Cyclists have the happiest ride, US smartphone app shows
“Technology allows us to capture people’s emotional experience,” says Yingling Fan, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota. She followed the home-work journeys with colleagues on the Daynamica smartphone app created by a company she co-founded.
This app collects GPS data on chosen routes, then asks participants to categorize segments by emotion, mapping happiness, meaning, pain, sadness, stress, and fatigue. These emotions are then transferred to the University of Minnesota Transportation Happiness Map.
“Our research has shown that cycling is the happiest”, says Fan, which tracked commuters in Minneapolis. Since 2011, she has been studying population-level travel behaviors and associated emotional experiences.
The research found that the mapped route with the highest scores for “happiness” was the Separate Riverside Bike Path next to the West River Parkway.
In a short film featuring Transportation Happiness MapFan said, “Planners have a lot of power to shape people’s emotional experience.”
In the same film, Minnesota Department of Transportation public health and transportation planner Nissa Tupper said, “When most people think of getting around, they think of being stuck behind a steering wheel, and that’s is an immediate unfortunate situation.”
Fan’s research joins similar studies that found those who walk or bike to work are happier than car commuters.
A Statistics Canada survey found that 66% of people who cycle or walk to work are “very satisfied” with their commute. However, only 32% of car commuters say the same, and for transit users it’s even less, at just 25%. Only 6% of Canadian cyclists say they are “dissatisfied” with their trip. 18% of commuters by car say they are dissatisfied, and it is 23% for those who use public transport.
According to Dr. David Lewis, a member of the International Stress Management Association, car and train commuters may experience more stress than fighter pilots going into combat. It compared the heart rate and blood pressure of 125 commuters with those of pilots and riot police during training exercises.
“The difference is that a riot police or a combat pilot have things they can do to combat the stress triggered by the event,” Dr Lewis said.
“But the commuter can’t do anything about it…[there’s] a feeling of helplessness. »
Dr Lewis said traveling by car or train made people “frustrated, anxious and discouraged”.
According to Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, those who drive to work need to earn more to pay for their journey, but not just in purely monetary terms:
“Workers who drive hour-long trips need to earn 40% more money to have a sense of well-being equal to that of someone who walks or bikes to work.”