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Sydney’s cyclists twice as happy as other commuters: new research

13 August 2015
Cycling commuters arrive at work in a happier mind frame than other commuters.

Sydney’s commuting cyclists are twice as happy as people who drive, walk or use public transport to get to work, University of Sydney research reveals.

cycling to work

Image: Ryan Lane, iStock

“Cycling offers benefits that may not be available through other forms of travel,” says Melanie Crane, who led the research.

"These benefits include the mental health benefits of being active outdoors, a greater control over and predictability of their commuting journey, a sense of fun and a way to save money.

“This may be why cycling commuters arrive for work in a happier mind frame than other commuters.”

The study of 846 inner city Sydney commuters reports that cycling commuters have better overall quality of life and health satisfaction than public transport users, walkers and motorists, after statistically adjusting for other possible explanations such as age, sex, education and income levels.

Latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) reveals that two thirds of Sydney commuters use cars to get to work (62.6%), followed by public transport (22.8%), walking (4.7%) and cycling (0.9%). The study is one of the first internationally to investigate the relationship between quality of life and transport by comparing different travel modes.

Repeated surveys reveal that Sydney is one of the least cycling-friendly cities in the world.

Repeated surveys reveal that Sydney is one of the least cycling-friendly cities in the world.

“Commuting by bicycle in Sydney, like many other cities in Australia, is inhibited by a lack of separated bicycle paths and safe routes, which negatively impact quality of life and people’s willingness to adopt cycling as a commuting option,” says co-author, Professor Chris Rissel of the University of Sydney.

“Transportation appraisals and transport policy decisions often fail to include the experience of the transport journey from the user’s perspective. Quality of life is an important measure of how individuals rate their health. How quality of life is affected by changes in the urban built environment such as traffic and transport is an increasingly important issue in public health”.

The research is part of a three year study investigating changes in travel and health behaviours as a result of new cycling infrastructure. It was published in the international journal Quality of Life Research.

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