Too fast, too futile: speed, time pressure and health

professorPaultoo fast slide

too fast abstract

Paul Tranter, University on New south Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, School of Physical Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, Canberra, Australia

At the ICUH that I attend last week in Nairobi, one of the more unusual and interesting papers that I heard was by Prof. Paul Tranter. His paper was entitled “Too fast, too futile: speed, time pressure and health” where he introduced the concept of “effective speed”.

The concept of effective speed uses a mathematical formal to adjust actual speeds of vehicles by accounting for the time that it takes to earn the capital cost of any particular mode of transport. It goes some thing like this: you maybe driving along in your SUV at 50 km/hour, but it is only an illusion that you are going faster than the bike you just passed. It’s an illusion that you are going faster because you have not factored in all of
the time it took earn the money to buy the vehicles that you are traveling in.

Interestingly, the less expensive vehicles are the fastest in terms of effective speed. The fastest form of transportation is public transit as the price to use it is around $2.25 and it travels at speeds around 40 km/hour. The next fastest modes of travel are cycling and walking.

One of the more significant factors of contemporary urban living is the negative health effect of “time stress”. Increasingly we feel that we are rushing from one event to the next. Rushing to get the kids to and from school, to work, to meetings, to lunch, to shopping and then back home again. Many of us feel so stressed and rushed that we have to buy two cars to try and go faster, by splitting up the rushing between two people. We have to rush to eat fast food as we don’t have time to cook nutritious food or time to exercise.

Prof. Tranter is actually suggesting that we slow down. Don’t buy the second car and use the one you have less often. Take more time going to work if you can by walking because there are both cost savings and health benefits.

Prof. Tranter is also pointing out that the faster we are going the more energy we consume thus producing more green house gases. There are also numerous negative health affects by traveling faster, which are a result of more sedentary lifestyles: higher BMI, which is a contributing factor to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Increased speeds have also been demonstrated to be associated with more accidents and increased risk of fatal crashes..

The paper is part of a growing body of thought that is shifting the critical evaluation of our lives from “ wealth” to “ well being”(for a larger discussion of this new tool for analyzing economic development see Anthony Giddeon’s The Politics of Climate Change). What does it matter if one makes enough money to buy an expensive car and the lifestyle that goes with it if it contributes to making one unhealthy. Increasingly, this is becoming all too common. As a society we have to shift from the notion of measuring economic growth in terms of increased GDP and start thinking of the evaluation of economic development that incorporates the well being for everyone in a society.
Effective Speed paper

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