Transportation, Health and Happiness


Transportation Health.jpgYour commute may be contributing to your well-being. Read on to learn how to turn it into a source of happiness.

Is how you get to work or school serving as a source of stress in your life? According to a study by Portland State University, single-driver commuters were among the least happy in an assessment of commuter well-being (taking into account stress, boredom, congestion, travel time, among other factors) (Smith, 2017). The happiest? Bicycle commuters.

Over 75 percent of U.S. workers drive alone to work, take an average of 25 minutes to get there, and spend much of their time stopped in traffic (McKenzie & Rapino, 2011). Depending on the distance of your commute, in traveling via bicycle, you could save time and money by combining commuting and exercise, finding non-congested routes via bike lanes or trails, and in not having to search and pay for parking.

Worried about affording a bike? Let’s look at the numbers: A bicycle costs $50-200 to maintain annually if ridden 2,000 annual miles, averaging 5-15¢ per mile (VTPI, 2011). In driving a vehicle, however, we accrue operating costs (gas, maintenance and tires) of approximately 19.64 cents per mile (AAA, 2012). With an average total daily driving distance in the U.S. of 29 miles, or just over 50 minutes behind the wheel, this works out to $2,078.89 to operate a vehicle each year; more than 40 times more expensive than operating a bicycle. This estimate doesn’t even include the cost of the vehicle itself or insurance.

Is the environment your top priority? Transportation accounts for 36 percent  of our nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and the largest sector of that is passenger cars (EPA, 2018). Transportation is the highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation (EPA, 2018). Riding a bike as your form of transit directly decreases emissions and helps improve our air quality.

Perhaps you are most worried about your health. Did you know that the health benefits of active transportation can outweigh any risks associated with these activities by as much as 77 to 1? They also add more years to our lives than are lost from inhaled air pollution and traffic injuries (Rojas-Rueda et al., 2011; Jacobsen and Rutter, 2012) Riding a bike is associated with increased:

  • life expectancy
  • cardiovascular fitness
  • strength
  • balance and flexibility
  • endurance and stamina
  • calories burned
  • cognition
  • energy

With improved happiness and health, what is there to lose?

For more information, including how to overcome common bike commuter barriers, see USU Extension’s Biking as an Alternative Mode of Transportation fact sheet, here

This article was written by Roslynn Brain, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist with USU Extension, Moab


AAA Association Communication. (2012). Your driving costs. Retrieved from:

Alliance for Biking and Walking. (2014). Bicycling and walking in the United States: 2014 benchmarking report. Retrieved from:

Jacobsen, P. & Rutter, H. (2012). Cycling Safety. In Pucher, J., Buehler, R. (Eds.), City Cycling (141-156). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McKenzie, B., & Rapino, M. (2011, September). Commuting in the United States: 2009. Retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Rojas-Rueda, D., Nazelle, A.,Tainio, M., & Nieuwenhuijsen, M. (2011, August 4). The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: Health impact assessment study. British Medical Journal, 343:d4521.

Smith, O. (2017). Commute well-being differences by mode: Evidence from Portland, Oregon, USA. Journal of Transport & Health, 4, 246-254. Retrieved from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2018). Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2016. Retrieved from:

Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI). (2011). Transportation cost and benefit analysis II – Vehicle Costs. Retrieved from:


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