Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Commute by Bike?

Image by Copenhagen Cycle Chic

You'll be glad to know things have improved since my last post; no more mush muscles, although they’re certainly not what they were. By end of summer, I should be back to normal, I hope.

Now, more on commuting by bike to save $ and the world!

Why commute by bike
I'm including this topic in the blog because it's a great way to save money. But the benefits of biking to work don't stop there—it's great exercise, especially for those of us who spend most of our day at a desk in front of a computer, and you get to be out in the sun and fresh air, skip getting stuck in traffic, and avoid crowded trains and/or buses.

Plus, TAiMH advocates environmental conservation, and biking is a wonderful way to decrease your eco-footprint. You're not consuming natural resources in the form of gasoline and oil, and not creating poisonous, ozone-depleting gases via car exhaust. Also, to be sure not to pollute your work environment (and possibly lose some friends): Bring a change of clothes and a washcloth to use once you arrive.

How Much Will I Save?
It'll differ for everyone, but here's my case:

Since public transport would be my only method of transportation if I didn't bike, I'll check my savings against that. A monthly pass (the cheapest option for a daily train rider) here in Boston costs about $60. That's $720/year.

Biking costs me zero day-to-day, but let's figure in start-up costs and maintenance. Maintenance includes replacement tubes (let's say $10/year, though the place where I bought my bike mails them to me for free) and periodic tune-ups. I usually do my own semi-yearly tune-ups, but if I'm feeling lazy, a little flirting with the repair guy at the local bike shop gets me a free professional tune-up. Don't judge me. You know you do it too. Maintenance total: $10/yr.

Initial costs include the price of my bike ($250) + accessories ($98; see the table below). I didn't acquire all those accessories before I started biking, but let's pretend I did. Initial costs total: $348.

Now, there are still nasty, stormy days when I'll take the train, but if it's just a light rain, I'll ride it. That's what fenders are for. But let's say the odd train ride will cost me $122/year; that's allowing for 3 bad weather days/month (2 train rides daily at $1.70/ride).

Assuming these costs, the first-year savings of commuting by bike comes to around $240. But for every year thereafter, you'd save about $585, since the bike and accessories have already paid themselves off.

But let's get back to me; that's most important, right? These calculations assume you can ride year-round, which I currently cannot (but I will soon!). Right now, I only bike about 7 months out of the year, which means I didn't save anything the first year, but the two years since then, I've saved $340/year over public transport only. Since I'm also helping the environment (and my figure), that's totally worth it to me.

Keep in mind that if you're switching from driving a car to riding your bike, you're going to be saving a hell of a lot more, especially if you get rid of your car completely. Just make sure you've got a back-up plan for bad weather days.

Bike accessories
(These are the ones I use; they'll vary somewhat person-to-person)
U-lock and cable$30
rear carrier$20
travel pump$5 used
basket$0 (made it myself from a milk crate and some zip ties)
water bottle, cheap waterproof jacket$0 (got these free at my first Bike Friday 2 yrs ago)
reflective ankle ties, personal lights$0 (got these free at Bike Friday last year)
grand total$98

Have you made the switch to biking? Planning to? Leave a comment and tell us why.

Update: Thanks to Financial Highway for including this post in the Money Hacks Carnival Playoff Edition

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L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

I think much more than the saving in terms of money, the gains in terms of improved health is immeasurable.

Lucy P. said...

I thought about it, but where I live isn't very walking and biking friendly. Besides that, I get super annoyed when I'm driving and there's a careless person riding their bike on the road. I think the road is for cars and cars alone.

Wren Caulfield said...

Lucy, unfortunately a lot of drivers feel that way, but it's not true. Legally, the road is meant to be shared by drivers and cyclists (see links below), and both need to pay attention and be courteous to each other. Riding on the road isn't careless, it's responsible. In most places, it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk, and where they don't have bike lanes (the best things ever), where are we to go? The law says the street.

It's more than annoying when drivers are careless around bikers; it's dangerous. Every year, cyclists are killed by irresponsible and sometimes even belligerent drivers.

Your comment illustrates how uneducated many drivers are about the "rules of the road," so to speak. Be mindful of cyclists; they have a right to the road as much as you do. It may be hard to accept, but it's the truth. In the future, I hope a module about sharing the road with cyclists will be included in the driver's license test, and that bike lanes will be mandatory everywhere.

I live in a city that is consistently ranked as one of the worst cities for biking, but there are plenty of cyclists here. If we can do it, you can do it. Be safe, be courteous, and share the road. That goes for everyone.

For more info on bike law, see:

1. Bicycling & The Law: Your Rights As a Cyclist, by Bob Mionske (Boulder, Colorado: VeloPress 2007) ISBN 978-1-931382-99-1, ISBN 1-931382-99-9

2. The biweekly "Legally Speaking" column in Velonews.

3. Bike law (on Wikipedia)

Wren Caulfield said...

Lucy, I want to thank you for your comment. It's inspired me to dedicate some blog space (a post or two, perhaps) to bike law and bike/car safety. Good luck with bike commuting. We're rooting for you!

Savings not Shoes said...

Great series! I never did get up the nerve in my 7 years in Boston to ride a bike but the cost of transport in London has finally put me over the edge onto the side of the cyclists.

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