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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pollution and Cycling

Ever since Sabinna posted this article at Satin Cessena, I have been trying to think of the reports I have seen that suggest cycling helps to negate the effects of pollution and other health risks.

I finally found an old article that I think explains and compares the impact on one's health the different modes of commuting have. You can check it out: here

The study found that motorists registered the highest levels for all pollutants except nitrogen dioxide, while "cycling commuters had significantly lower levels of exposure to benzene compared with car commuters".

Dr Chris Rissel of the Central Sydney Area Health Service, one of the authors of the study, explains: "There are two competing explanations for our findings: the tunnel effect, where everybody is travelling in the same polluted corridors, and the leaking of the exhaust and fuel systems into vehicles."

So while cyclists are often able to take routes with little or no motor traffic and produce no pollution themselves, motorists get a double dose from vehicles around them and their own cars. High levels of benzene exposure for motorists in particular can be due only to the leaking of their own vehicle fuel system.

A similar European study in 1995, found that "even when account is taken of effort (a cyclist breathes on average two to three times as much as a motorist), the cyclist emerges as the victor of this comparison" (quoted in Cycling: the way ahead for cities and towns).

Victorian health professional Dr Jan Garrard points out that a regular cyclist is better able to deal with air pollution as well: "Physical activity enhances the immune system, so in general terms a fit person will have a stronger immune system".

CNN Ranks Kaohsiung Third Best Cycling Metropole In Asia

CNN international has released their rankings of Asia's "Cities for Cyclists", and Taiwan's second largest metropole comes in at number three behind Kyoto and Beijing.

According to the article Kaohsiung boasts, "a growing network of bike lanes that currently add up to 150 kilometers (not bad for a nation known for scooters and busy streets). It’s also the first city in Taiwan to offer self-serviced bike rental kiosks to the public."

I would have to agree in the respect that Kaohsiung has undergone a transformation over the past several years from a chaotic and polluted blight of urban decay, into a very friendly and charming city for cycling as well as other forms of alternative transportation.

I recall my earliest impression of Kaohsiung from the late 90's was something akin to a mash-up between The Road Warrior and Escape From New York. After a couple trips I wrote the place off as simply a place to catch a bus to Kenting.

After many years of mainly avoiding Taiwan's second largest city, I recently went back and the place had totally transformed into a large friendly metropole with a small town feel... like the unlikely mating between Taipei and Tainan. There are now wide, tree-lined boulevards and open spaces. Public art (that is not in the vein of Gimmo worship) and rapid transit. The city was relatively clean and bright. Most of all... I saw people freely moving around the city on bikes.

For my own trip there by bicycle, I rode down in just over 9 hours and quickly navigated through the city to catch the HSR home. It was gorgeous. Most of all... I felt safe.

I think the points highlighted in the article point toward some progressive and visionary leadership that has helped make this all possible. Kaohsiung's Mayorship will be contested later in the year and I hope to see the people of Kaohsiung continue to support the leaders who are taking bold steps to make a transformative difference rather than simply funding projects to enrich themselves (by proxy) and their cronies.

Mayor Chen Chu and former Mayor Frank Hsieh deserve a tremendous amount of credit for Kaohsiung's amazing transformation and I hope this point is not lost on the people of Kaohsiung. I would also like to see an end to the ethnic politics that has kept many Taiwanese from pursuing their own interests in a sustainable future and throw their support behind politicians who make similar moves to improve the quality of life in the Taiwanese city.

Furthermore, in a more abstract way, I feel these concrete changes we have seen in Kaohsiung are both the direct and indirect result of a Taiwan centered outlook. I hope to see more of this in the future. China and Chinese do not hold the keys to Taiwan's future and no amount of increased revenue can turn Taiwan into an island that lives within its environmental means.

I Love A Rainy Night

I just thought I would post a few ics of our lovely night ride in which we were stranded for an hour during a torrential downpour and electrical storm that seemed to come out of nowhere. We just waited it out with a few other unfortunate folks in a nearby temple.

That's just a fact of life here in Taiwan, where the late summer is a crap shoot of weather... or maybe some crappy and shitty weather to be more exact. The rain cooled things off and it actually turned into a nice evening.