Connecting People

Mexico City’s bike revolution

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It’s an eerily calm Sunday morning on the city’s Avenida Reforma, an avenue which is grid-locked on weekdays by tens of thousands of cars sitting bumper-to-bumper.

The Reforma’s closure to car traffic on Sundays in 2007 kickstarted the capital’s attempts to make life easier for cyclists. In 2010 a 17km-long bike lane through the city opened.

The car still reigns supreme in this metropolis of 22 million people, with more than four million vehicles clogging the roads every day.

Perhaps the biggest factor has been the launch of the so-called Ecobicis (Eco-bikes) in 2010. Following on from similar schemes operating in London, Paris and Barcelona, Mexico City launched a public bike rentals at 90 different sites. Since then, some 30,000 people have joined and there is a waiting list for new members. The Ecobici system is expected to expand to 75,000 users by the end of 2012, with 4,000 more bicycles made available at new sites.

The scheme is not without it’s critics with some of Mexico City’s drivers spending up to four hours a day on their journeys to work, with three separate rush-hours. Some say cyclists have only made matters worse.

One local radio host Angel Verdugo angered bike users when he called on car drivers to run over the cyclists. He said championing the new breed of cyclists was a form of racism. “They want to be like Europeans,” he says. “They believe they are living in Paris and riding along the Champs-Elysees.”

He subsequently made a public apology.

There’s no doubt that Mexico City is for the most part still a car-orientated city but it is also clear that cycling is in the ascendancy. More cycle ways are planned, and public opinion supporting active travel is growing. A car free city is, however, a long way off.

A Nation of Cyclists

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The famous Dutch obsession with bicycles is clearly paying off – a recent study has shown.

While there have been a plethora of studies demonstrating the health benefits of cycling as a means to reduce the risk of sedentary lifestyle diseases and all-cause mortality, the study “Dutch Cycling: Quantifying the Health and Related Economic Benefits” – is the first to actually quantify the health benefits and related economic benefits at a population level in the Netherlands. Currently, about 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are made by bicycle and the weekly time spent cycling is about 74 minutes per week for Dutch adults of 20 to 90 years of age. Even more noteworthy and remarkable, over half of the total life expectancy increase calculated in this study is being achieved by cycling among adults aged 65 and older.

The study clearly shows that Dutch investments in bicycle-promoting policies, such as improved bicycle infrastructure and facilities, are likely to yield a high cost-benefit ratio in the long term. Health benefits translate into economic benefits of over 5% of Dutch GDP. To calculate the economic health benefits of cycling, HEAT (Health Economic Assessment Tool) uses a standard value of a statistical life (VSL) to monetize the number of deaths per year prevented by cycling. With a Dutch VSL of € 2.8 million per prevented death, investment in cycling is an extremely wise economic investment. The €0.5 billion per year spent by the Dutch government on road and parking infrastructure for cycling is estimated to yield total economic health benefits of € 19 billion per year!

Investments in high quality cycling policies and infrastructure produce great benefit over the long term. Cycling for transport delivers wealth and health, quality of life, for people and for cities.

North Kincardine Treasure Map

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Newtonhill, Muchalls & Cammachmore Community Council have been busy developing the North Kincardine Treasure map. 

Its aim to encourage people to explore North Kincardineshire supports the work we have been doing to enhance and increase activity in the local area. A copy of the map has been delivered to all dwellings in Council Ward 17, highlighting five key trails with points of interest along the way.  An interactive website provides additional information and routes and will develop into a valuable archive of the area.

The ‘Treasure Map’ project was linked to an Integrated Travel Town Project and a Community Sports Hub (CSH) ‘healthy weight project’.  It encourages local residents to get out and about and tells them more about their local area.  This is community and Council working together to create something special for the whole community!”

Want to know more? Visit http://www.discovernorthkincardine.org.uk/index.html

Forget the gym…..

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Middle-aged people are being urged to walk faster to help stay healthy, amid concern high levels of inactivity may be harming their health.

They are urging those between the ages of 40 and 60 to start doing regular brisk walks.

Just 10 minutes a day could have a major impact, reducing the risk of early death by 15%, they say.

But estimates show four out of every 10 40- to 60-year-olds do not even manage a brisk 10-minute walk each month.

An American study found that people who walked for at least four hours a week gained less weight (an average 9 lb less) than couch potatoes as they got older.

Last year, researchers at the University of Colorado found that regular walking helped to prevent peripheral artery disease (which impairs blood flow in the legs and causes leg pain in one-fifth of elderly people).

Walking can even prevent colds. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts medical school found that people who walked every day had 25 per cent fewer colds than those who were sedentary.

Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent the bone

disease osteoporosis.

Best of all, walking makes you feel good about yourself. “For people suffering from depression, walking three to four times a week for 30 minutes has been shown to enhance their mood

So next time you have 20 minutes to spare, put on your shoes and start your journey to better health.

Be Active

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If you were told by a Dr – take this magic pill daily and you will reduce numerous health risks, be fit and healthy……would you take it? Unfortunately the wonder pill doesn’t exist, however in its place we are going to prescribe everyone regular physical activity/exercise and put you on the path to the same results. A little motivation can go a long way.

Walking: the most accessible and easiest way for most to incorporate exercise into our lifestyles. It’s free, gentle &low-impact that requires no special training or equipment. Almost everyone can do it, anywhere and at any time. You could join a health walk, become a rambler or just walk to the shops. Check out the Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service to find out about the rich natural heritage surrounding us.

If walking isn’t your thing, how about cycling? You could go for the standard cycle or try out an electric bike. Electric bikes (e-bikes) work much the same as ordinary bicycles except they have an electric motor which works when you pedal to give a bit of a boost, making going uphill a lot easier! You don’t need a special license to ride one (as long as you are over the age of 14) and the bikes can be used on cycle paths the same as ordinary bicycles.

Talking of cycle paths, Aberdeenshire Council transport strategy team have just finished new local ‘Walking & Cycling maps’ for several Aberdeenshire towns which are to be launched soon. We are also hearing whispers of ‘Treasure Trails’ which sounds interesting, and as far as we are concerned – anything that encourages us to get out and about is a winner in our eyes. Want to know more? Visit http://getabout.org.uk/ for more information.

Tell us what would make you more active in your community. Is there a path near you which could be a great walking route, perhaps you would like to be able to commute to work by bike? We’d love to hear from you at kandmcommunities@gmail.com

The Good Life

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Twenty-seven percent of children and 61% of adults in Scotland do not meet recommended levels of physical activity. Physical inactivity is known to increase the risk of developing a number of conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer. Walking and cycling for everyday short journeys is the easiest and cheapest way of building more physical activity into busy lives. It helps to protect against physical ill health and helps to maintain good mental health.

Evidence from engagement highlighted the importance within Kincardine & Mearns that communities have the possibility to travel actively, with walking or cycling the most popular choice for shorter everyday journeys. This is why we chose to focus on active travel routes in Kincardine & Mearns, ensuring cycle and footpaths are developed and improved.

Over the next few weeks we will share with you some of the work that is taking place and how we can learn from what others are doing to make life better for all of us.