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This jacket is a germ shield on crowded transit

Posting in Transportation
 
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In the northern hemisphere, it's that time of year when everyone seems to be sick. 

It's not an illusion, the influenza virus likes to spread in cold, dry conditions. February, in particular, is the peak time for flu activity, in the northern half of the equator. And the nasty norovirus is especially fond of winter

But life goes on, even if your commute involves a nauseating bus or train ride that could be mistaken for a shuttle to the doctor's office. The passenger you're sharing a pole with sneezes into his hands and then rejoins you on the pole. Later, you feel a breeze on your neck while the passenger behind you gets through a coughing fit. You're trapped in a germ box. No, really, you are.

That's why I was especially glad to come across this fascinating clothing line concept, dreamed up by "innovation consultancy" firm gravitytank, that would act as a shield for commuters on busy public transportation during cold and flu season.
 
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When looking for solutions to the spread of germs on transit as part of the firm's Project Transfer, they developed a jacket called Straphanger. The jacket is equipped with three main features to prevent the spread of germs by reducing your contact with them on transit. 

When you're the one with a cold on a crowded subway, there's an antimicrobial elbow patch to sneeze into. When you're the one needing protection from coughing, sneezing passengers, the jacket provides fold-out gloves so you don't have direct contact with poles and handrails. And for your nose and mouth, a face mask with antimicrobial fleece filters the air. When you get home, all of the features can be removed and washed for reuse.

Of course, there are larger systemic changes that could be made that could make transit a little less germ-friendly. The project came up with these ideas:

  • Replace handrails and poles with touch-free areas in the middle of an aisle where passengers can lean.
  • Add hand sanitizing stations at exits.
  • Place disinfecting rings on poles.
  • Develop signs that show which subway cars are less crowded. 
The leaning areas and crowded car indicators are more long-term solutions. The other two would be easier fixes. And with 10.5 billion trips made on public transit every year in the U.S. alone, it would be wise to implement them sooner than later. 

And, while we wait, here's the correct way to cough.


Photo: Flickr/Diego3336

 

— By on February 19, 2014, 10:05 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure