Change in Commuting behavior to avoid harmful impacts of technology on health by FAISAL JAMIL, NUST
Human health and environment are at high risk in the process of modernization and transformation. Commuting behavior change can stop it.
Economic development and modernization resulted in urban sprawl and development of metropolitans. This expansion has brought about an increased dependence on motorized vehicles. The uses of traditional sources of intra-city commuting such as bicycles have been negligible in developing countries. Increased motorization and technological advancement lead to changes in life patterns resulting in reduced physical activity and lethargic behavior which is one of the major causes of non-communicable diseases. This sedentary lifestyles has resulted in a surge of interest in cycling as an efficient form of sustainable transportation in the developed countries during the last two decades. Moreover, increased motorization adversely affects the environment which, in return, adds to climatic changes and further make health vulnerable.
The problem of increased demand for motor vehicles in the short-distanced travelling has four dimensions and corresponding costs:
- Obesity, lethargy and health costs
- Environmental Issues and cost associated to climate change
- Increased cost of road and parking infrastructure
The project objectives are twofold. One, university campus can be used on experiment basis for bicycle sharing programs. Two, project aims social networking of the individuals, institutions and city governments. It will showcase different successful models of promoting bicycle riding e.g. bicycle sharing programs, as well as highlight modification in road infrastructure and regulations. The funding agencies and suppliers may get information for various investment opportunities and consumers will be get motivated through the networking. Experiences mainly from the developing countries can be shared through the web portal. It may become a platform for the tourists. The web application can be developed to market the bicycle and accessories and consultancy services can be sought through the app. Overall, the project will foster the drive towards the development of smart cities.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
Sustainable cities are engines for greening the economy. We will place cities in the context of sustainable urban transformation and climate change. Sustainable urban transformation refers to structural transformation processes which involve multi-dimensional and radical change that can effectively direct urban development towards ambitious sustainability and climate goals. This project tend to connect the key trends of urbanization and sustainability through focusing the intra-city transportation and commuting behavior. Providing sustainable and safe transport infrastructure is effective in promoting an increase in active and healthy commuting (Goodman et al., 2013; Panter et al., 2016). It enables the donors to channelize their funding related to environmental improvement effectively. It also will ensure maximum impact on society through adoption of cleaner and healthy commuting behavior. Cycling has become popular in the developed countries in recent few decades but exactly a reverse trend is seen in the developing countries. The understanding of the underlying factors is pivotal to design a transformation scheme.
This project adopted the strategy to facilitate and promote through provision of Bicycle Sharing Programs (BSP) in the university campuses and walled residential societies in the developing countries. The rationale for this strategy is that influence of the university students on the society is phenomenal and people especially young ones idealize them in adoption of certain behavior such as fashion or trends. The development partners and donors like USAID, DFID, European Union, Embassies of Developed countries in the developing countries, JICA, CIDA, GIZ may provide the impetus through funding the BSPs in campuses of the developing countries. Once some success stories emerges, private investors and reward based crowdfunding will keep it up. Likewise, it will increase the private bicycle ownership
The cities and urban areas expanded in the development process. It increases the distances. Alongside, the economic prosperity and status consciousness results in more car holdings and car travels. Gradually, the use of bicycle is left with extremely poor people in the developing countries. Few health conscious people spare time for walk or cycling but most of the population especially the young people become physically inactive. Hence, shift to motor cars from cycles and walking is not due to a single reason. Multiple factors contribute to this shift including economic, social and technological.
The outcomes of this inactivity are extremely harmful. Almost 25% of population in developing countries is diabetic. The global prevalence (age-standardized) of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7% to 8.5% in the adult population. This reflects an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese. Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. Also the percentage of deaths attributable to high blood glucose or diabetes that occurs earlier to age 70 years is higher in low income and developing countries than in the developed countries (WHO, 2016).
The proposed project intends to develop web portal and manage the following.
- Social networking of the cyclists and to be cyclists for all related developments
- Advertisement of cycle brands and accessories
- Mass mobilization for modifications in Policy and infrastructure development
- Move to introduce safety regulations for cyclists
- Introduction of community based shared bicycle programs and models
- A Platform for cyclists, healthcare providers of non-communicable diseases and suppliers for sharing their experiences and risks through, for examples, online marketing tools
- Idealize the cycling among the youth
- Provide a platform for the donors and partners of the developing countries in the sustainable development process to invest in clean commuting facilities
- Engaging individuals through blogs on related topics
- Innovations to improve acceptability and effectiveness of cycling as a safe, clean and healthy source of commuting among users of all ages, gender and socioeconomic groups
Who will take these actions?
A research and development organization based in city-states like Dubai or Singapore operating on the basis of not for profit will be acting to synchronize all the various pieces of cycling market players. The organization fantasize cycling in the developing world through social networking induced facilitation and knowledge sharing. It will coordinate with the policy makers and urban planners to add in cycling in the localized transportation.
The web portal and the organization will act as a hub to the development of tangible and intangible infrastructure of cycling and integration of infrastructure provision and safety regulations in the target areas. The short run objective of improving the number and extent of cycle use in the university campuses through driving the multilateral donor to finance small scale bicycle sharing programs in under-privileged university campuses and communities. It will eventually kick-start the change in behavior towards healthy and active commuting in the society across the board. The organization will ensure heathy, clean and safe mobility through bicycle riding through engaging riders, suppliers, civil society, activists and planners and regulators.
Where will these actions be taken?
The target group is the university and college students and the rationale behind this idea is that institutes of tertiary education are the agents of change in the society. All other segments of the society do idealize the behavior adopted by these students. The university and college campuses in the developing countries will be the target site in the first phase of the project. In the second phase, walled residential colonies and other suitable sites can be included through motivating civil society and environment protection activists. In the third phase, general public and health and environment conscious individuals will respond.
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
No country selected
No country selected
No country selected
What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
The proposed project is primarily aims to reduce fuel consumption and resulting GHG emissions reduction. The GHG emissions reduction potential is substantial. If proper marketing is done through web portal and web apps, the beneficiaries would increase exponentially amplifying the impact on the greenhouse gas emissions. In essence, the project proposes a strategy to mitigate the environmental hazards. It is however, a sort of adaptation in the view of volatile fuel prices and parking inconveniencies in the peak hours. The reduced projected emissions will lessen the climate change pressures.
What are other key benefits?
There is a dire need to take visible and tangible step towards a greener and healthier societies and economies in the developing countries. Transport sector is major user of fossil fuels and plenty of fuels can be saved through bringing change in commuting behavior. The benefits of doing so are at least threefold.
Firstly; strong evidence shows that physical inactivity due to motorization of the society increases the risk of many adverse health conditions, including the world’s major non-communicable diseases of coronary heart disease (CHD), type 2 diabetes, and breast cancer, and shortens life expectancy. Most of the population in developing counties comprised of youth that turned inactive especially due to the excessive use of Information Technology and overall quality of life. Recent trends in life style are experienced mainly due to the provision of material comforts gadgets. Bicycle riding has positive health impacts overall, but these benefits are higher for among males than for females and aged users get more benefit than the younger users (see for example, Woodcock et al., 2014). Rising incidence of diseases affects the labor supply, health expenditures, productivity and overall economic wellbeing. Thinking on a broader scale, one can argue that urban centers in the developing countries are harbinger of what will happen in future to all the population in chronic non-communicable diseases.
Secondly; the scarcity of parking space in commercial centers for the ever rising number of vehicles is a gigantic problem for the urban planners. Through promoting cycling among the commuters, ideally complemented with the mass transit system will reduce the intensity of parking space issues. City governments sometime charge vehicle tax on vehicles entering the commercial centers. Alternatively, government through organizations and employers can offer benefits to employees who use cycle for commuting and coming to office.
Thirdly; promoted cycling especially among the youth in developing countries will Reduce class consciousness and bring more social harmony. The social benefits of this healthy trend are enormous.
Fourthly; cycling will increase connectivity and mobility in lesser cost. On the whole, it is a low capital cost and system of transportation that require short implementation time. Moreover, plenty of economic activity will take place and the cycle industry and many other related industries will flourish. Employment will be generated.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
Main cost components
Developing and maintaining the web portal and web apps
Mass communication professionals
Total expected Cost=$1 million approx.
The proposed project aims and expects substantive behavioral and attitudinal change in the commuting especially between home and workplace that are carried out quite regularly and extensively. The short run must focus on the university campuses. In the medium term and long term, a more holistic approach can be adopted to increase cycling as a main source of intra-city commuting.
About the author(s)
Dr Faisal Jamil is an economist with experience both in academia and public policy with the public and development sectors. Currently he is a faculty member teaching mainly public sector economics and policy, and resources and environmental economics at the School of Social Sciences & Humanities (S3H), NUST. He has wide-ranging experience both as an academician and practitioner. His post-graduate research students worked on various contemporary economics issues related to resources economics and policy and commodity markets. Formerly, he served as an Energy Specialist at the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, Government of Pakistan and have been involved in project appraisal and evaluation, preparation of development projects and business plans, and provide inputs for policy design and planning. Analytical abilities, strong writing skills and ability to do and supervise research on contemporary issue are his professional strengths and he has published in reputed international journals. His main research interests include policy analysis, food, energy and governance issues in the developing countries.
Goodman, A., Panter, J., Sharp, S. J., & Ogilvie, D. (2013). Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: a longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study. Social Science & Medicine, 97, 228-237.
Midgley, P. (2011). Bicycle-sharing schemes: enhancing sustainable mobility in urban areas. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 1-12.
Panter, J., Heinen, E., Mackett, R., & Ogilvie, D. (2016). Impact of new transport infrastructure on walking, cycling, and physical activity. American journal of preventive medicine, 50(2), e45-e53.
WHO, (2002). A physically active live through everyday transport. World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen.
WHO, (2016). Global Report on Diabetes. World Health Organization, Printed in France.