Having a hard day at the office? The Calming Technology Lab at Stanford University has a prescription: ride a bike to work. They used the data from Spire breathing monitors, a wearable health tracker that measures breathing patterns and heart rate over the day, from over 20,000 commutes by 1,000 commuters.
Not only did cyclists arrive at work less stressed, but an hour later were still more relaxed than those who came by transit or car. They are also in better shape when they reverse the commute and go home; Neema Moraveji, head of the Calming Lab and cofounder of Spire, told BikeBiz:
It’s particularly interesting to see that many people don’t transition back into the home after a long day of work very well. By biking to work we know that the physical nature of cycling and physical exertion will engender a more calm and focused state of mind. So while being good for us physically, we also see lots of psychological and emotional benefits.
The results aren’t really surprising; there have been lots of studies that show how exercise reduces stress and anxiety. All our listicles like 7 ways to reduce stress for the long haul and 8 natural remedies for anxiety include exercise along with lavender and meditation. Adele Peters of Fast Company points to a British study that tracked almost 18,000 commuters and found that “ significant associations were observed between overall psychological wellbeing and active travel when compared to car travel.” And that’s in Britain, where cycling is not exactly stress-free. Their conclusion, which should be read by highway-mad politicians everywhere:
The positive psychological wellbeing effects identified in this study should be considered in cost–benefit assessments of interventions seeking to promote active travel.
Those same politicians who would spend untold millions on highways and next to nothing on bike infrastructure should note yet another study out of Copenhagen which compares the costs and benefits of investing in bike vs car infrastructure.
In this framework, costs and benefits of car and bicycle, the two major urban transport modes, have been assessed and are compared across accidents, climate change, health, and travel time. The analysis reveals that each km travelled by car or bike incurs a cost to society, though the cost of car driving is more than six times higher (Euro 0.50/km) than cycling (Euro 0.08/km). Moreover, while the cost of car driving is likely to increase in the future, the cost of cycling appears to be declining.
So much data, so much evidence that investing in cycling infrastructure and active commuting pays serious long-term dividends on a very small investment. All pretty much ignored.