Biking vs. driving calculator

Biking vs. driving calculator

For the past two months, I've been conducting an informal experiment looking at commuting costs. Spurred by the high cost of gas — $4 per gallon to fill my Mini!?! — I decided to use alternate transportation: my feet. In May, I walked over 200 miles. In June, I've walked less but biked more.

Related >> My Mini and the Power of Saving

Walking and biking takes more time, it's true, but not as much as I'd feared. Besides, walking and biking give me additional exercise, so there's a cost benefit there (both in terms of time and money). Plus, I've discovered that I'm pretty good at multitasking while walking. Sometimes I just relax and enjoy the journey, but other times I'm able to read as I walk or even write rough drafts of blog posts.

For longer trips (such as the 8-1/2 mile jaunt into downtown Portland), I've been using my bike. Portland has one of the country's best biking cultures, so this is easy to do. And fun. And it's cost effective.

How cost effective? That's the real question, isn't it? Bike advocates often point out how much people can save by driving less, but their general numbers are tough to translate to a personal level. Well, Michael Bluejay, who runs the outstanding Saving Electricity site that I've mentioned many times before, has come up with an Owning a Car vs Not Owning a Car calculator that lets folks plug in the numbers for their personal situation.

Bike calculator

Bluejay's calculator takes into account commuting costs, including gas, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation. On the “not driving” side, it includes the cost of a bicycle, as well as costs for buses, taxis, and car sharing. It also allows you to change your assumptions about how much you'll earn on the money you save by not driving. (This is nice. Instead of just assuming an 8% return, you can opt to assume a 1% return.)

At his site, Bluejay writes:

Riding your bike can make you a millionaire! You're paying more for your car than you think. A typical American who goes car-free for 35 years can save nearly a million dollars, even adjusted for inflation, and even if they pay for taxi, bus, and car-share trips often. Use the calculator to find how much you can save in your particular situation.

Now, I'm an advocate of walking and biking, but I think Bluejays's claims are a little unrealistic. Yes, driving is expensive. Yes, biking (or walking) can save you money. But it's unlikely that the average person has the ability to simply give up their car.

Instead, I think it's more practical to do what I've done: find ways to drive less and reduce your driving costs. I don't have the ability (or desire) to give up my Mini completely, but I've enjoyed looking for ways to drive it less. It's fun to walk to the gym and the grocery store. I enjoy biking into Portland or over to my friends' houses. These things are liberating, and they save me money.

But biking isn't going to make me a millionaire.

More about...Transportation

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Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

My commute is 65 miles each way. It would take at least 6 hours to bike there and back.

Personally, I’m excited about the next generation of electric cars. The Nissan Leaf and the other cars that are coming out right now are *almost* there, I just need a bit more range. When a version that goes 200 miles between charges comes out, I’m sold. That very well may be my next car.

Paularado
Paularado
9 years ago

My commute is 35 miles and an elevation change of 4000 ft (not a typo!). Biking is not an option and neither is public transportation.

I think that there are a lot of people for whom driving is the only option unless we move. Also not practical after the housing crash.

Electric/solar cars get me all excited too…and dear automotive industry: can you make one a high clearance 4×4? I need that too. LOL!

AaronB
AaronB
9 years ago
Reply to  Paularado

Sounds like my brother-in-law’s commute into Colorado Springs. He uses some hypermiling tricks on his way down the mountain to (partially) make up for the climb back home.

Jon -- Free Money Wisdom
Jon -- Free Money Wisdom
9 years ago
Reply to  AaronB

Thankfully gas is going down! I am excited about electric/solar cars as well. I think they’ll be the future!

John Hopkins
John Hopkins
9 years ago
Reply to  Paularado

It’s going to take a generation or more for all the unfortunate choices we’ve made about where to live are worked out of the system. In the meantime, articles like this one are good reminders that many of us can control what we spend on transportation. Let’s walk when we can, bike when we can, use public transit where it exists — and support our friends and the public policies that make those choices practical ones. Eventually, most of us will recognize that the advice to “drive until you qualify” was great for building suburbs but worked against building sustainable… Read more »

Grog
Grog
9 years ago

Maybe the Tesla S? (300 mile range)

I’m also at a 60 mile commute. 1hr 10 minutes in a car or over 3 hours by transit each way.

I’m going to challenge a friend to a race in a year, they will take transit and I’ll pedal.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  Grog

The Tesla Model S looks like it could be a great car, but even still, I can’t see myself spending $50k on a car in the near future. It’s just too much car.

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago

You won’t need to wait for an electric car if you choose a place to live that’s not 65 miles away from where you need to be every weekday morning!

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

Here’s a link to a house near my office. Does that seems like a reasonable alternative to a long commute to you? That commute would be only 1.4 miles. I could walk it.

(also, I only do this commute three days per week. Besides, I like my house.)

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

I feel a little cruel, but I do love my city. Here’s what that kind of money could buy you here: http://www.prudentialpreferred.com/property/index.cfm?fuseaction=propertymls&MLS=867570 you know, in case you needed 5 full bathrooms, 7 bedrooms and a massive kitchen. Here’s what you’d get in the under $250K range: http://www.prudentialpreferred.com/property/index.cfm?fuseaction=propertymls&MLS=868611 These houses are about 6 miles from Downtown, the first has easily accessible public transit and most things you’d need (groceries, gas, drugstores, restaurants, library, etc.) in a nearby business district. The second has a much smaller business district and is a bit further from transit, but still fairly easily walkable or bus-able… Read more »

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago

I guess it’s preferable to wait for that electric car, then. Everyone makes a different set of choices, naturally.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

I checked the stats on my car’s trip computer when I got home from work today: I did 66 miles at an average of 48mph, for a total time of 1 hour, 23 minutes. I averaged 30.2mpg. That works out to 8.3 hours/week in the car, and 13.1 gallons of gas per week. At $4.25/gallon (my car takes premium), that’s $56/week on gas money. For a year (I’m saying 46 weeks, since I get 30 days paid vacation), that’s $2576 on gas to drive to work, and 381 hours in the car. I wouldn’t mind cutting that gas bill in… Read more »

almost there
almost there
9 years ago

Tyler, I just got this from a green relation. Go to WWW betterplace dot com and see the new electric car made in Europe. If battery gets low, pull in and change battery by robot. That would be great if it catches on all over the world.

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

Through a combination of living close to our respective works and schools and him biking and me walking or bussing to/from work some of the time, we spent around $100 a month on gas (before the gas increases it was less than $100 a month). It seems most people we know spend $200 plus on gas so I’m estimating we save around 1K a year doing this, not including the savings of having 1 car versus 2.

Eileen
Eileen
9 years ago

My commute when from 30 miles (round trip) to zero (work from home) in the last year. Due to traffic/road/distance/time issues walking or biking was no option.

I could probably put more walking to use (grocery runs, dining out), but the savings at this point would be small (though the health benefit good).

I do think that with kids, a lot of driving is just unavoidable.

I do wonder about walking and writing!? How is that possible?

Alan
Alan
9 years ago

I have considered biking to work in order to save on gas but here in North Louisiana it is too hot for me to get past thinking about it. It is roughly 80 degrees in the mornings and easily 100 degrees on into the day. Plus my wife and I ride to work together since we work barely a block apart. It’s been efficient enough that we made the decision to sell my car (got rid of it yesterday) and put that income towards our last bit of consumer debt. (Estimating 6 months remaining and then we tackle the car… Read more »

Elizabeth Ingersoll
Elizabeth Ingersoll
9 years ago

I don’t have any car payments (bought it outright), but I had no idea how to find just depreciation values without interest payments tacked on. Did a little poking around and found this site:

http://www.money-zine.com/Calculators/Auto-Loan-Calculators/Car-Depreciation-Calculator/

I can’t attest to the accuracy or validity of that calculator, but at least it might help folks get a ballpark idea that’s not provided by the Bicycle Universe folks.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago

Thank you! It’s kind of stunning that they just assume you have a debt on your car.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I think it only works for cars you know the new price of, and I’m not having any luck finding the original MSRP on our car (which we bought used). Oh well, I can figure straight depreciation by hand instead.

KAD
KAD
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

I agree. It’s kinda funny — and kinda sad — that the unspoken assumption is you don’t own your car outright.

Then again, it could just be a way for the calculator to make biking look more affordable.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  KAD

I do think it’s because the assumption is debt. It’s the assumption for almost everything. When we had to replace our furnace, the first thing the guy from the power company talked about was the financing options for furnaces. Ditto other house repairs, and what the banker assumes we’re there about when we go in to make any changes on our accounts.

No Debt MBA
No Debt MBA
9 years ago

I’ve been walking to work the last several months and so far it’s saved me over $150. I find the walk pretty refreshing. It wakes me up in the morning and helps me unwind after work.

Brent
Brent
9 years ago
Reply to  No Debt MBA

How far is your walk? And how many months have you been doing this?

I have thought about riding my bike to work, but I live close to work, that I can’t justify the savings of riding the bike verses driving. Maybe I’ll give it a try anyway.

Des
Des
9 years ago

This is a nice calculator. However, when I plugged our numbers into it we would save only $261k over 35 years. Not worth it, especially considering the huge opportunity cost of losing those hours of daylight, the dangerous roads I would have to travel on from my house into town, and not being able to carry passengers. I love the idea of driving less, but there is no way this is worth the non-financial cost.

STRONGside
STRONGside
9 years ago

My commute is also 45 miles each way, so walking or biking for me is definitely out. I really would love to do this though, and I am constantly considering the costs of my long commute. Namely, that I could quite my job, and work at a home business, and instantly cut out some serious expenses. I also enjoy the “walkability” factor that many home search sites list. Such as Zillow.com. Not always 100% accurate, but at least they have this option for people who are trying to be more walking/biking/non-commuting conscious.

Elaine Huckabay
Elaine Huckabay
9 years ago

I must say that articles like these bruise my ego a bit. I WANT to do everything possible to minimize my impact on my financial health and the health of the environment, so it bothers me somewhat to continually hear about biking, when it’s just not realistic to my life. In a city like Oklahoma City (long, wide, vastly spread out), biking is just not an option. Not to mention it’s 107F today! And I also feel like I’ve done everything I can to minimize my car costs – I have a fully paid off Nissan with 115,000 miles. There… Read more »

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

It’s only difficult for most Americans to give up their cars because they’ve decided to live in such an inconvenient geographic distribution. People need to start paying more attention to transportation costs/access in relationship to their housing choice – http://www.cnt.org/tcd/ht

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago
Reply to  Joe

I like that you made this point. We have subsidized living in very sprawled out communities, and it is not uncommon for people to drive an hour, one way, to work from their home. Of course I understand that houses in downtown/urban areas are much more expensive. But to me the answer is not to keep expanding our cities ever larger. In fact, in cities like my hometown of Dallas, the real estate vacancy rate is incredibly high, as the center continues to become deserted and empty and people continue to live further and further out in the “suburbs” which,… Read more »

Annie
Annie
9 years ago

I’m glad that some people have the opportunity to reduce their gas dependence by walking and/or biking, but I wish that the non-vehicle enthusiasts would remember that not all of us have that same opportunity. I live in the south, in a small town with a population of about 20,000. Sidewalks do not exist here. The town’s infrastructure is simply not set up to support walkers/bikers. Bikers around here are not treated with respect, and I would be afraid to share the road with the vehicles. The nearest place I can buy milk is two miles away and a) I’m… Read more »

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Annie

This.

I’d love to get rid of one of our cars, but that’s simply not possible. We have two small children, and in suburbia, it’s against the law to walk (I’m joking, but only slightly). We try to walk/ride our bikes for quick errands, but time is a premium, too.

I just want to add that I’d support better/more bike paths and walking paths in my area, even if I didn’t always use them.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Annie

Equally, not everyone can or should drive. We set up our towns and cities to make it hard not to drive, and then let people impaired by age and people taking drugs that can impair driving stay on the road, because it’s such a hardship for them to not have access to cars.

Not to mention people who can’t drive at all, due to disability or nevessary medications, are stuck with the same infrastructure you choose to live with.

Canadian
Canadian
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Amen.

barnetto
barnetto
9 years ago
Reply to  Annie

I live in a decently sized city in the South and feel safe biking. But I went and visited my friend in her small town, and I can kind of see your point. The roads were not in great condition, and while the population was small, the place was sprawling. It was quite a long drive to go see her best friend and it took about an hour to drive out to see where she used to go to school. There are probably ways to bike commute there, but I’m glad don’t live there so I don’t have to figure… Read more »

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

A bit off-topic, but I cringed when I read the suggestion about reading or even writing while walking.
Whether you are driving, cycling or walking, your first priority should be on PAYING ATTENTION.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Agreed. When I’m reading/writing, I’m doing so on either low-traffic streets or on pedestrian pathways. I’m fortunate that Portland has many such foot-friendly areas, which makes it easy to read while walking.

Jynet
Jynet
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I used to read on my walk to college every morning. One day my prof caught me – my route to school passed right behind his house. He started walking too and we started talking about the material. I learned so much more from those informal chats then in class! All because he saw me reading and walking 🙂

Bipp
Bipp
9 years ago

Agreed it really comes down to location convenience and really planning what is important to you in your life. Of course people with long commutes can give examples of why this doesn’t work for them. They should examine _why_ their commute is so long. For me personally I abhor a long commute, it seems like a huge huge inefficiency for my life. So I live in a house that is 1 mile from where I work. I chose this consciously, perhaps sacrificing other aspects of my property that others may care more about (land size etc…). When my workday ends,… Read more »

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago
Reply to  Bipp

“They should examine _why_ their commute is so long.” Agreed.

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Bipp

Did you buy your house? What if you change jobs? Would the possibility of having to sell your home possibly keep you at your job longer, even if you came to hate it? Or vice versa, if you became discontent with your housing situation would you stay because it’s close to the job?

When I was looking to buy my first house in 2009, I thought a lot about commute. One of the reasons I bought my house was because it’s sort of centralized.

Bipp
Bipp
9 years ago
Reply to  Jaime B

I did buy my house, after renting in the neighborhood for 5 years. My wife and I were really patient when house shopping and made sure we were in a position financially to move quickly when we did find “the one”. I’m financially very risk averse, even having a mortgage bothers me, so I’m in the middle of an extremely aggressive payoff mode. I built a very large emergency fund over the previous 5 years before purchasing the house. I suppose a big sudden job change could cause me to want to sell this house, but I don’t feel that… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Jaime B

We did what Bipp did – rented in the neighborhood first, then bought, and paid off at an accelerated rate (by having roomates the first few years, we paid double our mortgage payments). We chose to be near some bus lines & a main bike thoroughfare that wasn’t quite complete when we bought, which actually gives us a lot of flexibility for jobs that are easy to get to. Being near the light rail would be even better, since they can’t move that like a bus line, but it goes to the airport so most of the light rail neighborhoods… Read more »

eva
eva
9 years ago

It’s all about your decisions. If you choose to live in the middle of nowhere or in a very car-dependent city, that choice precludes carfree life. BUT IT IS YOUR CHOICE. Don’t say you can’t–you simply can’t because you choose not to.

If you want to, you can. Move.

Better yet, help campaign for better forms of development that are kinder to those who choose to walk or who have to for age or disability, etc.

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago
Reply to  eva

Eva- I’m glad you pointed out the structural inequalities that exist in towns that choose to have terrible public transportation/no bike lanes/poorly maintained sidewalks. When I waited tables, there was a woman who had to take the bus because she couldn’t afford a car. The bus only ran every hour and a half, and then the commute took 2 hours round trip. Depending on her schedule, she would sometimes get to work an hour and a half early, then half to wait an hour and a half to go home, and then of course she had to spend the 2… Read more »

Deodexer
Deodexer
9 years ago

I ride my bike to work a few days in a row. I live about 3 miles from the office, as luckily I live and work in adjacent suburbs. I usually do a much longer ride for exercise purposes. I’m not saving much in gas, because my 3 mile commute doesn’t cost all that much to begin with. I’m also fortunate to have a gym at the office, so I can clean up after my ride. If my office was more than 10 miles away, or didn’t have a shower, it wouldn’t be practical at all.

Milly
Milly
9 years ago

I used to wonder why people had such long commutes. But when you live in a major metropolitan area, you can’t always adjust your living location to be near your job. I know one guy who moved from the south part of metropolitan Denver to the north part to be close to work, and two years later the company was bought and he had a long commute again. Or you get laid off and your new job is across town. Are you supposed to move every six months? People settle in to an area, the kids go to school and… Read more »

Jo-Pete
Jo-Pete
9 years ago

I hate that any time this discussion comes up, there is an endless supply of people who say “if you live too far away, then move closer to work.” I did not choose for my work to be in the middle of a major urban area. I did choose to not pay $500,000 for a 1 bedroom condo. The result of that choice is that I live 25 miles away from work.

Luckily for me, there is a bus that can get me most of the way to work.

Dee
Dee
9 years ago
Reply to  Jo-Pete

How is where you work not your choice?

Courtney
Courtney
9 years ago
Reply to  Dee

I only got one job offer after grad school, that was 28 miles away from where I lived (after applying to over 40 positions). Was it my choice to take it? In the most basic sense of the word, yes. But I think we can both agree that we are arguing semantics at that point.

AndrewL
AndrewL
9 years ago

Walking and biking exposes you to the elements, and when the elements are nasty, you will have a very miserable day. And it’s not like you can just call out of work because of the weather.

If the weather is nice, You should definitely leave the car at home, if it is nasty, you should not feel bad about taking it to work. this way you can cut down a lot of driving expenses. and still save money. It shouldn’t be all or nothing.

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago
Reply to  AndrewL

I agree. People shouldn’t feel like it is all or nothing. We don’t do it 100% but the amount we do saves us money.

Cole Brodine
Cole Brodine
9 years ago

If you are walking/biking more and driving less, make sure to call your insurance company. They usually base your rate off of how many miles you drive every year, and you can get a reduction in your rate if you are driving less.

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

I agree, the choice is not really driving or biking 8 miles or so to work, but the choice when deciding where to live, whether it is a priority to live where it is possible to walk/bike/commute to work, grocery, and other amenities (see Bipp 18). What some of the comments are trying to say, is people feel they do not have a choice in where they live, which for the most part is real. With the exception of some major cities there is no decent mass transit and that urban planning in the US is largely predicated on cheap… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
9 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

Some people also don’t take into account that when there are TWO income earners it’s that much harder to find walkable/bikable solutions for either person. My husband’s office and mine are 52 miles apart. We live in the middle.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
9 years ago

In our area, there are only perhaps a tiny handful of bike commuters dedicated (crazy?) enough to make it work year-round. I know I don’t generally see bicyclists between November and April–the conditions are pretty bad, and most bike commuters feel the trade off of saving money isn’t worth the added risk of injury and harsher environment.

Anyway, I mention it, because the calculator doesn’t seem to really allow flexibility for figuring out part time solutions. It’s like you either are driving *or* you are bus/carpool/biking.

MC
MC
9 years ago

It is currently 114F outside and we haven’t peaked for the day. I dare you to bike commute in Phoenix in summer. No take that back, a ER visit is too expensive.

Charlotte
Charlotte
9 years ago

JD – I don’t think it is a good idea to be writing while walking. Safety first!

I’m glad you are trying to drive less. There are not too many places around our house to walk to so I have to use my car. On the other hand, my workplace offers a ton of places to walk to. I can walk to eat lunch in a restaurant and walk back within one hour. However, I really should be bringing my lunch so most days, I walk for 30 mins. with a co-worker around the neighbordhood.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

I live in Albuquerque, home to some of the most oblivious drivers on the planet. Factor in the risk of bodily injury and suddenly the bike is not so cheap. I ride around a bit, but I don’t trust it as a method of transportation. Metal vs. metal beats metal vs. bone. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I haven’t seen worse drivers in all my life. I feel safer in New York traffic. We used to have a Mini but traded it for a large truck. Part of it was the astronomical cost of Mini maintenance, part of it was the… Read more »

Jay
Jay
9 years ago

You seriously write while walking? That’s incredibly dangerous, and occasionally disrespectful to the other walkers/bikers you inevitably stumble into

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Folks, trust me: The reading and writing while walking is safe and isn’t a nuisance to anyone. Every time I mention this habit, people get pissy. But you’re judging me based on what it’s like to walk in your own area, not mine.

I’ve been doing this for years now without issue. I’ve never had a single close call with a vehicle, and I’ve never come close to running into a walker or biker. I appreciate the concern, but I’ll continue to read while walking.

Courtney
Courtney
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I had to laugh at this, because I grew up in the middle of *nowhere* and I was a total bookworm. My parents would constantly tell me to go outside and get Fresh Air and Exercise (TM). So I would go outside and ride my bike – while reading my book 🙂

honeybee
honeybee
9 years ago

You almost had it! Until: “But it’s unlikely that the average person has the ability to simply give up their car.” Of course the average person has the ability to do this. The average person has the ability to do the most amazing things in their life, from scaling a mountain to bringing clean water to a town in a third world country to running a marathon. It’s not about ability. What you mean to say is that “the average American is not likely to choose to give up their car if they already have one.” But those are two… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  honeybee

I didn’t mean to imply that my situation was the same as everyone else. I was simply saying why cycling to work would be impractical for me.

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago
Reply to  honeybee

“It’s not about ability. What you mean to say is that “the average American is not likely to choose to give up their car if they already have one.” But those are two very different things.” Exactly. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances. But the fact of the matter is that there are lots of grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, banks, etc. that are within a perfectly reasonable walking distance- 1 to 2 miles- and people simply don’t prioritize walking. It might take a bit longer, but again, if you wanted to do it, you’d spend a bit less time on… Read more »

Tara@riceandbeanslife
9 years ago

Financial savings methods can’t always work for everyone but it’s nice to see anything that makes me consider an alternative! For those concerned about weather, there are going to be days when biking or walking aren’t going to work so well but we’ve been known to bike in high heat and humidity (we’ve lived in the South and in the desert!). My husband often bikes to work in the summer-but he starts work in the morning and leaves after it’s cooled down a little (no reason to bike to work at noon!). We bike often as a family, including to… Read more »

The Other Brian
The Other Brian
9 years ago

Unless someone is an *extemely* efficient biker, it takes more energy from your body to power your bike than it does to drive a car. Why isn’t that # included in the calculations? My 25 mi round trip commute would take an extra 1250 calories/day (assuming a reasonable 50 calories/mile to bike and negligible calories to drive). If I go to work 230 days/year, that means I need an extra 287500 calories a year. The best estimates I found were 1/10 of a cent per calorie, so it would cost me an extra $287/year to power this well run machine… Read more »

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago

I think because it’s considered a benefit that biking takes energy from your body. You’re getting exercise plus you’re getting transportation at the same time. Most people see that as a positive thing.

Courtney
Courtney
9 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

It’s a benefit that possibly replaces a gym membership. You still have to fuel your body. Few people can run a 1250 calorie deficit 4-5 days a week long term and still be healthy. For me personally, that would require subsisting on a net 450 calories a day…

I do a 23 mile bike ride, recreationally, once or twice a month. And then I eat an entire pizza afterwards.

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

I do agree this is all very personal when it comes to calorie needs. I ride about 60-70 miles a week for transportation, and I have not noticed that I need to eat more. My partner and I often do long bike rides of about 30 miles on the weekends on top of that, and I don’t notice that I eat more on those days either (I eat more frequently during the ride, but not more overall), so that’s why I don’t usually think about the cost of “fuel” aka food when it comes to biking. However, I would say… Read more »

Mark
Mark
9 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

I bike 12 miles a day (round trip) and have been doing a 40+ mile ride every weekend with little to no increase in eating. Occasionally I’ll need to snack on something like a little trail mix bag. I would say most Americans over eat so much that burning an extra 1200 calories a day should only require a moderate increase in food intake and the health benefits would FAR FAR out weight the costs of food.

The Other Brian
The Other Brian
9 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

It is a simple energy balance. Unless you are magically extracting energy from the environment, you are powering your engine (body) with fuel(food).

You may think you aren’t but, if you are maintaining the same weight, you must be replacing spent calories (it may just not feel that way).

Jennifer
Jennifer
9 years ago

Philosophically I agree and this was me for over a decade, but, you know, it got old after a while. This weather, the planning, the energy required after a long day at work got to be too much. There’s a reason why people like their cars!

The last time I moved, I chose the lower rent in a car dependent location over the higher rent in a walkable/bike commutable area, and I’m satisfied with my choice. The lower rent more than compensates for the added commute costs.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

But you made the choice, and did the math – lots of people just assume car dependency, and make housing choices based on a best-case scenario where their car never breaks down and the price of gas stays stable. Then they’re screwed when things change. Not to mention all these people who claim they are just powerless over both their location and the state of the local infrastructure, instead of owning the decision and taking the consequences. I mean, I live in the Midwest, partly to be near family and partly because I couldn’t afford a live I loved in… Read more »

krantcents
krantcents
9 years ago

I wish I could bike more than just for exercise. Los Angeles is not a safe biking city that is why I stick to bike paths.

Dawn
Dawn
9 years ago

This might work for people without kids but I have 3. I can’t walk or bike ANYWHERE. The only way I could reduce my car expense is to downsize to a one car family. But that wouldn’t save me any money in gas and I have NEVER spent $1000 a year on car maintenance. And how can anyone buy a weeks worth of groceries on a bicycle? The more often you shop the more you spend, it’s a fact.

barnetto
barnetto
9 years ago
Reply to  Dawn

I’m planning on getting a trailer for my bike for transporting groceries (grocery store is ~10min ride for me). New ones are a bit pricey, so I’m waiting a bit to see if I can get a used one off Craigslist that meets my requirements. As for the kids, dunno, I don’t have any. When I was a kid in the suburbs and wanted to go to the swimming pool we all rode our bikes as a family. Obviously, I was old enough to ride a bike. I don’t know anything about your kids. If the kids are spread out… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Dawn

I buy a week’s worth of groceries on the bike on a regular basis – previously I hauled one kid in a 2-kid trailer, now I have a longtail cargo bike.

People who want to do it, make it happen. I see people hauling 3 kids all the time – usually it’s a trailabike and a trailer, sometimes a trailabike, a trailer, and a baby seat. I see a dad with a longtail like mine and 3 little kids every once in a while.

You don’t have to want to but it’s not impossible at all.

Meika
Meika
9 years ago
Reply to  Dawn

Well, you could get a bakfiets – http://bakfiets.nl/eng/ – but your presumably-American neighbors would probably look at you funny. 🙂 We also have a few kids, live in a suburban area, and have gone back and forth between one and two cars over the last several years. You might be surprised on the gas savings – we consistently used about 25% less gas with one vehicle than two. I think we consolidated errands more because we had to. And I know it violates conventional wisdom, but I found my grocery bills to be lower when I shopped more – I… Read more »

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago
Reply to  Meika

Thanks for that observation. (I don’t think many people think cargo bikes are weird any more!) My brother has two little kids and one car. They have a bike trailer. (They actually downsized to one car after the kids came along.) We live in a mid-size city (300,000) and they are good at biking places — to the store, to work, and for recreation. We all go on bike outings together for fun, instead of doing canned entertainment at “SportZ Mountain” or ChuckECheeze. Everyone benefits from the togetherness, the exercise, and not being exposed to nasty junk food and advertising.… Read more »

Hipjazz
Hipjazz
9 years ago
Reply to  Dawn

In a couple of weeks, I’ll have three as well, the oldest of which is three. We have one car, which my husband drives to work, and I do groceries on weekends; if I need the car on a weekday, I drop DH off at work that morning and pick him up that evening. It’s not a huge deal. We’ve got a nicely walkable neighborhood. If the kids and I need out of the house during the day, we go for a walk. I’ve got a good jogging stroller and an Ergo for the baby; we all enjoy our family… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago
Reply to  Dawn

We rode our bikes with our friends to a restaurant a couple months ago. We took our friends, simply loaded some in a pulled stroller thingy and one in a bike seat (with helmet). It was more fun than taking 2 cars and the kids had a blast. The same pull stroller can be used to haul groceries.

Dee
Dee
9 years ago

I have a psychological block in seeing the savings in driving less, because I pay about $1000 in insurance yearly to keep the car; the less I use it, the more that money seems like a useless waste. While I can see that mathematically, spending the set amount on insurance and spending less on gas adds up to less than spending the same amount on insurance and spending more on gas, it is also true that the cost per kilometer to operate may be more if I drive it a lot less and take into account the insurance costs. In… Read more »

Jenny
Jenny
9 years ago
Reply to  Dee

Do you live in a town with car sharing? That might allow you to ditch they car entirely and save money. Also, do you pay for parking? Since that is another expense that would go if you got rid of your car. In case you aren’t familiar with car sharing you pay a fee to join (in some cases you pay and annual fee as well). Most systems also have a monthly fee (mine is less then $6.00 per month.) The cars are scatter around the city at various high traffic locations. When you need a car you can go… Read more »

Dee
Dee
9 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Actually, yes, my city has a car sharing program that seems rather good, especially because they run a concurrent program with monthly bus passes. The only drawback is that I live too far from the downtown core to properly take advantage of it (none of the communal parking locations are anywhere near where I live). Perhaps I will eventually reduce car usage and dependency to a point where this makes more sense than to keep paying fixed costs like insurance to not use my car that frequently but for now, the freedom of having the car at my disposal (in… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
9 years ago

To JD. This is sort of response to a prior post about your wish to downsize your house because, in part, dislike giving up 90 minutes every time your yard needs mowing. Most readers responded that you should hire this work to be done. Your dislike for mowing, because it sucks up your time, seems in contradiction to this post about walking and biking to save on gas, which also takes up time you could “better use” writing. Both activities provide exercise and both (walking and DIY mowing) save money. Push-mowing, in particular, burns almost as many calories as jogging.… Read more »

Brynn
Brynn
9 years ago

I gave up my car nearly 3 years ago. I’ve also since found a job within my zip code. It’s a tradeoff: with such a small job-hunting radius I took a job making about a third of what I used to make, but gained 4 hours a day which I used to spend commuting (and on commuting costs). I don’t have the ability to leave the city to do things like camping or snowboarding nearly as much, but I’ve lost 45 pounds and relax at home on my lunch break. Worth it? To me, definitely. The only things I miss… Read more »

Josh
Josh
9 years ago
Reply to  Brynn

@63: Consider Sub-24 Hour Overnight camping! (S240)

http://www.rivbike.com/article/bike_camping/bike_camping_vs_touring

You may have to do a little looking around, but there are opportunities all over.

Justin Lilly
Justin Lilly
9 years ago

I think its worth mentioning that driving a motorcycle greatly reduces the imbalance. I paid $2500 for my motorcycle which had 3,000 miles on it. I pay ~$10 per week in gas, which is roughly 100 miles. Maintenance is maybe $200 a year? Free parking. Insurance (in Seattle) $150/year. Its amazing for cost savings.

Ed Smith
Ed Smith
9 years ago

The community can be a big thing for biking to work. Biking to work in the Chicago suburbs, as I used to, was a dangerous chore. Few bike lanes, lots of traffic, etc. Now I live in Bend, OR where the bike lanes are everywhere and “most” drivers are respectful of bicyclers.

Morgan
Morgan
9 years ago

I live in Calgary (Alberta, Canada). And I am car-free by choice. I have owned a home with my partner for almost 5 years now, and neither of us has a valid driver’s license. They haven’t been revoked; we’ve simply never bothered to get beyond a learner’s license. He had a license and drove in Bucharest, but hasn’t had one since coming to Calgary over 10 years ago. Biking can be an extreme sport year-round in Calgary due to the high altitude (3,000 ft) and the mountain weather (it has actually snowed at least once in every month of the… Read more »

Zac
Zac
9 years ago

I pay roughly a 20% premium to live within a mile of my job and within 5 miles of any jobs I could see myself working in the next decade or two in my city. Between my bike and walking to work, I’m more than paid for the extra cost of living near downtown.

Ziraldo
Ziraldo
9 years ago

When the gas prices spiked in 2008, I decided to reduce my vehicle use by 60% and became a pedestrian. As a pedestrian, I have come to despise bicylists. I have had more run ins with cyclists as a pedestrian than I ever had as a motorist; bicyclists who have run me down on sidewalks in commercial areas; bicyclists who have run me down in crosswalks; bicyclists who do not stop at stop signs and ignore traffic laws or even common courtesy. And when you call them on their boorishness, they often respond with the worst obsecenities. The dirty little… Read more »

Marcella
Marcella
9 years ago
Reply to  Ziraldo

What frustrates me most about any sort of online discussion about biking is this sort of post. I’m not disputing that there are jerks who ride bikes who need to learn to share the road… with all users, including motorists and pedestrians. Equally there are jerks who drive cars and jerks who are pedestrians too (especially those who wear an ipod or talk on their phone and step out into traffic in front of you when you are riding your bike as part of normal traffic). Please don’t make totally baseless and inaccurate statements like the ones you have made.… Read more »

The Other Brian
The Other Brian
9 years ago
Reply to  Ziraldo

If all your clothing were that tight, you might be a little cantankerous too…

Ziraldo
Ziraldo
9 years ago
Reply to  Ziraldo

It frustrates you because it’s true

Marcella
Marcella
9 years ago

I wish there were some easy way to quantify the “savings” which are associated with the physical and mental benefits of regular bike riding. Yes, cycling commuters can seem a bit like zealots, but mostly we’re trying to share the benefits we’ve experienced in our lives from cycling. When I ride to work each day I’m not spending money on gas or a transport ticket. I’m using my time efficiently by combining commuting with exercise. No paying for spin classes for me! I always arrive feeling fresh. My mind feels ‘switched on’ and ready to work. I have also always… Read more »

MC
MC
9 years ago
Reply to  Marcella

Good for you! Now turn off the zealot function and stop pushing your choices on me.

Ryan
Ryan
5 years ago
Reply to  MC

You’re confusing zealot with someone just sharing their positive experiences. At no point does the comment above say “now everyone should do this”… You just seem like another lazy American.

Avistew
Avistew
9 years ago

The savings are definitely highest if you can afford not to have a car at all. You save on the insurance, on the cost of the car itself, then on stuff like gas, maintenance fees, and repairs. If you do have a car and use it less, you only save on cars. And possibly repairs if you need less of them as a result of using the car less. Oh, and parking fees. I keep forgetting you need to park a car as opposed to yourself or public transit, and in a lot of places you need to pay for… Read more »

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

I get a little frustrated when so many of these discussions turn to arguments and judgments about our personal choices. We, as a nation, have made choices that trump many of our personal choices. In the 1950s, Eisenhower put billions into the interstate highway system at the expense of rail. Car companies bought up trolley lines and destroyed them to decrease competition (and got away with it). Taxpayer money goes far more to airports than to bike trails. When even those of us who live on the densely populated east coast can’t take a train anywhere we want to go,… Read more »

Sustainable PF
Sustainable PF
9 years ago

Cool calculator. My bike is about 1 mile so until the snow falls and sticks i’m biking! (and even after the snow I walk). Forget paying for parking, gas and increased maintenance!

Canadian
Canadian
9 years ago

“But it’s unlikely that the average person has the ability to simply give up their car.” At least some people can. We did. We moved from the suburbs into the city. We looked for an apartment that would be walking distance from a subway station and that was located in a walkable neighbourhood with grocery stores, drugstores, etc. We both have monthly transit passes. (I also do a lot of biking from April to October, but I still buy a pass.) At $72.75 per pass, it works out to $1746 per year for the two of us. Massive cost savings… Read more »

Cortney
Cortney
9 years ago
Reply to  Canadian

I felt the same way the year I lived in Japan. I rode a bike, or took public transportation or walked, but mostly it was the bike. Even during 5 months of snow (during the worst winter in 100 years) I would be out walking or biking. Yes, it took more planning. Sure, it took longer. But I think, in the general, people overlook the inefficiencies and hassles of cars and over estimate the inefficiencies and hassles of not having cars. I was way more stressed and frustrated sitting in rush hour traffic in Dallas than I ever was biking… Read more »

Sandra
Sandra
9 years ago

Even though I have subscribed for a long time this is my first post. This is. An interesting article and the follow on article directed at those who got their ire up at the bike- relplacing-car scenario spoke to me. I am a San Diegan and I don’t ride a bike. An oxymoron for sure. The people I work with who ride bikes to work get under my skin not because I am defensive about my choice but because they are worse than new religious converts and they are always trying to convince everyone else to ride their bikes to… Read more »

Deodexer
Deodexer
9 years ago
Reply to  Sandra

I know the type. There’s a whole cycling culture thing that I don’t get and don’t participate in. I enjoy riding my bike to work when the weather permits (midwest), but I don’t preach to other’s about it. Everyone makes their own choice. Just as I don’t want to be preached at for where I live (I want to work/live in the suburbs), what I eat (I won’t be a vegetarian), what I drive (I have an SUV), what size home I have, etc. I can’t stand what our current culture seems to be, where people feel compelled to shove… Read more »

Elle
Elle
9 years ago

I read today’s post (06/28/2011), and decided to come back and post here. I’m a stay-at-home mom with 2 kiddos, ages 5 and 8. I would like to bike for our groceries and quick errands, but I’m not able to do that quite yet. However, I think I’m moving in the right direction. Just in the last month, a grocery store opened within biking distance. Part of the bike route is on the street, though. I am not biking for groceries yet because I’m not comfortable with the kid’s abilitites. But, I’m not giving up! At least a few days… Read more »

Juli
Juli
9 years ago

I cracks me up how defensive people get over suggestions like this. Hey, if it’s just not a good idea for you then obviously the author doesn’t mean you. If you can do it, great! If not, oh well. Next suggestion. You don’t have to do everything.

Michele
Michele
9 years ago

It looks likethe calculator isn’t calculating the auto insurance correctly. Maybe someone should tell the author.

Heather
Heather
9 years ago

Apologies if this has been mentioned already – I didn’t read all 103 comments – but walking time could also be spent listening to Spanish radio or learning materials. (Hopefully you’re not listening to anything while biking!)

Rich
Rich
9 years ago

Doesn’t let you put $0 for depreciation. $1 works, though I drive a 28 year old car, so it’s not really depreciating much now. The commute’s only about 6 miles, so I bike usually. My costs are a bit weird as I have low insurance, no loan, but high gas costs (12 mpg!). But, with the low miles of the commute and the fact I bike it usually, it totally makes no sense to buy a newer vehicle just to see it driven about 2000 miles a year, slowly dripping money as it depreciates in the driveway. So my car… Read more »

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