A Case for Commuting: Happiness

A previous post chronicled the Top Ten Reasons Why I Endure Foothills, Fools, and Fahrenheit to Commute By Bike.  The following post is part of a continuing series on making a case for commuting.

“Doubly happy, however, is the man whom lofty mountain tops are within reach, for the lights that shine there illumine all that lies below.” — John Muir
Bicycle commuting is fun — it’s therapeutic for the spirit and makes me happy.I get that “happiness” is hard to define and probably even harder to realize.  But if you subscribe to the idea that happiness is synonymous with contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment, then I can make the case that for me, bicycle commuting makes me happy.  Interestingly, I’m not exactly sure why.  I know there are countless reasons why it’s the right thing to do, but when I ride it simply makes me happy.In a totally unscientific way, I decided to go out to my favorite commuting BLOG, Bike Forums, to ask other commuters the simple question:  Does commuting make you happy, and if so, why?  What I got were 61 responses in two days, the vast majority of which confirmed my own predisposition that bicycle commuting makes people happy.  The responses were varied:

“I’m addicted to riding. I feel bad if I don’t.”
“It makes me feel good, and young, Driving has the exact opposite effect.”
“It makes me feel  good about myself”
“Endorphins”
“Addiction is a strong word, but it might apply here.”
“I need my ‘alone time’ everyday to think about stuff (or think about nothing) without interruption”
“Riding kicks ass”
“Dunno if I’m exactly happy.  More like alive, as opposed to my usual state of animated corpsehood”
“It has become essential to my mental well-being”
“The feeling is the same as when I was a little kid”
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.  Simple as that.  Everything else — exercise, earth stewardship, saving money — is gravy”.

Strong words from folks who bicycle commute under tougher conditions than me!

Over on BikePortland.org, a recent headline caught my eye: Bike Commuters are Happiest.  Seems as though Oliver Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University recently conducted a research project titled, Commute Well-being Among Bicycle, Transit, and Car Users in Portland, Oregon.  In early 2012, he surveyed 828 people across a variety of commute modes including bicycling, walking, express bus, light rail, carpooling, local bus, and driving alone.  What Smith discovered was that the happiest commuters are those who bike and walk under their own power.  Least happy, not surprisingly, were those commuters who drove alone.

So, if you’re like me and sometimes find solace and power in numbers, then my #1 case for commuting, that it makes me happy, is well documented.  If however, you need to experience things for yourself before you fully embrace it, then I challenge you to take the bicycle commuting plunge for a month, and like me, I’m betting you’ll be hooked.

Happy Pedaling!

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