Places Where People Bike Are Places Where People Are Happy

By Micheline Maynard

How to be happy? Ride a bike.

All this summer, I’ve slowly been getting back up to speed on a bicycle. I haven’t ridden regularly in decades, although I’ve tried just about every kind of exercise. But I made a vow that if I was going to lead Curbing Cars, I needed to feel comfortable on a bike.

It’s still pretty hard for me to pedal up the hills near my house. However, there’s a moment in every ride when I’ve felt the exhilaration of gliding along under the trees, waving to my neighbors, generally just enjoying myself.

So, I was pleased to find that the new World Happiness Report says people are happiest in places where bicycling is popular. According to the report, sponsored by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Denmark is the happiest nation on earth, followed by Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Sweden.

As the National Geographic puts it:

“Denmark and the Netherlands (the happiest and the fourth-happiest countries on Earth) are renowned for being the world’s most bicycle-friendly nations; the other most-happy countries are also famously bicycle friendly.” NatGeo makes the distinction between people who have to ride bikes because that’s the main mode of transportation they can afford, and those who ride bicycles out of choice.The survey took place between 2010 and 2012 and ranked the happiness levels of people in 156 countries, according to theirĀ  wealth, health, freedom to make life choices, having someone to count on in times of trouble, freedom from corruption, and the generosity of fellow citizens.

The U.S. came in 17th overall, just behind Mexico, while Britain finished in 22nd place, Russia in 68th, China 93rd, and Iraq 105th. War-torn Syria came in 148th place, while Benin in West Africa was 155th and neighboring Togo wound up the study at 156th.

Now, of course, you can be happy without getting on a bike. It helps to have a great public transportation system, as all the happiest countries do. But it’s nice to know that two wheels contribute to a general air of contentment.

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