The cool, clean air blows right on my face. The radio is as loud as I want it. There is minimal lurching, and no smelly strangers sitting right next to me. My shoes are not wet, I did not have to leave a half hour early to get where I need to go, and there is no need to leave before it gets too dark. These are the benefits of driving in my own car through the streets of Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, free from the perceived shackles of carpooling and inconvenience of public transportation. Reliance on an automobile has not been a part of my life for upwards of seven years. I attended college in Cambridge and have lived in San Francisco; there is little need for an automobile in these cities that are very dense and have figured out public transport to the last detail. Cleveland presents a different landscape: long stretches of desolation between downtown and university life on the East Side, no bike lanes on the streets, a disparate, untimely rail system.
[...] In considering dinner out on the town, I made deliberate choices to stick to Lee Road locations well within walking distance of my home, instead of driving across town to the other locale of equal caliber. I also made an effort to pack my gym bag along with my school bag, and was willing to be flexible in line with my roommate's plans to improve the likelihood that we could drive to school together. Once I began looking for opportunities to walk or carpool, they emerged from the woodwork as if they had been gaping holes. [...]
[...] The first step in considering a population level change is to assess how effectively I was able to alter my own behavior regarding solo driving behavior. I recorded my transportation needs, options, and choice at 20 points over the course of 6 weeks. The opportunity for carpooling or walking was noted, as was the choice I made regarding transport. The opportunity to carpool or walk may be considered the ‘independent variable'; the outcome variable is the decision to drive or walk/carpool. [...]
[...] There are compelling personal and societal reasons to attempt to reduce the amount of solo driving that I do. It must be replaced with carpooling, walking, biking, and public transport where possible. On a societal level, the decrease in physical activity and increase in obesity and obesity-related illnesses requires novel strategies that will promote active transport like walking and bike riding. Physical inactivity is a major risk for coronary heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, second only to smoking as an avoidable cause of illness.[ii] It has also been shown that physical activity interventions that rely on conventional structured exercise programs or recreational activities fail to impact these trends.[iii] Promoting active transport will augment recent health promotion initiatives addressing major public health issues of car dependence, decreased physical activity, and environmental health. [...]
[...] It would be necessary to run this study for at least a year in order to gauge whether slight increases or decreases are due to the intervention at hand or due to weather, intermittent track disturbances, or other uncontrollable factors. Advertising would have to be strategically placed where members of the intervention group would be likely to see them. The local newspaper and cleveland.com would be considered traditional outlets for advertisements. The train bridges hanging over Carnegie Avenue and MLK Jr. [...]
[...] You take the train!' It might also be possible to target professionals by touting the benefits of carpooling and public transport over the risks of drinking and driving after an evening out downtown. It may be useful to organize meeting points in surrounding neighborhoods from which bikers could depart together if their morning commute takes them on a similar route. The same is true for carpooling points. Appropriate messaging would create an ‘everyone is doing it, why aren't you?' mentality that may cause individuals to gravitate to the programs due to a desire to belong to the group. [...]
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