Study Says Cyclists Care More About Community Good Than Drivers


bike silhouetteAre you involved in strengthening the common good through social participation, political participation, being helpful to your neighbors and fellow townsfolk, and being actively involved in neighborhood affairs? In other woods, is the common good important to you? If so, good chance you also ride a bike for transportation, rather than drive a car. At least, according to a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. 

The five-year study took place in Germany and found that controlling for all other factors, whether you drove or rode a bike was the only real variable that would predict whether a survey respondent was positively oriented to the common good. “These findings are significant for policy and planning,” the authors state, “because the benefits of cycling over driving are more profound and sustainable than previously thought.”

Anybody who bike commutes could probably have told you that. A common refrain among people who can choose between a car or a bike, and choose the latter, is that on a bike they feel more a part of the environment, rather than isolated from it sitting in a metal box. And wouldn’t you know it, the study showed the same: 

“Because of the design of cars, the interactions car passengers have with their direct environment are significantly reduced. Sheller and Urry (2000) emphasize that no interaction with the spatial environment can take place from inside a passenger car because acoustic backdrops and smells of the city are not captured and distinctive buildings or urban artifacts are reduced to two dimensions by a perception from inside through the windshield of the car. Te Brömmelstroet et al. (2017) add that interaction with the spatial environment beyond visual channels occurs mainly at the point of origin and destination, and that there are few opportunities for interaction between the driver and the environment while en route, such as when stopping at a traffic light or standing in a traffic jam.”

I can say from personal experience, this is absolutely the case, as switching from driving to riding a bike while living in San Francisco immediately and dramatically altered everything about my perception of the place. The city instantly felt more alive, and more natural too, as even the concrete buildings felt like part of the lived environment. Does that mean the bike changed my perception, or that I was already predisposed to thinking that way, and therefore more likely to ride a bike? Hard to say. But the e-bike sales boom is very real, and this study may point to why. 

You can read the study here.

Words by Justin Housman



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