Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #2

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance
Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health
Reason #3 - Stress Relief / Mental Health

Reason #2 - Economy

(Posted on Tax Day 2007)

Embracing bicycle transportation is a little like embracing religion.

I can tell you how satisfying, and how emotionally rewarding, and even how joyful it is, until I'm blue in the face. But unless you try it yourself and "see the light," you'll likely never know what I'm talking about.

However... one cold, hard fact cannot be denied. You can save a load of money by straddling that saddle.

"A penny saved is a penny earned." Ben Franklin said it. Do you believe it? Hallelujah - I'm a believer!

How much do you spend on automobile transportation?

The American Automobile Association – hardly an anti-car organization – says the average American spends $8410 per year to own a motor vehicle (as of 2004; consider that gas was $1.83 in 2004).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2003) says the same person spends 18 cents of every dollar earned on "the purchase, operation, and maintenance of automobiles."

Do you go to work, so you can afford to own and operate a car, so you can get to work? What's wrong with this picture? (Teenage kids do it... but we should grow out of it!)

Here's a story problem for you math-heads.

A car costs 45 cents per mile to drive. (I choose that number arbitrarily, and am being generous to car-driver. The IRS says 48.5 cents as of 2007; way back in 1995, the AAA said 41.2 cents.)

Bike Nazi figures it costs 4 cents per mile to ride his bike. (That includes bike acquisition, tires, upkeep and repair, etc., plus likely some $ left over for bike clothes.)

If his round-trip commute is 8 miles, and he makes that commute 240 times a year, how much will he save by riding the bike all year?

THE ANSWER (Don't look until you've tried to figure it out):

Total miles traveled - 1920. (8 miles, 240 times.)
Cost in the car, at 45 cents - $864.00
Cost on the bike, at 4 cents - $76.80
Savings - $787.20

The reality is, I figure I save substantially more than that each year, in real-world, out-of-pocket dollars. Here's how I figure.

Let's suppose I buy a second family car, for use solely as my commuter vehicle. I don't need a fancy car, so I buy one that's CHEAP. Let's say a $6000 used car... which would probably be $200 payments, over 3 years, no? So - the car's PAYMENTS are going to be $2400/year out of pocket, at least until it's paid off. (For the record, my bicycle cost $900.) I need a license plate. What's that - $50? Okay... now I have insurance to buy. If I owned the car free and clear, I could get by with liability only... realizing, of course, that I'm done if I crash and it's my fault. Since the bank owns the car with me, I need the full-zoot insurance. But it's my second car, and I'm the only driver, and I'm a good driver... I bet I could get insurance for $250/year... maybe? (A guess.) So - I'm up to $2700 a year, and I haven't bought any gas, or paid for any repairs, or oil changes, or tires, or...

(The bike - $76.80 a year. Or, let's get crazy! Let's say $200 a year!)

What would YOU buy, with an extra $2500 a year? (Or even an extra $800+ a year?)

It's great to have all those "feel good" reasons for preferring bike transportation. But the pragmatist / systems-analyst side of me loves the economy of bicycling... in addition to all those feel-good reasons!


Anonymous said...

Great coincidence in posting date, as we have finally added up what we pay to the government throughout the year. My savings may not be as much as I already own a second car(no payment) but use it only for out of town trips or towing trailers(boat and camper). My savings will get eatin up this summer paying for gas for my waterskiing addiction.

By the way, I should be receiving my Xtracycle Thursday and hopefully will get mated to my bike this weekend.

db said...

Yep, there's another big reason I ride: economy. I'm not one to do all the math, so thanks for doing that for us.

Although... you could justify that all the exercise has a significant dent in your medical costs, too. Just a thought.

Keep the good posts coming.

Apertome said...

Wow, it's cool the way you calculated those figures. It's a real eye-opener as to just how expensive a car can be.

I like the economy of riding a bike, but it's not one of the main reasons I do it. That's why I really like your series of reasons for bike transportation -- some appeal to me strongly, and some don't, but everyone's reasons for riding are different.

Anonymous said...

A solid argument, and yet (amazingly) one of the least convicing to car addicts.

I continue to be in wonder that no matter how demonstrable are the high costs of driving, and no matter how much people complain about the high cost of gas, the economic argument rarely, if ever, convinces anyone to kick the car habit. People still say, as gas prices rise, that "when it hits X dollars, then people will start to think twice about driving everywhere."

No, they won't. It didn't work when gas reached $1, it didn't happen when it reached $2, and it won't happen when it reaches $3, $4, or $5.

Anonymous said...

Danielo, Here is a study of what hopefully will happen at different gas prices.


Anonymous said...

Clancy --

Exactly. A list of what people SAY they'd do if prices got that high. But none of it will come true in real life.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that when you stop driving your car to work you can qualify for reduced insurance rates with most insurers. That saves me at least $100 per year.