Why We Ride—We Like Our Money

Riding bicycles puts money in our pockets

While cyclists are generally not so money driven (other than those with carbon or accessory addictions), nearly all cyclists like the idea that cycling saves them money. But from where do the savings really come? Given they don’t use gas, can be parked in a small place and repairs are relatively inexpensive, bikes obviously save us money. The bike blog The Urban Country recently ran two articles: one showed that Americans work about two hours a day to pay for their cars, the other that they only worked 3.84 minutes each day to pay for their bicycles. While these are interesting facts, are they fair comparisons?

image on Flickr photostream of Carlton Reid
This one runs on fat and saves you money…
via Flickr photostream of Carlton Reid

Most comparisons (like the one at the Urban Country) compare the direct difference between buying and running a car versus buying and maintaining a bike. But how many bike riders opt for just a bike over a car? While more are opting out of even having a driving licence, most of us still need to buy and operate a car as well as a bike. And much of the cost of running a car is pretty much the same whether you drive 5,000 or 25,000 kilometres a year. Payments happen every month; somehow you still have to get two service visits a year and the savings break on lower mileage insurance is…I’ll give you a few seconds until you have stopped laughing.

So, what are the real cost savings of riding a bike over driving a car? Obviously, a big part is the cost of gas, something that is slowly going up all the time. An approximate average fuel consumption across all vehicles is around 10 km per litre. At a price of $1.25 per litre, that works out to about 12 cents a kilometre. So on a 15 minute, 5 kilometre one-way commute. you are saving $1.25 a day, $6.75 per week or $300+ per year. And that is just a starting point for riding. Using your car less means some maintenance costs are reduced. Your car will also last a bit longer…more savings

But what about other costs? There are savings beyond the obvious. For example, most commuters have to pay for parking. Costs vary where you live, but let’s say an average cost of $10 per day, which works out to over $2,000 a year. Impressive.

But does it have to stop there? There are cost savings that are not directly related to running a car. For example, given I now ride nearly every day, I dropped my gym membership. I’m not into body building (far from it). I needed the gym membership for cardio and my daily commute gives me my minimum. The fact that I have a bike that is comfortable, I like riding and am comfortable on the road means I am more likely to get out after work or on the weekend. More calories burned and the body exercised. As the great street graphic above suggests: bikes run on fat. Savings: let’s say $50 a month…or ~$600 a year.

Everyone is going to have their own set of savings, depending on their circumstances. All it takes is thinking past the obvious and looking at your total lifestyle to get a sense of what those savings are. No matter what, with more money in your pocket, you have more to spend on the better things in life…like another bike, maybe?

Whatever you use it on, the savings add up quickly. It is clear: bikes can save you money. Just another reason to like them.

Roll on.

Why we ride is a regular Friday feature that explains, one reason at a time, why folks in Peterborough like to ride bicycles. It is a crowdsourced list so, tell us why you ride, either as a comment below or, preferably, by email, so we can include it as a “Why We Ride” post. We would love to hear more reasons to ride.