Study on Relationship Between Transportation System and Human Health: How One Makes an Impact on Another

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In the last 10 years there has been an increase in the degree of mobility significantly in all European countries (MOTIF, 1998). Possibly no other story so explains modern community as mobility. Several years ago, it was impossible for human to travel quicker than the wind but now in the current globalised century, due to advancement in transportation network, it has given access to humans to carry themselves from places to places in an occurrence of few hours. Although, advancement in mobility and speed has allowed countless social advantages like transportation of commodities, people and resulted in reducing famine and starvation by expanding the capacity to carry food from the place of production to the place of consumption, but it also led to several negative impacts on environment, toward people’s health and to the status of life etc (John & Dushana, 2005). The transportation system exerts straight and unambiguous effects on mortality and harmfulness. Air pollution and greenhouse gases are quite common in today’s world and are majorly contributed by the emissions of motor vehicles. Moreover, due to urban sprawl and lack of public transport in the peri-urban regions of the world, people have become more car dependent and less physically active which make them prone to health diseases (Lili & Rajiv, 2005). This essay focusses on the relationship between transportation system and human health; how they are interrelated to each other in a way that how can one thing have an impact on the other thing. Later this essay will deal with how transportation network and the people involve in the planning can make a city healthier and more liveable; and the important elements involving the shift to active and public transport from private transport.

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Over the last 10 years, the environment of walking status has proven to be a key factor in the planning and design of transportation system all over the world. Earlier active transport was considered as mere recreational and not as rational transport to be regarded seriously (Wigan, 1994). Active transport like walking and cycling are considered to be as the healthiest way to move around places, offering essential physical movement which is very important for people on a regular interval (Pucher & Buehler, 2015). The significance of physical movement or activity for the health of the public is well recognized (Donnelly, et al., 2000). Many recent papers have particularly analysed cycling and walking for day-to-day and transport purpose and results showed that they provide precious physical activity and substantial health benefits and are quite significant for older people to enhance their health (Huy, et al., 2008). While we majorly focus on walking as an active travel, bicycle might be a better option to substitute motorized vehicle as it has a faster speed and the capability to travel larger distances (DILL, 2009).

According to The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), regular commuting is directly linked with physical activities like aerobic fitness which helps avoiding obesities, triglyceride levels among people (Gordon-Larsen, et al., 2009). Walking and cycling promotes physical as well as mental health, helps in improving cardio-vascular fitness, stronger muscles bones, decreases stress level etc. Social interaction is one of the important if not the most important element for having better human health. A study research in Galway, Ireland showed that those who reside in walkable neighbourhoods have greater heights of social interaction, be socially engaged and are in a better state to know their neighbours and trust them (Leyden, 2003). (Matthews, et al., 2007) in Shanghai surveyed the health of around 68,000 Chinese women for over 5 years. The results showed that those who used active transport for their day to day movement had better health and lower mortality rates compared to the people who do not engage in active transport. Similar to this study, (Anderson, et al., 2000) in Denmark witnessed lower mortality rates up to 40 percent in men and women who cycle to their office regularly. A recent project in Odense, Denmark showed a 20% rise in people using cycling in the period from 1996-2002 and an increase of 5 month in the life expectancy for males (Cykelby, 2010). Walking and cycling not only helps people to get fit but also indirectly yields many health benefits for the public like; minimising the use of vehicles which in turn reduces air, noise and water pollution and the total amount of traffic risk (Pucher & Buehler, 2015).

The 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and the 1998 Transportation Equity Act are the programmes initiated by the Federal Highway to mould the policy from being an auto-centric planning to provide more weightage to accord cycling and foot-travelers in transportations plans (Southworth, 2005). As discussed in the essay, active travel like walking and cycling enhances human health and improves their mental and physical state. The present body of proof of the benefits of active transport on public health has guide the agencies of the government, city planners, public health institutions to promote and imply more active travel as a mean to boost individual health and to decrease air pollution, traffic dangers and additional danger effects of car use (Carnall, 2000) (Dora & Phillips, 2000). Health of the city is determined by the people living in the city, and for their better health they should be encouraged to opt for more and more active travel for their day to day purpose of commuting. To engage people in more active travel there are many essential attributes necessary (Southworth, 2005):

  • Linkages of footpath system, both in the bigger urban area and locally
  • Connectivity with public transport: train, bus etc
  • Traffic safety and crime safety
  • Good standard paths having signing, landscaping; and
  • Path design, including landscape, design of the street etc.

The above attributes are very important while planning and designing the cities to encourage more active travel in terms of walking. Some of the attributes are already developed and being extensively used by the transport planners for foot-travelers access (Southworth, 2005).

To promote health and to make cities healthier and more liveable, a shift from private transport to public transport is of great importance. Not only it will reduce the air pollution, it will enhance energy intensity and fuel productivity (Schipper, et al., 2000). One such movement, Trans-Jogja bus system was carried out in the Yogyakarta Special Region Province, Indonesia (Dirgahayani, 2013). Motorisation was the preferable mode of transport in this region which was continuously increasing at the rate of 10.9% per annum (Dirgahayani, 2013). To tackle this situation, Trans-Jogja bus system was initiated in this region which added more buses to the existing system and replaced all the set route public transport buses beyond the age of 14 years with buses of maximum of 5 years, thus substituting the conventional buses to Trans-Jogja buses. This resulted in a shift from private vehicles to the use of more road-based public transport (See figure1). Benefits were great as we noticed reduction of emissions and improvement in the air quality which is very important for cities to be healthier.

Figure 1 Mode share in Yogyakarta Special Region Province (Existing and Projection) Source: The case study of Trans-Jogja bus system in Yogyakarta by Puspita Dirgahayani.

There is an interconnection between public transport with walking and cycling (Brons, et al., 2009). In majority of the countries, people either walk to or walk from station or bus stops. In Germany, 70% of the people walk to get access to public transport while 10% of the people cycle their way to public bus stops or stations (BMVBS, 2010). In-spite of having a baffle situation, many cities of the developing nations are picking innovative lead to build more sustainable urban progress, rejuvenating the character of public transport network (Dirgahayani, 2013)

Development in transportation system has given numerous social edge like transportation of goods, people etc which in turn resulted in decreasing famine and starvation. But during this process it has led to various negative effects on the environment, towards the people health; making them less active and lethargic. As we discussed in the essay, active travel like walking and cycling are the best and healthy ways to move around. Walking and cycling contribute greatly to physical activity and improves fitness as well as defends against obesity, diabetes and several other diseases. Large number of evidences of the benefits of active travel on the public health has made several government institutions, planners, medical journals to improve health of the individuals and to minimise air pollution and many other effects of car use. As discussed in the essay, there are several means to encourage more active travel and at the same time make them safer, footpaths being better connected, and having good standard paths. We discussed about the role of public transport in the quest of making our cities healthier. The important conclusion shows that to expand the usage of public transport, the network needs to be structured according to the levels of facility demanded by the customers in a way that it attracts the users so that more and more people uses public transport.

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