Are bicyclists the happiest commuters on the planet?
I've written before that I completely dropped the car in large part because I discovered that bicycling for transportation was much more enjoyable (even in hot and steamy Florida). I know that plenty of others have had a similar revelation. However, is it the norm that people enjoy bicycling more than driving or riding in a large vehicle?
New research doesn't answer that question, but it hints at the answer I'd expect: bicyclists have a better mood than those traveling by car, bus, or train.
The abstract of “Mood and mode: does how we travel affect how we feel?” reads: “The estimated relationship between mood and mode tends to be weak and often not statistically significant. Nevertheless, we find that bicyclists have the most positive affect. Next happiest are car passengers, and then car drivers, though when controlling for the pleasure typically derived from interacting with others drivers are at least as happy as passengers. Bus and train riders experience the most negative emotions, though a small part of this can be attributed to the fact that transit is disproportionately used for the unloved work trip.”
Naturally, as is almost always the case, more research needs to be done, but the initial results definitely seem logical.
There are other factors that the researchers apparently didn’t control for but might also come into play. “They also said this might reflect that people who are generally more fit and enthusiastic are attracted to biking in the first place,” Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog USA writes. Hmm, good points. Doing such studies while controlling for fitness levels would be possible, but controlling for one's overall level of enthusiasm and positivity seems like it would pose a bigger challenge.
Nonetheless, we already know that exercise boosts endorphins and helps with one's mood, so it's intuitive that people bicycling would be in a better mood than people sitting in a car, bus, or train.