TRACKING THE FUTURE OF CITIES
I’ve recently written about the connection between living in cities and our happiness. It’s an area I’m particularly interested in. If we take an earnest look at cities, we realize they are not collections of buildings, transport systems and infrastructure. They are collections of people, who need not only to survive financially and get to their destination, but thrive as happy, sociable, well-adjusted human beings.
This is the real goal. Or at least I think it should be. And an increasingly large body of research is testifying to the idea that making city dwellers happy also helps us reach sustainability goals (not to mention keeping us physically healthier). In other words, our happiness, our health and the state of the environment are inexorably linked.
Adding to that body of evidence, a recent article in The Times of London has reported that commuting by car is not only detrimental to your waistline and heart-health, but it also makes us less happy. And the happiest commuters were? Those who walked.
By: Kat Lay (Originally published in The Times)
Leaving the car and cycling or walking to work makes people feel happier, better able to concentrate and under less strain, according to new research.
A study of almost 18,000 commuters in Britain, using 18 years of data, found that those who commuted by car were at least 13 per cent more likely to feel “constantly under strain or unable to concentrate” than those who used more active forms of transport.
Even users of public transport had higher levels of well being than drivers.
Adam Martin, lead researcher from Norwich Medical School, said: “You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress. But as a busses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up.”
The duration of the commute is important. Mr Martin said: “The longer people spend commuting by cars, the worse the psychological wellbeing. And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work.
He added: “This research shows that if new projects such as London’s proposed segregated cycleways, or public transport schemes such as Crossrail, were to encourage commuters to walk or cycle more regularly, there could be noticeable mental health benefits.”
And then there’s this interesting research conducted at King’s College London which compared the air that drivers, bus passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians breath while going through rush hour traffic in London. The results are yet another point in favour of encouraging citizens to replace vehicles with two-wheelers.
In the study, drivers and passengers in cars were found to have breathed much more polluted air (due to the way cars inhale the exhaust fumes of cars driving ahead of them and recirculate it inside the vehicle where the drivers and passengers are sitting) than either cyclists or pedestrians. Bus passengers, unfortunately, breathed air that was almost as toxic as that breathed by car occupants (although they probably breathed cleaner air while walking to and from the bus stop, and as we now know they are much happier for the ride!)