Bicycle commuters experience joy, but motorists would rather teleport

By Rayla Bellis

Not everyone hates their commute, according to recent research by Patrick Singleton and Prasanna Humagain of Utah State University. While drivers and transit riders would prefer to teleport to work if they had the option, the majority of cyclists and pedestrians surveyed would keep their current commute.

The researchers surveyed 648 respondents in Portland, OR, through a thirty-minute online questionnaire and presented their results at TRB’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, last month. Overall, the majority of respondents indicated that they would prefer to teleport. However, among pedestrians and cyclists, just 27 percent and 34 percent, respectively, would opt to teleport. By contrast, 73 percent of drivers and 76 percent of automobile passengers would take the opportunity to teleport, and 66 percent of public transit riders would teleport if given the choice.

Blue: I would rather teleport. Orange: I would rather spend my time commuting. Source.

Of those respondents who would teleport, 68 percent said they have “other things to do” and 41 percent “my commute is a waste of time” when asked why they would make the jump to teleportation. Of those who would stick with their commute, 76 percent said they enjoy certain aspects of it.

Singleton noted that “people seem to value the exercise they get from using active transportation modes for their commutes,” adding that cyclists and pedestrians also report higher levels of mental health associated with their commutes. Pedestrian and cyclist commuters also had more positive responses to questions about confidence, and freedom, independence, and control.

While these results aren’t especially surprising for Portland and generally align with past research about pedestrian and bicyclist commuters, they have noteworthy potential implications for how we think about and model traveler behavior. For example, we tend to assume a shorter commute is always better in the eyes of travelers, and while that may generally be true for motorists and transit riders, the story might be more complicated for other modes.

Rayla Bellis is a Program Manager at SSTI.