Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Work ‘the biggest sleep robber’

with 2 comments

BBC NEWS | Health

Commuting time ranked second, above socialising and leisure time, for eating into sleep time.

Sadly this is all the story has to say about that. And you can get the research on line only if you are a subscriber.

We have known for some time that commutes have been getting longer. It used to be thought that there was a commuting “time” budget, and that speeding up transport was the only way to lengthen the distance of commuting. We now know that commuter, having moved out to the suburbs and unable to relocate jobs can only see their drive commute times lengthen as congestion spreads. And driving is much more stressful than being a passenger on transit – as long as you can get a seat, and do something useful with the time, like read, or knit or socialize.

So what has been happening in the US (and here, and the UK) is longer work hours – dictated by the pressures of workplaces that have become much more demanding – and longer commuting hours. For parents, much of their “leisure” time will also be spent behind the wheel, as children are no longer expected to fend for themselves and have to be driven to organized activities rather than just playing outside or at their friend’s houses.

“Modern technology has done nothing to free up our time and sleep length and quality is the victim.”

I don’t know why he should point the finger at technology. It is society that has changed. The dramatic shift away from the welfare state and the social safety net to the “devil take the hindmost” attitudes of the right wing – a return to Victorian social values. The car in particular is now the symbol of “success” – and we have become its victims. The longer hours are essential to pay for it, as there is no longer an adequate public transport system. The “need” to become a two car family, and pay for daycare.

Yet the debates we are allowed to have are about how wide we would like the freeway. Or how high the noise barriers should be. How to protect the fish habitat under the stream crossings. I see no discussion about how we are slowly not only destroying ourselves at the same time as our environment. That was what the “Livable Region” was supposed to be about. Where we did not need to lose sleep just to have a decent place to live and keep our jobs.

High density residential street in Girona, Spain photo by Rosemary Rees-Childs

Written by Stephen Rees

September 2, 2007 at 10:21 am

2 Responses

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  1. I was travelling through Yaletown on foot the other day, just in behind Tinseltown and I was struck by how much of the landscape was cement. While there’s a large soccer field nearby, it’s hardly conducive to idling, and the tiny wedge of a “park” with a stream flowing through seems like more of an afterthought than a real “park”. What really struck me was how much heat was generated from the massive slabs of concrete all around. That “neighbourhood” was a ridiculous example of the current “urban living” experiment where trees and grass are seen as expensive to maintain – so the developers can happily pay some guy to come along and power wash every two or three years instead of a landscaper to trim and mow every month.
    A brutal neighbourhood no matter how you cook it.


    September 2, 2007 at 9:51 pm

  2. There is quite a nice park (David Lam park) just behind the Roundhouse. Concrete does not “generate” heat, but it does retain it and reflect it back. Not often a problem around here. And enough people disagree with you to make Yaletown prices quite high. Its not as if anyone is forced to live there.

    And high residential density has been a feature of cities for millennia, so it can hardly be called an experiment, now can it? The experiment that has failed is the low density car oriented suburb, that required cheap oil to make it function.

    Stephen Rees

    September 3, 2007 at 9:09 am

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