and recommendations can be disregarded by both proponents (e.g., little or no change in designs to accommodate pedestrian requirements) and the local government (i.e., no push to make sure pedestrian needs are addressed).

On the tech side, there is a local development that can be used for counting pedestrians and cyclists. The TITAN project funded by the DOST-PCIEERD developed a tool that can count pedestrians and cyclists in aid of studies involving them. Such tools can be useful for data collection regardless of whether there is a new project or a TIA being undertaken.

On when to use masks when outdoors

Here is a useful graphic from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The graphic described situations for when masks are required. I don’t want to use preferred because it means people may opt out of using masks. It is a useful reference even for those in other countries that do not have enough clear information from their governments about wearing masks and how it helps protect vs. getting infected by Covid-19. It is applicable to people searching for a legit reference to mask-wearing in outdoor situations.

This information becomes more relevant as people start getting vaccinated and at the same time look forward to getting together with family and friends in social events such as eating out or having picnics. Of course, this also applies to exercise as well as commuting via active transport modes (i.e., walking or cycling).

More parks and trees = longer lives

Here is an article about a topic that seems unrelated to transportation but is actually strongly related to it. We already know about the benefits of tree-lined boulevards and parks as lungs of a town or city. The following article discusses the benefits and advantages of having more parks and trees.

Yanez, E. (November 19, 2020) “More Parks, Longer Lives,” Parks and Recreation, https://www.nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2020/december/more-parks-longer-lives/

I suddenly recall what were tree-lined national highways across the country. Many of these trees were cut down to give way to road-widening projects of the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)., Nevermind that the widening was not really required in many if not most cases, and that the trees were never replaced or was there ever an effort to do so. The results have been disastrous in terms of the environments along these roads. Transport systems can also be developed with parks and trees in mind; especially if active transport were the focus of the development. Surely parks and trees will enhance the environment and encourage more people to walk or cycle. This should translate into better overall health and wellness for people.