When I was a kid my Mom would refer to me as Super Phill, sometimes she still does. No joke, she even made a banner one time and brought it to a football game. Despite being somewhat mortified at the time, it was endearing. Now that I am an adult I have a real superpower. I can travel happily to and from work with an efficiency that is orders of magnitude more efficient than what the average American does. How do I achieve such incredibly high rates of happiness and efficiency? The secret is that I ride my bicycle.
As it so happens riding your bike to work fits in very well with this idea of optimizing for happiness by pursuing a web of goals. Riding my bike helps me achieve daily exercise, savor life’s pleasures, gives me emotional poise and strength, and helps me achieve life long goals and ambitions like saving the natural beauty of our planet.
I get the benefit of added happiness by engaging these factors, but I also save a boat load of money in the process. Let’s explore this a bit further.
First and foremost, cycling has all sorts of health benefits. One study (PDF), which was published in the British Medical Journal (that’s a big deal!), found that people who cycle were significantly less likely to die in general, and even more so from some of the leading killers in the developed world.
The authors of the study found, cyclists are 41% less likely to die in general, 52% less likely to die from heart disease, and 40% less likely to die from cancer.
Biking has a remarkably small impact on the environment when compared to nearly every other form of travel. Obviously, riding a bike causes less air and noise pollution. That is true for both the manufacturing process and the actual use. Less obvious, but significant in its own right, is the secondary impact of road and parking lot construction and maintenance. Another secondary impact to the environment is the amount of animals killed by vehicles. Truly a staggering amount of environmental loss can be directly and indirectly attributable to using an automobile vs. using a bike. An oldie but a goody by the U.S. Department of Transportation calculates that as much as 15% of emissions could have realistically been reduced by investing in bike friendly infrastructure back in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Unfortunately, not enough states took advantage of the support offered by the federal government to bolster more bike-able communities with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 or the acts which replaced it.
Another benefit of biking is how much peace of mind one gets from riding along while being in nature. In my own experience, I have enjoyed beautiful mornings and evenings, the company of wildlife, and scenic views along historic pathways. The ability to enjoy and be genuinely grateful for the beauty that surrounds us is far easier on a bike than zipping around in a car. Check out a few of my favorite photos and videos I’ve collected on my commute below.
With all the wonderful benefits of biking it is mind boggling that anyone would choose to drive if they didn’t have to. Even if the natural benefits weren’t enough, the financial benefits are staggering too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $9,000 commuting annually. The normal working days per year is 251. So, each day you bike instead of drive you are saving close to $36, or roughly $750 per month you choose to bike instead of drive. That is only direct savings though, and doesn’t take into account indirect savings. For example, physical and mental health related expenses will decrease now and in the future due to your healthier bicycling lifestyle.
If you aren’t already out there getting those miles in on your fancy bike, what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor and get going!