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Pedaling-Positivity

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.

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