Friday, 14 August 2015

Walk This Way (Any Way) to be More Healthy

There are enough quotes in this article on Walking: Your Steps to Health in Harvard Health Newsletter, from Harvard Medical School to provide Quote of the Week for a whole year. The first paragraph alone includes the following:

 “…as toddlers become walkers, they open the door to independence, exploration, and, eventually, productivity.”

“…the two-footed upright gait is a banner accomplishment for our species.”

“…walking is one of the things that distinguishes man from all other animals.”

“Walking is an automatic, intrinsic human function, and it serves many practical roles.”

“Walking doesn’t get the respect it deserves, either for its health benefits, its value for transportation, or its role in recreation.”

Quotes aside, what about facts? The Harvard article references a University College London meta-analysis of research published between 1970 and 2007 in peer-reviewed English-language journals. Based on 18 studies covering 459,833 participants who were free of cardiovascular disease when the investigations began, the meta-analysis found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31%, and it cut the risk of dying during the study period by 32%. These benefits applied to men and women, and protection occurred even at distances of 5½ miles per week, walking at about 2 miles per hour. The people who walked longer distances, walked at a faster pace, or both enjoyed the greatest protection.

The article busts a lot of myths, and includes thought-provoking insights into themes such as walking vs running (walkers have one foot on the ground at all times, reducing impacts and hence injuries) and the relationship between walking and calorie burn. Summing up, the article notes,

“Walking has it all. Simple and natural, it doesn’t require any instruction or skill….. You can walk alone for solitude or with friends for companionship. You can walk indoors on a treadmill or outside in the city or country, at home or away. You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And to boot, walking is inexpensive…Charles Dickens got it right: “Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy.”  

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Quote of the Week

“After a day’s walking, everything has twice its usual value.”

G M Trevelyan

Monday, 13 July 2015

Quote of the Week

“One day, when driverless cars arrive, we may marvel that we ever let distracted, shortsighted and occasionally drunk humans pilot large metal projectiles.”

Simon Kuper, Financial Times Magazine, 10th July 2015

It’s worth reading the article, which compares the (huge) death toll from road crashes, which we know how to stop, with the (much smaller) death toll from terrorism – which is a lot harder to prevent.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Brighton's i360 at ground level

Close up of the “cans” for the Brighton i360, seen from the beach. Almost as impressive as the cans, is the fact that they all arrived from the Netherlands by barge (in fact, two barges), and were offloaded onto a platform on the beach. Picture below, showing the finished article, taken from the hoardings around the site, courtesy i360.

Monday, 29 June 2015

LSE Cities think tank on cars, bikes and walkability: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

There’s a great quote in a recent Financial Times article from Philipp Rode, the executive director of the LSE Cities think tank, about what’s needed to encourage high tech start-ups in the city, notably “a shift towards inner-city appreciation - what we’re seeing is a return to the city,” as, increasingly, people prize perks like good transport, bike lanes, walkability and sustainability over owning a car or buying a big house.

As the FT reports, Rode reckons the next wave of technological innovations will come from companies that understand how people live in Europe’s metropolitan areas - “the hyper-urban condition created by public transport and higher-density living.” How long before our local politicians wake up and realise that if their answer is “more cars and more car parks,” then they just don’t get it. Now that's what I call stupid.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The road ahead for bus lanes in Brighton and Hove

An issue raised at last week’s meeting of the Brighton and Hove Transport Partnership (declaration of interest: I sit on the Partnership as a pedestrian advocate) was the online petition launched by newly elected Labour Councillor Daniel Yates. The petition calls on Brighton & Hove City Council to reduce the hours of the Lewes Road bus lanes, opening them up to all traffic at certain times of day. Chair of the Partnership, Councillor Gill Mitchell, Labour’s new lead member for Transport, assured us that bus lanes will not be scrapped. She also said that the Valley Gardens scheme is on hold pending a review to ensure it delivers the right (economic) benefits and doesn’t worsen traffic congestion. 

Fair enough, but bus lanes are an essential element of the Valley Gardens scheme, and if they aren’t dedicated to buses (and taxis, and bikes, and possibly powered two wheelers), there’s no point in having them. The clue is in the name.

Taking up the theme, Brighton and Hove Buswatch has published a long piece in its latest newsletter. Since I can’t improve on it, I reproduce here (with permission) a few facts in support of bus lanes in Lewes Road, many of which apply to bus lanes in other parts of Brighton and Hove: 

Brighton and Hove has the highest bus use per head of population anywhere in England outside London. This is a fantastic achievement and good bus priority measures have made this possible.

Bus routes serving Lewes Road carry over 16 million bus journeys each year – that is over 50% more trips than in the entire city of Portsmouth which has a similar population to Brighton & Hove.

Over 60% local residents who responded supported the Lewes Road bus lanes during consultation

More people travel along Lewes Road by bus and bike than by car so it makes sense to give them priority.

One double deck bus can carry 90 passengers in the space of about three cars. Bendy buses can carry 120 or more, so they are very efficient users of road space.

Both Universities are expanding with the University of Sussex aiming to attract 1,000 extra students each year. If even a small proportion of these use cars traffic conditions could worsen significantly. Bus lanes enable students and staff to reach Universities easily.

Experience from London shows that restricting the hours of bus lanes creates confusion for motorists as most traffic regulations apply 24 hours.

Brighton is a 24 hour city – the N25 night bus runs up to every 10 minutes along Lewes Road, so the bus lanes are in use at all times.

Major events at the Amex Stadium involve Park and Ride buses which rely on bus lanes to speed them through traffic. 

The past few months have been very difficult for buses due to extremely disruptive roadworks which have often taken longer than planned. As a result bus use in the City has fallen for the first time in twenty years. We must reverse this trend and get back on track with improvements to keep Brighton and Hove moving. Bus lanes are vital to achieve this.

If bus lane times are restricted, services are likely to suffer. Here are some risks: 

Buses could become less frequent and less reliable

Fares may increase because fewer people travel to support the services

Evening services could be cut as these are often subsidised by profitable daytime buses

Congestion and pollution will get worse if more people use cars, so overall traffic levels will increase

Marginal bus services may become unviable, resulting in complete withdrawal unless the City Council funds a replacement service.

Taxi journeys will become slower and more expensive because taxis use bus lanes too 

Poor air quality has been mentioned as a reason for opening up bus lanes to reduce traffic queues. Clearly this will not be achieved if bus users transfer to cars and overall congestion increases. Bus companies are currently investing in low emission vehicles but money for new buses has to come from profits from bus services.

The City Council has been monitoring congestion since the first stage of the Lewes Road scheme was completed in 2013, but it was not possible to obtain accurate information while the Vogue Gyratory works were in progress last year. The initial monitoring report showed there was little change in journey times for general traffic along Lewes Road. We understand the spring 2015 monitoring report will be published soon. If it shows there has been increased rat running and congestion on other roads, this can be addressed in other ways. Restrictions can be imposed on through traffic movements and there is already a study into improving traffic flows at the Downs Hotel junction in Woodingdean.

The Buswatch piece goes on to make some excellent suggestions for getting people back on buses, which you can here.

And the MD of Brighton Buses, Martin Harris, has weighed in with a succinct blog post on the links between physical activity (see the previous post on this blog), public transport…and bus lanes.