Given the choice, would you rather be happy or wealthy? Well, if you're a cycle commuter, it seems, you've got a headstart to happines, because far from triggering heart attacks as erroneously reported by the Daily Mail last week, is one factor that has been shown to increase an individual’s overall sense of happiness according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF), a think-tank whose remit includes finding new ways to measure social and economic well-being
You might think the two go hand-in-hand but research clearly shows that in recent decades increased prosperity in the UK and US has not given rise to a corresponding increase in levels of happiness.
Researching what makes people happy is seen as important as it can help policy-makers to decide where to allocate resources in order to improve the overall sense of well-being within the population, reports the BBC's Mark Easton.
An NEF report entitled; Measuring our progress, The power of well-being, states: “A wealth of literature from researchers studying stress and related effects reveals ‘persistent and significant costs associated with a long commute through heavy traffic’.
“By contrast, studies comparing the experiences of commuting by bicycle and car report that cyclists find their mode of transport at least as flexible and convenient as those who use cars, with lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation and excitement.”
The report continues: “Merely presenting this evidence is unlikely to change car drivers’ current preferences. However, it may provide policy-makers with further confidence that, in taking steps to reduce personal car use, people will in time come to view the change as positive, when well-being benefits are experienced.”
Let’s hope those policy-makers do indeed take note of this kind of report which suggests that an increase in cycle commuting would be a relatively simple way to increase the overall sense of well-being of the UK population.
But perhaps it will take a Government that sees votes in cycling to fully commit to making the UK a safer, easier country in which to ride a bike, particularly as a commuter.