As the rain starts to hit, let’s not get too down. After all, we’re a pretty happy bunch. But let’s once again examine what we’re avoiding by choosing bike over car—admittedly harder to do as we head into the autumn/winter months.
Many of us know that driving can kill us—and not just the 40,000 a year killed and over 3 million injured in crashes. There’s a physical toll to the millions of Americans who suffer from obesity-related health issues, exacerbated by the hours—or weeks—spent in a car. But add to those already-staggering numbers the emotional toll that time spent commuting by car can have. It’s downright depressing.
According to a Gallup-Healthways poll of over 170,000 employed adults nationwide, the longer it takes you to get to work, the greater your worry, neck and back pain and cholesterol. Ouch. And longer commutes also translated to decreased enjoyment and less sleep.
The Gallup blog rightly notes that “The results imply that many employers may need to reevaluate their options for helping workers manage those effects, particularly in light of the costs associated with low wellbeing.” Here, here! It continues: “[e]mployers should also recognize that it’s not just the time lost in commuting that may have adverse effects.” Yes, yes!
It goes on to say that “[p]articularly in tough economic times, commuting expenses — whether they go to gas and parking or mass transit fees — may contribute to elevated worry levels. Helping defray those costs may help employees make the long trek to and from work with greater peace of mind.”
Well, not so fast. Calling on employers to better subsidize transit fees is a fine idea. We’re all too happy to offer our expertise in working with our business friends to get people to work on time, save company costs and—of course—reduce worry. (Have your employer give us a call.)
But calling on employers to subsidize our already-subsidized gas habit is going way too far. It also misses the big picture of their own polling data. Do we want employers to incentivize people to make a longer slog to work by car to reduce worry levels—while doing so actually elevates worry? Vicious cycle.
What’s missing is the obvious: instead of doing less damage by driving less, we can do less damage and actively improve our health. It calls for a vicious cycle of a different kind—one with two wheels.