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Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in General | 1 comment

Surprise! Surprise! Long (Car) Commutes Decrease Health and Well-being

I doubt any of the solo car drivers are having this much fun at a red light. Video still by Nic Christie, taken on our second bike bus recon mission.

Last night, as I was riding home from delivering the video cameras to Kitzzy & Jason for their inaugural UCF bike bus ride, the air was cool, the moon was big and bright and I felt such joy being on my bike.

When I headed over there earlier it was still raining and I was kinda tired from having ridden to Oviedo and back earlier in the day. I could easily have taken my car. But there would have been no joy. Even the moon would have been out of sight, above my windshield.

On my way there, a couple friends pulled up along side me in their car and we chatted as I rode down a residential street. That was fun! And a connection that would never have happened if I’d been in my car.

I don’t commute anymore since I moved my office home, but I do most of my trips by bike. Every trip offers me some kind of connection to the community—encountering someone I know, exchanging a friendly wave with a stranger in a car, greeting a mailman, Fedex driver or someone walking their dog. I get exercise, fresh air and it’s never boring.

When I opt for the car I get none of those rewards. Usually I get boredom and stress. So, it’s not surprising to me that a Gallup poll shows a decrease in health and well-being as car commute times increase.

Wellbeing Lower Among Workers With Long Commutes
Back pain, fatigue, worry all increase with time spent commuting

Here are a few quotes:

…one in three employees with a commute of more than 90 minutes say they have had a neck or back condition that has caused recurrent pain in the past 12 months

Those with long commutes are also more likely to say they have at some point been diagnosed with high cholesterol and are more likely to have a Body Mass Index that classifies them as obese.

Behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger in 2004 tracked the emotional states of employed women in Texas during their daily activities. They found that respondents’ ratio of positive to negative emotions was particularly low during time spent commuting.

…workers with extremely long commutes were less likely to have experienced enjoyment for much of the previous day or to say they felt well-rested that day.

This correlates with my observation that there is more incivility on the road in the parts of town where people have longer commutes.

Thanks to Andy Cline of Carbon Trace for this one. I agree with Andy that it would have been nice if they had studied different modes. I’m definitely happier and less stressed taking a 40 minute bike trip than a 20 minute car trip.

Video still by Nic Christie.

1 Comment

  1. This is so true! I was watching that video with Rodney when he said this too and I was nodding my head the whole time. When we still had a car, I certainly was more stressed on days we drove and I wasn’t even the one driving! =P I’ve always hated driving and now I’m so glad I can give that up entirely. Biking everywhere fills me with glee, even more so now after taking the Cycling Savvy course and being comfortable and confident to use busy roads to connect neighborhoods to get to my destination.


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