Health – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:01:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How far is too far to bike to work? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/27/how-far-bike-work/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/27/how-far-bike-work/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:36:20 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21344 A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Pinch-Flat.com. Taking the car is expensive, public transit can be cramped, and you’re feeling unhealthy. No worries, all of those issues are solved by the bicycle commute. But, how far is too far to bike to work? How long will it take? What should you pack?... Read more »

The post How far is too far to bike to work? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Pinch-Flat.com.

Taking the car is expensive, public transit can be cramped, and you’re feeling unhealthy. No worries, all of those issues are solved by the bicycle commute. But, how far is too far to bike to work?

How long will it take? What should you pack? What about sweat? Here I share my experiences of when I commuted to work, which I hope inspires you to get commuting yourself.

The answer to the question “how far is too far to bike to work” is difficult. For some people, around the corner is too far, and for others a 30-mile trip one way is not far enough. After looking through many forums, and questioning veteran cyclists, here’s a chart that seems to be the general opinion of many the commuters.

bike distance chart

Current fitness level

Your current fitness level has a significant impact on the distance you’ll want to cycle. You may be fit enough to cover your commute, or you may need to build up to it slowly. One important thing to remember is how the miles add up. One day of cycling 40 miles is relatively easy for a fit person. Five consecutive days of cycling 40 miles are far more challenging.

My old commute was 10 miles long, and I started work at 7:30 am. While I’m not an athlete, over the course of a few months, I managed to improve my fitness drastically. When I first started cycling, my commute would take around 50 minutes, but I managed to get it to around 35 minutes. I probably had a tailwind to help me, but I still noticed a difference. Not only to my times but how I felt while at work and how I felt in general. However, covering the distance is only half the battle. Any seasoned bicycle commuter will tell you that you need a good plan.

Before you commute

Before you cycle to work you should make sure you ride the route the weekend before to see how long it takes. You can use my simple calculation when planning, but when it comes down to it, you’ll want an exact time. Strava or Endomondo are both great tools for this. I found writing everything down was a great place to start, because it gave me the confidence to start commuting by bike.

To be fully prepared, you should have a run-through before a work day. This way you can refine the process and get yourself ready as quickly as possible.

Compare your normal commute time

I thought that commuting by bike would take a lot of extra time, but when I looked at the numbers, it wasn’t that bad. My commute when driving took around 20 minutes door-to-door. My commute when cycling was around 40 minutes, plus an extra 10 minutes to get changed at work (I got everything else ready the night before).

My route was quiet country lanes and I cycled very early in the morning, which meant I encountered few cars. If you’re cycling through a congested city, it could be much quicker on a bicycle.

These times meant that my commute was an extra 30 minutes longer each way, but I was happier and healthier for it. In the evening, I would walk through my front door 30 minutes later than I would have if I had driven. Except I had already cycled 20 miles, and that was a great feeling.

Arriving at work

Previously, I lived in England and biked early in the morning. Early starts meant that it was too cold for me to sweat much. I worked for a big company, and they had facilities for people who wanted to take showers, and that’s what I did in the summer when it got a little warmer. If your office does not provide showers, here’s an excellent guide on how not to sweat too much on your morning commute.

However, I found the key to sweating less was as simple as just taking it a little easier in the mornings, and wearing fewer layers. In regards to appearance, I put a bit of wax in my hair and was ready to go. If you’ve got longer hair and can’t get away with a bit of wax, here’s a helpful guide on how to fix helmet hair.

I took my clothes with me to, and from work each day in an old rucksack. (A proper cycling bag or panniers would have been far better). I packed it each night, and I left it by the front door. If you have the option, I’d suggest that you take your clothes for the week to the office in bulk. For example, you could drive in one day of the week with all your clean clothes, and at the same time, pick up all your dirty clothes. This strategy stops you from having to pack your bag each night and is one less thing to think about.

Motivation

No matter how well you have everything else organized, nothing will help you if you don’t have the motivation to leave the house when it’s dark and cold outside. Organizing everything is a great way not to make excuses for yourself, but even the most iron-willed of people will start to slip after months of the same thing. Here are my tips to keep motivated:

  • Do not cycle every day of the week if you don’t have to. Sometimes it’s the constant changing and washing of clothes that gets old before the cycling.
  • I loved listening to music on my commute. An excellent playlist or podcast can help the miles pass on days when you’re feeling less inspired.
  • Change your route up. Looking at the same scenery each day can get boring. Keep it fresh and change up the route if you can.
  • Take the scenic route on days when it’s sunny.

In conclusion

So, to answer the question “how far is too far to bike to work?” I’d have to say that it’s largely up to you, but 10 to 20 miles seems to be a reasonable distance – any more than that and it starts to be too much. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and being prepared can help. If you’re a person I surveyed who commutes 30 miles each way, five days a week – you’re a true champ.

Photo: Commuters ride onto the Roosevelt Bridge from Arlington County, Va., into Washington, D.C. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

The post How far is too far to bike to work? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/27/how-far-bike-work/feed/ 9
My personal case for safe and joyful transportation https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/17/case-safe-joyful-transportation-introduction/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/17/case-safe-joyful-transportation-introduction/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:32:57 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20060 Introducing our data storytelling intern, Angela Urban Hi! I’m the data storyteller intern at Mobility Lab and a civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the next few months, I’ll be reporting back with stories about ongoing research in Arlington and beyond. I’m interested in transportation, since I commute by bike, bike for... Read more »

The post My personal case for safe and joyful transportation appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Introducing our data storytelling intern, Angela Urban

Hi! I’m the data storyteller intern at Mobility Lab and a civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the next few months, I’ll be reporting back with stories about ongoing research in Arlington and beyond.

I’m interested in transportation, since I commute by bike, bike for fun, fix bikes for fun, use public transit as needed, get car rides from family and friends if we are going places together, and walk to near-to-home locations for a nice change of pace. I also have a particular interest in pushing sustainable transportation options forward, after getting hit by a distracted driver in 2016.

The story is such: My sister and I are biking for fun one night, with our bike lights on. The driver behind us is texting, and fails to see our lights. The driver behind us runs over me, runs into my sister, hits a parked car, then stops. A nurse who happened to be walking by calls the police and an ambulance, a crane pulls the SUV off me, and I get taken to the hospital. My sister’s wrist is broken, and I am in a coma for a month. The driver gets a negligent driving citation instead of a criminal case because I didn’t die.

I survived a broken femur, fractured ankle, broken jaw, lung contusion, and traumatic brain injury. The coma was not medically induced. Doctors said that the percentage likelihood of an adult surviving what I went through was in the single digits. My parents and my sister were right beside me this whole time. My parents flew back, as soon as they heard what happened, from a family visit in Hungary that they had just started a couple of days before the crash.

After three weeks, I started to wake up. I don’t remember this because I couldn’t remember beyond a couple of hours. Over the next month, my memory slowly built back up, as I recovered in the Rehabilitation Unit of a hospital, and learned how to walk again. I continued to recover at home with my parents for the next month, and went to outpatient therapy. Then I started school again, and still passed my classes with flying colors.

After all that, I’m still riding my bike through the streets whenever I can, and you better believe I am motivated to make a change in transportation. So, after connecting the dots directing me towards transportation engineering (bike commuter, biker-for-fun, dangerous roads), I focused on transportation engineering as a sub-unit of civil engineering, and sang out of joy that I chose the right major.

The dream I had created for myself: To make transportation a joy, not a drag of sitting in rush hour alone. To make all forms of transport easily accessible, safe, practical, and affordable. To have everyone feel comfortable with their mode of transportation, with its time commitment, consistency, and flexibility.

Thus, I came to Mobility Lab to pursue my dream of promoting sustainable transportation through TDM, and here I am, storytelling. I brought my trusty bicycle steed, Rusty, to take me through the streets whenever I’m not writing. Keep an eye out in the next few months for more stories from me.

The post My personal case for safe and joyful transportation appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/17/case-safe-joyful-transportation-introduction/feed/ 2
Drive less, earn a bike: Employers thinking big with TDM programs https://mobilitylab.org/2016/08/31/drive-less-earn-new-bike-employer-tdm/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/08/31/drive-less-earn-new-bike-employer-tdm/#respond Wed, 31 Aug 2016 14:46:33 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18895 When Sonos wanted to move its Santa Barbara headquarters into a new downtown location, the wireless speaker company became very aware of the potential traffic impacts. After all, the company’s previous location had been two small buildings outside of the city core. And the city of Santa Barbara had its own site requirements for the new office, part... Read more »

The post Drive less, earn a bike: Employers thinking big with TDM programs appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
When Sonos wanted to move its Santa Barbara headquarters into a new downtown location, the wireless speaker company became very aware of the potential traffic impacts. After all, the company’s previous location had been two small buildings outside of the city core. And the city of Santa Barbara had its own site requirements for the new office, part of which called for a reduction in driving commute trips.

But rather than do just the minimum of transportation demand management outreach to employees about non-driving options, Sonos went full-on with an ambitious commuter program, called SmartRide, which gave employees the option to ultimately earn themselves a brand-new bicycle.

Speaking at the Association for Commuter Transportation annual conference this month in Portland, Oregon, Sonos senior facilities manager Allison Griffin explained how the company sees transportation options as a way to attract new employees and improve the work-life balance.

Sonos’ SmartRide program was more than a new bicycle – the company chose to offer employees two paths. In the “fast cash” option, employees could cash-out of their parking, receiving some of that money instead as a daily bonus for their non-driving commutes. After a certain number of biking commutes, the employee would receive $600 toward a new bicycle at a local bike shop. The “flexible” option keeps driving to on-site parking as an option, has lower cash bonuses for active trips, and requires more trips in order to earn the bicycle credit. A vacation-day raffle, with entries generated through biking trips, was also integrated into the system.

An internal survey of Sonos staff informed this incentive structure. Nearly two-thirds of employees lived within five miles of the campus and 86 percent said they preferred not to drive, suggesting a high potential to move people towards biking commutes.

Griffin reported that more people enrolled in the parking-less, “fast cash” option than the “flexible” alternative. Eventually, the campus was covered with new bikes, the visibility of which helped draw the attention and enrollment of even more employees. A year later, 38 percent of employees are participating, and Sonos plans to adapt the SmartRide program to its other locations in Boston and Seattle.

While not every employer has such a high potential for a bike-to-work modeshare, many stand to gain from small shifts away from excessive employee driving, such as bonding with the surrounding community to alleviating expensive parking crunches.

SCH locationThe Seattle Children’s Hospital is one employer uniquely attuned to that parking demand. On an average day, the hospital draws about 6,000 people, but only has 1,200 parking spots. In addition, as a condition for its future expansion, Seattle mandated that the hospital reduce its drive-alone commutes to 30 percent by 2030, an ambitious goal for an employer located outside the city’s urban core.

Jamie Cheney, the hospital’s director of transportation, explained at the ACT conference how parking had been addressed twofold: by allowing only daily rates that are adjusted annually (since monthly rates ultimately create a driving incentive), and by subsidizing non-driving commuters. Similar to Sonos, they loan bikes to employees who ride at least two days a week, even offering biking classes and a service shop on-campus. Any employee who logs a non-driving commute trip receives a $4 bonus.

The hospital is already well on its way to the ambitious drive-alone goal: in the last 20 years, it has reduced the number of commutes by single-occupant vehicles by 35 percentage points – to 38 percent. About 20 percent of employees carpool and another 20 percent take transit, and the 9 percent biking rate is just short of its 10 percent goal.

As a children’s hospital, Cheney noted that SCH has a unique driver for reducing driving, idling, and congestion around its campus: many patients suffer from respiratory conditions that are exacerbated by nearby car exhaust. Asthma and bronchitis comprise the first and third, respectively, most common reasons for admission to the hospital. Depending on an employer or building’s demography and location, the rationale behind TDM investments often extends past the more immediate traffic concerns.

The slate of incentives that Sonos and Seattle Children’s Hospital offer aren’t exactly the norm for TDM programs – each company has unique circumstances that informs their potential offerings. But the two case studies demonstrate the full array of options available to employers that can help influence employees’ commuting decisions.

Photo: Top, bike parking at the Seattle Children’s Hospital (Adam Coppola via the Green Lane Project, Flickr). Middle, SCH’s location outside of downtown Seattle (Google Maps).

The post Drive less, earn a bike: Employers thinking big with TDM programs appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2016/08/31/drive-less-earn-new-bike-employer-tdm/feed/ 0
Too many lives cut short on our nation’s roads https://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/01/too-many-lives-cut-short-on-roads/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/01/too-many-lives-cut-short-on-roads/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 20:45:56 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18346 This post originally appeared on the AARP blog. In 2009, a truck struck and killed Beverly Shelton’s grandson, Zachary, who was walking inside a marked crosswalk and accompanied by an adult. The driver had rolled through the stop sign rather than make a complete stop. Since the time of Zachary’s death, another 32,000-plus pedestrians have... Read more »

The post Too many lives cut short on our nation’s roads appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
This post originally appeared on the AARP blog.

In 2009, a truck struck and killed Beverly Shelton’s grandson, Zachary, who was walking inside a marked crosswalk and accompanied by an adult. The driver had rolled through the stop sign rather than make a complete stop.

Since the time of Zachary’s death, another 32,000-plus pedestrians have been killed in the United States. A pedestrian is killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes on our nation’s roads. Unfortunately, these tragedies are rising at a distressing rate. From 2009 to 2014, pedestrian deaths increased 19 percent. The Governors Highway Safety Association projects 2015 will be the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept. Pedestrian crashes, as a share of total traffic crashes, climbed from 11 percent to 15 percent in the past decade.

Responding to these alarming trends, the National Transportation Safety Board, for the first time in its history, convened a forum to better understand the contributing factors to this unacceptable loss of life. The agency is generally called in to investigate major crashes involving multiple victims. Pedestrian crashes typically involve a single vehicle and single pedestrian, and therefore often do not get the attention they deserve.

Younger and older pedestrians are most vulnerable — children often because of inexperience, older adults because of their increased fragility. While people age 65 and older comprise 14.5 percent of the total U.S. population, 20 percent of all pedestrians killed in 2014 were in this age group.

Experts at the NTSB forum suggested several possible contributing factors to the rise in pedestrian deaths. Driving reached its highest level in history in 2015; meanwhile, walking has increased in many cities. Roads designed solely for cars put pedestrians at risk. The ubiquitous smartphone also may play a role. Neurologists point out that the human brain cannot multitask, yet it is common to see both drivers and pedestrians with their heads down, staring at a screen. A lack of solid data on exposure and distraction hampers the research and policy community from having a full understanding of the problem.

The research community is in agreement that lowering traffic speeds in urban areas will undoubtedly result in fewer fatalities and serious injuries. “Any measure that reduces vehicle speed reduces the force of impact and likelihood for serious injury,” said David Zuby of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Some cities have put muscle behind efforts to make their streets safer through what have come to be known as “Vision Zero policies. These policies can be summarized in one, concise sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. Vision Zero programs combine smarter street design, targeted enforcement, education and effective emergency response to make our streets safer for people of all ages and abilities.

With this approach, cities are seeing reductions in traffic deaths and injuries among both pedestrians and drivers. New York City has seen a 22 percent drop in traffic fatalities since 2013, the year before its Vision Zero policy went in to effect. City leaders expect to see further reductions in serious injuries after the establishment of a citywide 25 mph speed limit in 2014.

Passage and implementation of Complete Streets policies help to ensure that all roads are planned, designed, constructed, operated and maintained to provide safety, access and convenience for all road users, regardless of how people choose to get around their communities, and regardless of age and ability.

Such policies can dramatically reduce tragedies — and the haunting memories left in their wake. “Every crosswalk is a reminder of the violent way he died that terrible, horrible, awful day,” Grandma Beverly recounts. “Painted crosswalks aren’t enough. Every driver needs to recognize that driving is a privilege, not a right. I want people to quit killing little kids and elderly people. We need people to care.”

No parent or grandparent should live with the feeling that a child’s life was cut short. Our nation can significantly improve pedestrian safety and protect the lives of young and old.

What we can do to make our streets safer

  • Localities and states should prioritize pedestrian safety and consider the full array of funding options, including flexible federal funding, to implement pedestrian safety measures today.
  • Cities, towns, counties and states should adopt and implement Complete Streets and Vision Zero policies.
  • State governments should strengthen laws that protect pedestrians and effectively send the signal that speeding, distraction and aggressive driving will not be tolerated.
  • Congress should ensure that all federally funded, non-interstate roads are planned, designed, constructed, operated and maintained to provide safety, access and convenience for all users of the road, regardless of mode, age or ability.
  • Invest in data collection. The U.S. Department of Transportation should prioritize figuring out a national methodology that can be used to collect pedestrian exposure data. Police departments should collect and record as part of the crash record any evidence of distraction. Better data will facilitate passage of strong, targeted laws that save lives.

Further reading: Read Beverly Shelton’s post on AARP.com about her experience.

Photo: A memorial to a pedestrian death in San Francisco (torbakhopper, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post Too many lives cut short on our nation’s roads appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/01/too-many-lives-cut-short-on-roads/feed/ 0
Mobility of another kind: Lessons from a retirement community https://mobilitylab.org/2016/03/07/mobility-lessons-from-retirement-community/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/03/07/mobility-lessons-from-retirement-community/#respond Mon, 07 Mar 2016 16:20:45 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=17468 Mobility of another kind has been top of mind for me over the past few weeks. My sister and I recently spent a weekend in Arizona helping move my dad out of his house into an assisted living community – he has Parkinson’s Disease and can no longer live alone. As she and I carried... Read more »

The post Mobility of another kind: Lessons from a retirement community appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Mobility of another kind has been top of mind for me over the past few weeks. My sister and I recently spent a weekend in Arizona helping move my dad out of his house into an assisted living community – he has Parkinson’s Disease and can no longer live alone. As she and I carried boxes and hauled consignments and household donations around in our rental car, I couldn’t help but be struck by the built environment and what it means for how people there get around.

Green Valley, Arizona – population 22,519 – isn’t known for much. Sure, it has plenty of sunshine and its fair share of saguaro cactus, but it’s certainly not known beyond the neighboring towns among the suburban sprawl south of Tucson. Why would it be?

Yet Green Valley does have something in abundance that many towns don’t: retirees. Lots of them, in fact. In this small community carved out of the desert in the 1960s, the median age is a whopping 72 years old. Over 73 percent of residents are older than 65. They have chosen to move to Arizona for many reasons. Some escape northern winters for a few months of the year while others have found a different pace for the remainder of their lives.

In addition to its aging population, Green Valley is notable for another feature, although this time not for what it has but what it does not: density of housing. Green Valley ranks at a mere 698 people per square mile. To put this in perspective, even the sprawling mess known as Phoenix clocks in at a comparatively respectable 2,970 people per square mile. (Manhattan is 103 times as dense as Green Valley at a whopping 72,222 people per square mile.)

So what? What do a bunch of old folks in an unincorporated. age-restricted community have to do with the future of mobility? What’s with the obsession over land use? Perhaps while not holding it up as an ideal, we still might be able to learn a thing or two from Green Valley, Arizona.

  • Neighborhood electric vehicles are already here, we just call them golf carts: It’s cliché but true. These suckers are everywhere in Green Valley. Golf carts are a pervasive mode of transportation on the community’s streets rather than on the links. Drivers also enjoy the added benefit of access to the shoulder lane along with bicycles, and many stores offer a separate parking area for shoppers who arrive by cart.
  • Residents were ridesharing before it was a thing: Neighbors and friends routinely call each other (on the landline phone) to ask for and offer up rides to the pharmacy, church, or the VFW.
  • Shuttle services for the aging are ripe for disruption: The local transit authority offers paratransit rides for $6 round trip. But their service area does not extend outside metro Tucson, so retirees who in some ways enjoy the benefits of living in an unincorporated community carry the financial burden in others.Green Valley residents like my father who are wheelchair-bound and can no longer drive are stuck using a private shuttle which costs a whopping $60 for each round trip.
  • ADA parking isn’t so useful when everyone has a hangtag: I’m not proud of this fact, but for one reason or another I had to visit Walmart every day during my trip. That meant spending a lot of time in the parking lot where I could not help but notice that a higher than typical proportion of the stalls were allocated to ADA parking. And they were all full.
  • Children in families with aging parents have elevated expectations and needs for connectivity: Trying to help my father manage his day-to-day life from nearly 2000 miles away is hard. As someone who uses the latest apps and technology for everything in my own life from home heating to banking to prescription ordering and personal safety, I expect the same tools for him — but with collaboration features and technology that he is familiar with and comfortable using.
  • Low density retirement communities are a liability to us all: My father had a dream of aging in place in his desert home, but hyper-low density neighborhoods that require a car to get everywhere from store to doctor’s appointment make this all but impossible.

This article originally appeared on Bicyclechica.com.

Photo: A street in Green Valley, Ariz., allows golf carts to drive in bicycle lanes (photo by author).

The post Mobility of another kind: Lessons from a retirement community appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2016/03/07/mobility-lessons-from-retirement-community/feed/ 0
Mental health suffers when we surrender to car culture https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/24/mental-health-suffers-with-car-culture/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/24/mental-health-suffers-with-car-culture/#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2016 20:25:49 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16958 Maria Hernandez, from Montgomery County, Maryland, was always afraid she wouldn’t know how to use public transportation. But since deciding to learn, she rejoices in being “able to relax, read a book, and enjoy the scenery – which you really can’t do when you’re driving.” No doubt Hernandez is onto something that has been very... Read more »

The post Mental health suffers when we surrender to car culture appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Maria Hernandez, from Montgomery County, Maryland, was always afraid she wouldn’t know how to use public transportation. But since deciding to learn, she rejoices in being “able to relax, read a book, and enjoy the scenery – which you really can’t do when you’re driving.” No doubt Hernandez is onto something that has been very difficult for most throughout the U.S. to muster since the auto industry began seducing us into its lifestyle nearly a century ago.

Of all the many things we surrender when we commit to making most, or all, of our trips by car, the most important may be the most difficult to measure: our mental health. Mental health, our state of well-being in which every individual can realize his or her own potential, allows us to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to our communities. When mental health suffers, the damage can manifest in many ways, from depression to eating disorders to suicide. But our transportation habits – formed long ago but with endless opportunities to change – are some of the greatest tools we have to make sure our mental health remains sharp into old age. We can walk or bike to places and – bingo – that officially counts as regular physical activity. That means these behaviors are associated with improved attention, memory, and cognitive speed across our lifetimes.

What does the research say?

While numerous studies have documented the effect of physical activity on academic performance, extensive research on the connections between transportation and mental health is more difficult to find. Some of the most intriguing evidence includes:

  • Danish study that intended to explore the effects on school children of the food they ate for breakfast and lunch ended up discovering that the way they traveled to school was far more crucial. Those who bicycled or walked performed much better on tests than those who rode in a car or on public transit.
  • British study found that physical exercise and “active leisure” of a person aged 36 had a significant effect on the levels of memory decline for that same person later on between 43 and 53 years of age.
  • In a study on walking and cognitive function, researchers found that older women who walked the equivalent of an easy pace at least 1.5 hours per week had significantly better knowledge, attention, memory, judgment, reasoning, problem solving, decision making, and comprehension, and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week.
  • Many studies have found that being a frequent user of transit can affect mental health, from reducing emotional stress by improving people’s access to education and employment to providing an option that many people consider less stressful than driving. “These mental-health benefits are difficult to quantify but potentially large,” said Todd Litman, a researcher for the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
  • Italian researchers found that just simply living near transit lines could be good for the mental health of older residents in Turin.
  • Other studies have shown that bicycling helps ward off Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Bicycling has also been proven to make people happier (and, one could assume smarter, since Albert Einstein supposedly came up with his theory of relativity while riding his bicycle).
  • Mobility Lab lists several other studies linking active transportation to improved mental health.

There are many things we can do to become more active in our travels. And one positive sign that we may get help from high up is the recent announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation will reward $40 million (with Paul Allen’s Vulcan company pitching in an additional $10 million) to the mid-sized city that figures out how best to fix its transportation system. After all, once our crumbling and disconnected infrastructure is improved, cities can get down to the business of making it easier for people to choose the healthier, sustainable, and more productive ways of getting around town. All of this would lead to not just wealthier individuals, but wealthier communities. Cornell University found that, for one, “unwalkable communities cost Americans $190 billion a year in health-care costs.”

It all starts – or should start – at the top. And the federal government has taken at least one positive recent step. As part of the massive new Every Student Succeeds Act, children will not be prohibited from “traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike,” as long as the parents have given permission and it’s allowed by local law. It may be sad that we actually have to write that into federal law, but it also may help bring back the good old days when kids were much more active in getting to school.

At the local and regional levels, leaders need to do something completely different than what has been done for decades: prioritize people who walk, bike, and use transit over people in cars, according to Chris Hamilton of Active Transport for Cities. He recently wrote at Mobility Lab, “If we make our streets more people-centered, and if we help make it easy for more people to walk, bike, and take transit, our cities will be more green. More prosperous. More physically healthy. And yes, more mentally healthy.” This article originally appeared in the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health.

Photo: A family rides in a cargo bike in Arlington County, Virginia (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

The post Mental health suffers when we surrender to car culture appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/24/mental-health-suffers-with-car-culture/feed/ 2
Bursting the car bubble: Urban mobility for mental, social and physical health https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/18/bursting-the-car-bubble/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/18/bursting-the-car-bubble/#respond Thu, 18 Feb 2016 18:02:51 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16891 This post originally appeared at the Center for Urban Design and Mental Health blog. Does the way we move around our cities make us, and the planet, healthier or indeed happier? In order to answer this question, we need to take a step back to understand why we move around our cities as we do... Read more »

The post Bursting the car bubble: Urban mobility for mental, social and physical health appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
This post originally appeared at the Center for Urban Design and Mental Health blog.

Does the way we move around our cities make us, and the planet, healthier or indeed happier?

In order to answer this question, we need to take a step back to understand why we move around our cities as we do today. In the twentieth century, car companies, urban planners, and national governments focused more on GDP than well-being and sold us private transport. Car corporations, backed by national governments, built lots of cars, planners laid out sprawling cities to accommodate them, city officials invested more in road infrastructure than public transit, and advertisers told us we needed a car to be happy and show our peers we were successful.

In many cities, such as Atlanta and Kuala Lumpur, people have been left with no alternative but to buy a car, unless they cannot afford one. Then getting around the city can be very problematic. The result in many cities is private automobile-dominated transport systems, with entrenched transport inequality. In other words, while the “haves” drive cars, low-income groups take the bus. These groups also have diminished access to workplaces and social gatherings with friends and community groups when public transit is infrequent or of poor quality in cities built for cars. The Brazilian politician and urban planner, Jamie Lerner, writing in The New York Times in December 2015, points out that cars take up more space than humans, and the average 50 square meters of space that a car occupies when parked at home and at work, is equal to the size of a family home or workplace in many countries. What if, as Lerner asks, this space was available instead for small businesses? Instead of “each to his own” in their private car bubble, we could replace the social isolation of car-dependent neighborhoods with the heightened sense of community found in more coffee houses, bookshops, pocket parks, and walkable streets.

By 2030 the number of cars on the world’s roads is anticipated to double to 2 billion. Much of that demand is coming from the burgeoning middle classes of China and India as they embrace the advertiser’s promise of “freedom” and status on the open road, an illusion which slowly unravels with each traffic jam. However, a century of the car has revealed that such car dependence has known health and well-being impacts, falling into five areas:

  1. road deaths and injuries, an annual average of 1.2 million deaths globally, according to a 2015 WHO road safety report
  2. respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer associated with air pollution
  3. obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease related to physical inactivity
  4. social isolation and higher rates of depression in car-dependent neighborhoods
  5. social and health inequalities, a sense of social exclusion of non-car owners, who nevertheless must breathe the pollutants emitted by cars.

But the health of people and the environment are inseparable. The transport sector is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming. Climate change is leading to more extreme heat events, the effects of which are more intense in cities because of the urban ‘heat island’ phenomenon. The urban poor also suffer more from water-and-food-borne gastrointestinal infections, and vector-borne (e.g., dengue fever) diseases due to climate change.

So, the way we move around our cities can make us sick, or even kill us in other ‘distant’ ways, not just on the road. The best hope may be to stop driving cars which burn fossil fuels, and use active transport such as walking and cycling, as well as mass transit.

Tokyo transit riders

Different people sharing a train carriage in Tokyo. Photo by author.

However, we should acknowledge that cars do afford certain freedoms. They allow us to look after family members, for example, by transporting children and elderly parents to medical treatment, give us access to social networks and education and employment, and satisfy the consumer desires of some. However, the collective cost to society has been too high. As Jamie Lerner also said, “Cars are the cigarettes of the future.”

So, no, cars have made neither us, nor the planet, healthier. And while individuals may experience a brief spike in happiness as with any consumer purchase, and derive happiness from looking after family members with cars when necessary, cars are not an enduring source of personal happiness. Collectively, the impact of many cars, their infrastructure (roads, parking space, gas stations), noise, and emissions, degrades neighborhoods and diminishes our happiness and wellbeing.

We have now awakened to the fact that our cities have been designed primarily to move cars, rather than people. And, as the preeminent urbanist Jan Gehl poignantly reminds us, a city can be designed for cars or designed for people, but not for both.

While the automobile has a place in the mobility mix, active transport such as walking and cycling and mass transit options such as light rail and Bus Rapid Transit are more desirable for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are designed for everyone, not only for people with the means to afford a car. They promote individual health by making us more physically active and reduce pollution-related illness. Fewer carbon-emitting cars on the roads means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. And when cities are designed for people, rather than cars, public space is reconfigured towards more walkable neighborhoods, which encourage social interaction and build social cohesion within communities. And as the famous twentieth century urbanist Jane Jacobs wrote in the 1960s, more walkable neighborhoods means “more eyes on the street,” the best and most natural form of security.

When most people rely on public transit, namely middle class and low-income groups, social equality is strengthened, and non-car owners suffer less from the fumes of cars they cannot afford. Children can walk and cycle without fear of being hit by cars, the elderly are more inclined to venture outdoors, and green space is restored to spaces previously occupied by cars. And our sensory landscape becomes more attractive, when the sound of cars and the smell of their fumes give way to the underlying sounds of the city itself, and the smell of fresh air.

Its is clear then that active transport, combined with public transit, makes us and the planet healthier, and makes for happier, more connected communities. Re-imagining mobility from a people-centred prism has had great results. In Mexico City, for example, new bikeshare systems are proving popular with women especially, a group that is often more vulnerable to transport exclusion, mostly due to safety fears. In Copenhagen, the preferred mode of transport for almost half of the population is the bicycle, and as the city ‘s Green Wave initiative is rolled out to make Copenhagen the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025, wireless LED lighting embedded in bicycle paths uses sensors feeding into software to provide information to cyclists about traffic conditions ahead.

But as we embrace this technology, we must not lose the lesson of the twentieth century – that mobility should be designed first and foremost for people, whose happiness and well-being is found in the social ties of strong walkable, human-scaled communities free of car fumes and the threat of traffic injury.

Photo: top, people walk along Manhattan’s High Line (George Bremer, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post Bursting the car bubble: Urban mobility for mental, social and physical health appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/18/bursting-the-car-bubble/feed/ 0
Metro Helping Blind People Better Navigate D.C. Transit https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/17/metro-helping-blind-people-better-navigate-d-c-transit/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/17/metro-helping-blind-people-better-navigate-d-c-transit/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2015 15:25:26 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15779 Transit agencies have an opportunity to follow the cutting-edge initiatives for the blind that have already been introduced in places like retail outlets Macy’s and American Eagle, and most Major League Baseball ballparks. With a grant from ClickandGo Wayfinding, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) are harnessing the... Read more »

The post Metro Helping Blind People Better Navigate D.C. Transit appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Transit agencies have an opportunity to follow the cutting-edge initiatives for the blind that have already been introduced in places like retail outlets Macy’s and American Eagle, and most Major League Baseball ballparks.

With a grant from ClickandGo Wayfinding, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) are harnessing the ubiquity of smartphones to make using public transportation for those with limited or no vision much easier and safer.

The concept is fairly simple: CLB will install iBeacons to collect detailed information on key locations in Metro stations like escalators and train platforms. Then that information will be available using interactive voice recognition or through Braille phones. The program will also provide directions to places of interest near Metro stations.

The simplicity in mapping, however, is deceptive, said Brandon Cox, senior director of Rehabilitation and Education Services for CLB. Because the disabled depend on the accuracy of the information for their safety, they can’t depend on crowdsourced data or even on public maps like Google.

The directions are also unique in that they note the number of steps a person would likely have to take to reach an escalator, a turnstyle, or the platform edge.

The iBeacon is something that is currently in use on the London Tube and in the San Francisco International Airport, pinging nearby smartphones with helpful information about arrival times or points of interest. However, this is the first time the iBeacon will be used on any U.S. subway system in an integrated way.

Right now, CLB is focusing on Gallery Place Metro in downtown Washington. Cox said this is one of the most challenging stations for the disabled because it is often crowded, has multiple street exits and has multiple Metro lines.

Cox said the CLB hopes this initial pilot is successful enough that WMATA will extend these services to all 91 stations. “The transit system is the primary way disabled people get around,” he added.

WMATA provides transit services for the disabled via MetroAccess but often wait times for vans can be upwards of an hour, eliminating the ability to use that service for spontaneous trips.

This wayfinding technology, if widely adopted, would also be a boon to WMATA’s MetroAccess budget. As of Metro’s latest numbers, in 2010, providing MetroAccess costs the rider $3 per trip but actual costs to Metro are about $38 per trip.

In the future, this technology could be used to provide information not only to the disabled but to international tourists visiting the D.C. area.

Photo by Jonathan Nalder

The post Metro Helping Blind People Better Navigate D.C. Transit appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/17/metro-helping-blind-people-better-navigate-d-c-transit/feed/ 0
Collision Puts Messy Road Rules and Design in Spotlight https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/13/collision-puts-messy-road-rules-and-design-in-spotlight/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/13/collision-puts-messy-road-rules-and-design-in-spotlight/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 21:05:31 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15539 Road safety is something that should matter to everyone. Some cities are starting to address the issue by Vision Zero or through other measures. But in many cases, such as in relation to the increase in cycling for transport, these issues aren’t being addressed. The unimaginable happens daily and it’s not just how we react in the moment,... Read more »

The post Collision Puts Messy Road Rules and Design in Spotlight appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Road safety is something that should matter to everyone.

Some cities are starting to address the issue by Vision Zero or through other measures. But in many cases, such as in relation to the increase in cycling for transport, these issues aren’t being addressed.

The unimaginable happens daily and it’s not just how we react in the moment, but also how we react for the future. I had a harrowing experience in May that brought all of this to the forefront of my mind.

My daily bike commute takes me around Arlington National Cemetery and across Arlington Memorial Bridge. This stretch of my ride is on mixed-use trails and typically safe, with the exception of a few crosswalks where drivers, cyclists and pedestrians converge, like in the satellite view below.

brendanopus1_map

Right before where the star in the image is located, I rolled up to the crosswalk and saw a white SUV approaching from the bottom of the ramp. The driver was decelerating as she approached the stop sign and crosswalk, before turning left on Memorial Avenue. As I entered the crosswalk, I saw the driver looking to her right but not to the left where pedestrians and cyclists were entering the sidewalk. Instead of coming to a full stop, the driver yielded and continued to make her left turn. Only as the driver entered the crosswalk did she look to her left to check for traffic. As she did so, she saw me and my blinky lights and slammed on her brakes.

Unfortunately, it was too late and the front of the car made contact with my leg and the back of my bike. The jolt knocked the back end of my bike out from under me, but I was able to catch myself without completely falling over. My mind was racing, and I was unsure if I was okay.

The driver seemed shocked as well, but became upset when I asked for contact and insurance information. Concerned she might leave the scene, I took a picture of her license plate. She suggested we relocate as not to impede traffic from Route 110. I agreed and carefully walked my bike across the street to continue speaking with her. She further questioned why I needed her information since I didn’t appear to be injured. With my adrenaline pumping from the collision, I couldn’t be certain that I wasn’t hurt or that my bike wasn’t damaged. She said in order to obtain her details, I would need to call the police.

About 10 minutes after calling 911, a U.S. Park Police officer arrived and asked if I was okay. I said I didn’t know but I knew I wasn’t bleeding. He then left me to speak with the driver. After a few minutes of interviewing the driver, the officer walked back over to me, presumably to take my statement about the incident. Instead, he stated I was at fault by not dismounting my bike before using the crosswalk.

I was incredulous for two reasons:

  1. The officer had not asked for my statement regarding the crash.
  2. There is no Virginia requirement for cyclists to dismount in a crosswalk.

He further asserted that Washington D.C. law requires cyclists to dismount, at which point I politely reminded him that the crash occurred in Virginia.

At this point, the officer said we could handle the situation one of two ways:

  1. Chalk it up to a “learning experience” or
  2. I could request a traffic-incident report.

I requested the written report, knowing just how important they are in traffic studies, which can lead to safer redesigns of our roadways. Without the report, the crash would never be recorded as an example of the intersection’s poor design. In return, the officer gave me a citation for “disobeying a signal device” despite there being no signal device at the crosswalk. Below is my original ticket and an excerpt of my traffic-incident report I finally received at the end of June. I always wanted to redact something. Now I can say I have.

Brendan - ticketBrendan's Incident Report

I took my ticket but realized that my “learning experience” probably isn’t all that unusual. How many minor car-on-bike/pedestrian accidents go unreported if a victim isn’t gravely injured? I made sure to call Bruce Deming, The Bike Lawyer (and also an ATP Champion), to get his professional opinion afterwards.

So yes, my commute home one afternoon didn’t go quite as planned, but that hasn’t prevented me from continuing to commute by bike. This “learning experience” further supports my belief that many of our streets are in need of better design. Also, many users need more information about the laws and how we share our streets regardless if you are driving a car, biking, or walking. Even in a larger metro area like D.C., we need to be looking out for each other – if not figuratively, then literally.

This article was originally published by Arlington Transportation Partners.

Photo by Seamoor

The post Collision Puts Messy Road Rules and Design in Spotlight appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/13/collision-puts-messy-road-rules-and-design-in-spotlight/feed/ 1
Contest Reveals Importance of People’s Non-Commute Trips https://mobilitylab.org/2015/07/20/contest-reveals-importance-of-peoples-non-commute-trips/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/07/20/contest-reveals-importance-of-peoples-non-commute-trips/#respond Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:03:27 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15480 Each year in May, RIDE Solutions in Southwest Virginia hosts a Clean Commute Challenge as part of its National Bike Month activities. In the past, participants only logged commute trips, but for the 2015 contest, we opened trip types up to a variety of non-commute options, including dining, shopping, business meetings, religious services, and volunteer... Read more »

The post Contest Reveals Importance of People’s Non-Commute Trips appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>

Each year in May, RIDE Solutions in Southwest Virginia hosts a Clean Commute Challenge as part of its National Bike Month activities. In the past, participants only logged commute trips, but for the 2015 contest, we opened trip types up to a variety of non-commute options, including dining, shopping, business meetings, religious services, and volunteer work.

We believed the non-commute options would primarily be used by our more competitive teams to give themselves a slight edge. Instead, we found that these trips were a major contributor to the competition:

  • In 2014, the Clean Commute Challenge logged 42,503 miles. In 2015, it logged 52,503, an increase of 23 percent.
  • In 2014, the Challenge logged 1,055 trips. In 2015, it logged 2,421, an increase of 138 percent.

Forty percent of all logged trips in 2015 were non-commute trips. Nearly all the gains came from the addition of non-commute trips.

While we were pleased in the 23 percent growth in the number of logged miles, the fact that the number of logged trips more than doubled really surprised us, and indicates a much stronger engagement with the contest than we had anticipated.

How did the non-commute trips break down?

  • 4 percent – general errands
  • 4 percent – religious services and volunteer work
  • 5 percent – shopping
  • 7 percent – non-commute but work based, such as a business meetings
  • 8 percent – dining
  • 13 percent – social, though not recreational, trips

While the nature of the challenge has changed over the years, its most recent, successful iterations have involved two elements:

  • An option for participants to pledge to use a clean mode – bicycle, carpool, walk, transit, or telework – at least one day in May.
  • The option for participants to log clean trips, by mode and mileage, for chances to win prizes and to compete against other teams.

Non Work TripsThe low-involvement pledge option gets people through the door and engaged with the program. We understand that many people who take the pledge never actually fulfill their trip commitments, but at least a channel of communication opens that may help us get them involved later.

Interestingly, retirees were one of the groups of people we heard from the most over the course of the contest. These were either people who had used our services in the recent past while they were still working and had remain engaged with us after they left the workforce, or folks who were supporters because of their commitment to environmental causes. The addition of the non-commute trips for this group allowed them to participate in the program and have a measurable impact.

While commute trips certainly make sense as the focus of transportation demand management due to their predictability and the fact that employment centers have large amounts of jobs that can allow TDM to make a real difference, it’s important to remember that census data suggests only 40 percent of trips a household makes are for commuting. That leaves a huge market – and lots of miles – to be tapped, and our initial results show there are folks who are eager to try leaving the car at home even with these trips.

Overall, this year’s Clean Commute Challenge:

  • Removed more than 47,000 pounds of CO2 from the air
  • Saved the 133 people who logged a trip a total of more than $13,000,based on AAA cost-per-mile estimates, and
  • Burned more than 77,000 calories for those who biked or walked.

Without the addition of non-commute trips, we would not have made nearly as big an impact on the region with our challenge.

Photo by Anne and Tim. Video by Q99 FM Radio.

The post Contest Reveals Importance of People’s Non-Commute Trips appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2015/07/20/contest-reveals-importance-of-peoples-non-commute-trips/feed/ 0