Commute to Work Like This & You’ll Be Happier

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Commute to Work Like This & You’ll Be Happier

Some commutes inspire road rage, while others inspire rave reviews. One big determining factor? Your mode of transport. Commuters who bike to work are the happiest—and have the highest sense of overall well-being—compared with those who drive cars or use public transportation, according to a Portland State University study.

While many researchers have looked at the effects of health, income, jobs, and home life on happiness, study author Oliver Smith, PhD, focused on commuting. “My study found that commute well-being has a positive effect on overall life satisfaction,” says Smith.

Smith surveyed Portland, Ore., commuters who travel by bike, foot, public bus, light rail, or carpool, or who drive alone. He discovered that bicyclists are the happiest commuters—“statistically significantly happier” than public-transit or car commuters, he says.

That happiness stretches into cyclists’ daily life. “My study found that bike commuters are more satisfied with life than commuters who drive alone or commute by light rail,” Smith explains. Life satisfaction is influenced by many things, of course, and he says it’s not certain whether happier people are more likely to bike or whether biking to work simply increases happiness.

Smith believes the findings are intuitive: “Bicycling is enjoyable and it lifts one’s spirits. It can provide feelings of control that are lacking when driving in traffic or waiting for a bus, and other positive feelings, possibly triggered by endorphins. Biking and walking allow one to clear the head and focus on the present.”

So whether you make bike commuting part of your routine or just an occasional thing, add some happiness to your workday—and enjoy the ride.

How do you get to work? Do you slip fitness into your commute?

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  • I totally agree with this post. I’m currently banned from the bike for health reason and I totally miss riding my bike to work a few times a week. I feel so jealous when I see others on their bicycles.

  • Michael

    I really wish I could bike to work. Work is 18 miles away by highway where bikes aren’t allowed, for clear reasons. By bike, it would take nearly 1 1/2 hours to get to work. I think that would have an adverse effect on my day…lol.

  • Dave Gee

    I cycle to work every day. Burns me a few calories and means I get to spend money on tasty food rather than petrol.
    Lots of car drivers would find commuting by push bike stressful.

    Quite possibly the people that gain pleasure from it are those that already enjoy cycling?

    • JofJLTNCB6

      Yeah, I suspect this is more correlation than causation. It isn’t that commuting by bicycle makes you happier, it’s that people who are happier riding a bicycle are more likely to ride a bicycle to commute.

      • crash2parties

        Also, people who exercise hard several times a week tend to have better overall moods and outlooks…

  • crash2parties

    Several thoughts.

    The first is that perhaps, just perhaps, work environments that also actively promote riding to work just *might* be an influencing factor in how much people like their bicycle commute.

    The second is that I tend to lose a lot of skin with regular bicycle riding. At least once a week I’d stagger in with road rash somewhere. I would *not* be happy. When I want to go fast on wheels, I strap on Derby skates. Bikes scare me.

  • BikesHurtMyButt

    16.2 miles by highway one way, even longer on back roads. Can’t ride on the highway and the back roads don’t even have a shoulder, much less a bike lane. Although traffic is horrible I enjoy my alone time (without kids) and seriously doubt I would be happier taking my bike to work. I would love to see the actual details of the survey, not just what the person asking the questions thought the results said.

  • BO

    People who ride a bike to work are also a lot smellier.

  • guest

    Did they do a study comparing people who lived 30 miles from work?

  • Adrian Milliner

    Cycle commuters in London, UK tend to arrive angry, dirty and late. Sometimes covered in blood. Personally I walk, trying to avoid being mowed down by angry cyclists.

  • bri fox

    Oh man, I wish. I used to bike to work but had to stop cause it’s so terrifying and dangerous in brooklyn that I was arriving at work looking like I’d gotten there by being thrown out of a plane by terrorists and couldnt believe I was alive! Then it took me about 30 minutes to relax enough to start doing any work. Brooklyn rush hour is terrifying, man.

  • Jacqui Quevillon

    PORTLAND. Of course you can ride your bike in Portland!!! What about Chicago/NY/LA/huge cities that are completely unsafe and infrastructurally unsound for cyclists?

  • Andreea

    I used to cycle to work around 3.4 miles. I loved it. It made me feel happy and full of energy. Didn’t need much coffee in the morning anymore. Then I got pregnant and I had to take bus/train instead :(. I will commute by bike when I go back to work.

  • Ranjjiet Varhmen

    Reason: Cycling alters the heart rate, which inturns alters your emotions and releases endorphins. This really does help especially when you had a long day at office and you need to change that mood on your way home. When you drive, you are stuck with that emotion and reach home with that stress, but when you cycle, it bursts the stress and changes the mood substantially. I am commuting to work in bicycle for the past one year and i bet you will be happier too

  • Lars Haagen

    I commute by bike 2-4 times per week around 22km each way. It’s a lot less stressful than waiting in the long line of cars leaving the city in the afternoon. The car ride takes around 35 minutes, a lot of time waiting in line by bike it takes between 40-50 minutes, so the prize is worst case 15 minutes and a shower and then the day’s exercise is done and I feel great.

    In the morning it is good to wake me up and getting fresh for work. I live in Denmark so there is a bike lane all the way and I am not exposed to the other traffic very much. So for me, the study is spot on… 🙂

    Other companies in my area actually pay out a bonus every year if the employees ride their bike to work, that is a great way to get people moving and the company can save some parking spaces. I believe that the bonus is around $3000/year if you ride your bike to work +100 days in a year.