An evidence-based case for letting dogs use public transport

Dogs en route to the Manchester Dog Show, 1909. Image: Getty.

Dog owners depend very heavily on their cars to transport and care for their pets. Our recently published study estimates that dog owners make about 2.4m dog-related trips a week in Sydney. We also found pet owners overwhelmingly want to be able to travel on public transport with their pets. So why are they still excluded?

Our study, involving more than 1,250 Sydney dog owners, looked at popular activities owners do with their dogs and how often these require a trip by car. Typical activities include:

  • walking;
  • visiting the park or other recreational areas;
  • dog training;
  • going to cafés, bars or shops<;/li>
  • visiting family, friends or the vet.

On average, we found people walk their dog twice or more a week. While this confirms existing research, we found that one in four dog walks actually began with a drive in a car. Of the more than 75 per cent of dog owners who go to a recreational area twice or more a week, 45 per cent get there by car. And of the two-thirds of people who go to the dog park three times a week, more than half travel by car.

This demonstrates a surprisingly high reliance on private cars for dog ownership. The table below clearly shows this.

Activities undertaken by dog owners and the number of dog-related car trips each week.

The survey also found that, on average, people visit a vet three times a year. They use a car for 86 per cent of those trips.

However, 14 per cent said lack of transport had prevented them from taking their dog to a vet. People who did not own a car were more likely to fall into this category.

So, why does this matter?

Our results indicate that enjoying and caring for a dog in Australian cities – which has proven health and social benefits – is a relatively car-dependent affair. And car dependency is something urban planners want us to leave behind for many reasons, including sustainability, health and liveability.

If we are trying to reduce car use, understanding activities that lead to car dependence is important. We are particularly interested in the unintentional, often negative, consequences for individuals who, by choice or circumstance, do not have access to a car. A compromised ability to enjoy and care for a dog is one such consequence.

A policy solution would be to allow dogs on public transport in Australian cities. Unsurprisingly, our survey of dog owners found an overwhelming 95 per cent support this.

More than half indicated they would do more activities with their hound if this were allowed. And 20 per cent said they would even consider getting by without one of their cars if they could take their dog on public transport.


What are the rules in other countries?

With these findings in mind, we investigated public transport policies on pets in 30 cities across Europe, the United States and Australia. We found all European cities allowed dogs on public transport. Most cities in the US and Australia did not.

The policies allowing dogs vary. Some apply limits on where on the train, tram or bus a dog may travel, on travel during peak hours, and on the size of dog. In cities such as Paris, dogs must pass a “basket test” for riding in a carrier or small bag.

Most cities charge a fare for dogs at a concession or child price. Zurich has gone a step further by offering an annual travel card for dogs.

It is interesting that in cultures where private cars are dominant – such as Australia and the US – dogs are restricted from riding on public transport. In Europe, where car ownership and use are less common and public transport use is more the norm, dogs are welcome on trains and buses.

This perhaps says something about how we see public transport in Australia: it is for predictable and “clean” trips, such as the journey to work.

The ConversationIn reality, our lives are made up of messy trips, and to reduce car dependence we need to plan for this mess. This might include measures such as changes to timetables, making the interior of trains and buses more suitable for people carrying groceries, or allowing people to use the train to take their dog on an outing or to the vet. If public transport is for travel for all citizens and dogs are an important part of so many people’s lives, why should dogs be excluded from public transport?

Jennifer Kent, Research Fellow, University of Sydney and Corinne Mulley, Professor; Chair in Public Transport, University of Sydney.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

How spurious imperial science affected the layout of African cities

Freetown, Sierra Leone. Image: David Hond/Freetown From The Air/Wikimedia Commons.

As the European powers spread across the world, systematically colonising it as they went, one of the deadliest enemies they faced was disease. In 1850s India, one in twenty British soldiers were dying from such diseases – on a par with British Empire casualty rates during World War II.

When Europeans started dropping dead the minute they got off the boat, the scientists of the day rushed to provide their own, at times fairly dodgy, solutions. This era coincided with a key period of city planning in the African colonies – meaning that there is still visible evidence of this shoddy science in the cityscape of many modern African cities.
For a long time altitude was considered a protection against disease, on the grounds that it was far from the lowland heat associated with putrefaction. British officials in India retreated to the ‘hill stations’ during the warm season; this practice continued in the African colonies established by all sorts of European powers in the late 19th century.

So it was that one bunch of imperialists established the capital of German Kamerun at Buea, high on the side of Mount Cameroon. The city still has a population of 90,000 today. Evidence of this height fetish can still be found in the ‘Plateau’ districts of Brazzaville, Dakar and Abidjan as well as the ‘Ridge’ district of Accra.


Malaria, particularly, was an ever present fear in the colonies, and it did much to shape the colonial cities. It’s a sign of the extent to which 19th century medical science misunderstood how the disease was spread that its name comes from the French for ‘bad air’. By the late 19th century, knowledge had managed to progress far enough to identify mosquitoes as the culprits – but views still wildly diverged about the appropriate response.

One solution popular in many empires was segregation. The Europeans had incorrectly identified Africans as the main carriers of the disease; African children under five were believed to be the main source of malaria so they were to be kept far away from the colonists at all times.

And so, many powers decided that the European settlers should be housed in their own separate areas. (Of course, this wrong headed but at least rational response wasn’t the whole explanation: often, sanitary concerns were used to veil simple racial chauvinism.)

The affluent Hill Station – a name reminiscent of the Indian colonies – in Freetown, Sierra Leone was built as a segregated suburb so Europeans could keep well clear of the local children. Today, it’s where the home of the president can be found. Yet despite all this expensive shuffling of Freetown’s urban landscape, inhabitants of Hill Station came down with malaria at about the same as those who lived elsewhere.

 

The Uganda Golf Course, Kampala. Image: Google Maps.

In Kampala, Uganga, a golf course now occupies the land designated by the British powers to protect the European neighbourhood from the African. A similar appropriation can be seen in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of The Congo, where a zoo, botanical garden and another golf course can be found the land earmarked for protecting colonial officials and their families.

All this urban juggling was the privilege of immensely powerful colonial officials, backed up by the military might of the imperial powers. The indigenous peoples could do little but watch as their cities were bulldozed and rebuilt based on the whims of the day. Yet the scars are still visible in the fabric of many modern African cities today.