Thursday, January 17, 2013

Biking Uphill is Satisfying, it's the 'Halo' Effect

It’s an established fact that cyclists rate their commute as more “satisfying” than others. Researcher Devon Paige Willis from Montreal’s McGill University surveyed more than 5,600 students about their travel behavior, 268 of them rode bicycles. People who rode out of an environmental conviction or health goal were more satisfied than those looking for just a convenient commute. Willis calls it the “halo effect” – the satisfaction that comes from living your values.

The built environment also had a big effect, with population density having the highest impact on bike mode share. “We hypothesized that land use would impact it,” Willis told me, “that parks and residential areas would end up with people being more satisfied.” But those factors weren’t nearly as significant as population density. Cyclists like an interesting ride, Willis told me, with lots of people around and lots of activity. She said the traffic congestion often associated with high population density didn’t seem to drag down the satisfaction level.

Another surprise is that hillier commutes were more satisfying.
“It’s not intuitive and it’s something we have not entirely explained,” Willis said. “My personal hypothesis is that because cyclists are cycling a lot of the time for exercise and health, the slope is not an inhibitor to them.”Tanya Snider, DC Streets Blog dot org


  1. I would concur that hillier commutes are more satisfying. I live in Laguna Hills and work in Costa Mesa. My shortest commuting distance is 15 miles which takes me through Irvine on the San Diego Creek Trail, past John Wayne airport on Main St, and past South Coast Plaza on Sunflower. Some mornings I may select amongst hillier and longer routes which include roads such as Shady Canyon, Newport Coast, or Laguna Canyon. Those routes stretch my commute up to 27 miles. The longer and hillier routes are for me the more satisfying.

  2. I totally agree. It is a pity more people have not discovered the ocean vistas from hilltops in our beach cities, riding these hills is so rewarding. Bicycle hardware has come a long way since the Schwinn Varsity models of the 1970's, unfortunately most people share the same miserable hill climbing experience from riding that Varsity, so they hate climbing hills. To those folks I say try-out some new 'GEAR'! Ride a modern mountain bike and you will re-discover the pleasure and freedom of cycling.