Cycling Is the Happiest Form of Transport

© Happy cyclists in Minnesota/ Photo Marty Wood. Happy cyclists in Minnesota/ Photo Marty Wood

A new study confirms what every cyclist already knows.

A new study by Yingling Fan of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and Jing Zhu of Northwestern University studied Daily travel behavior and emotional well-being: Effects of trip mode, duration, purpose, and companionship and finds that when it comes to your daily commute, cycling is the happiest form of transportation. The researchers "examined how the mode, duration, purpose, and companionship characteristics of a trip shape six different emotions during the trip, including happy, meaningful, tired, stressful, sad, and pain."

After controlling for personal demographics, health conditions, and residential locations, we find that biking is the happiest mode; public transit is the least happy and least meaningful; and utilitarian walking for transportation is associated with all four negative emotions.

It is surprising that walking has so many negative associations, but then a lot of people walk because they cannot afford any of the alternatives. It's not surprising that public transit is so stressful; I took the subway in Toronto instead of biking because of the snow and was lucky to be already inside when we passed the station in the tweet."Happiness levels of rail trips are found to be no different from car trips, but higher than bus trips."

Long trips are also more stressful and unhappy than shorter ones. Not surprisingly, trips to the bar or restaurant are the happiest and trips for spiritual or volunteering purposes are the most meaningful. Traveling with family also makes you happy. Researcher Fan is quoted in the press release:

Of course, family and friends play a role in how we feel about travel. Our research shows that travel with friends or family, especially with children, is not only happier, but more meaningful, than traveling alone.

The abstract to the study concludes:

Transportation planners in the U.S. are recommended to promote biking behavior, improve transit user experiences, and implement spatial planning strategies for creating a built environment conducive to shorter trips, more discretionary trips, and more joint trips with family and friends.

Indeed. If you want happy and healthy citizens, then give them a safe place to ride their bikes to work or with their families.