• Winky

    Here in Canada, owning a cheap car and driving it to work is ridiculously inexpensive. It is perhaps even cheaper than cycle commuting on a high-end bike. But cycle commuting is awesome anyway for many reasons other than the financial aspects.

    • Jessi Braverman

      Yes – financial incentive is only one of the many reasons.

    • RayG

      +1. I don’t care whether bike commuting saves me money or not, it’s just more fun

  • Danny

    It’s great to promote commuting by bike – I love it and wished I did 20 years ago! But with the calculations, I don’t think it’s “fair” to say that car travel is about 0.70 AUD per km, and bikes are 0.00 AUD per km…. I commute only 25km round trip per day (also on a CX bike!) and I do it every day, regardless of weather / appointments / etc. That adds up to ~6,000km per year. There are capital and maintenance costs associated with this moderate frequency of travel, and though it’s nowhere near 0.70/km, it’s not zero either!.
    Now, walking those 5km to the cafe for that coffee, well – maybe that is 0.00 AUD per km!

    • Jessi Braverman

      That’s a fair point, Danny. Perhaps not quite the savings outlined above – although there’s definitely still a cost-savings advantage to commuting.

    • Jake(Aus)

      I think I save overall simply by not having to pay for parking every day! I did also sell our second car though, so now we have one and that was a BIG saving of course as well. The problem though is all the new cycling gear I can’t resist buying. Maybe all the savings just help balance out my habit! lol

    • jules

      you are correct. the cost estimate of motoring includes fixed costs – e.g. rego, insurance. these aren’t reduced by reducing your km travelled, so the actual saving is less than $0.70 per km. the biggest cost of motoring is depreciation – if you own a new(-ish) car. while you don’t need to own a new car, I’ve found that those who tend to rely more on motoring are more likely to upgrade their car (often partly for emotive reasons – i.e. the car as an extension of their personality, which cyclists don’t tend to identify with as much). FYI there’s a regular CT reader who is an expert on this topic – not me.

      also, I’ve discovered that riding a bike can be more expensive than it seems. I seem to spend quite a lot of money on various stuff – spare parts, clothing, etc. on the plus side, I like having bike stuff more than paying for my car. I’m sure I still come ahead of commuting by car though – I know people who pay $15+ a day in parking. but as noted, the key benefits of cycle commuting are not financial.

      p.s. great article Mara – there’s something about reading a Giro champion writing about commuting that gives me a buzz. I’m going to have to also concede that women cyclists’ columns are more interesting than the men’s.

      • Jessi Braverman

        Your ps. just made my day. The first sentence more so than the second. It is pretty cool, isn’t it?

      • Nightshade

        Some insurers will reduce your premium if you travel low kms. It’s something I’m looking into organising as I cycle most places.

        • jules

          which ones? are you in Australia? my problem is I drive heaps of km to bike races :)

          • Nightshade

            Oh I have that problem too. Don’t do regular driving though – its still less. Also just drove 1500km to get a new bike haha. Anyway I think youi lowers premiums, not as common as it should be with insurers but a friend said they got a low km deal

  • Rob

    Saving money on health care bills too (and gym membership). That’s the real benefit – longer happier life.

  • I commute everyday on my CX as well. Around about a 25k round trip. Sold my car because I wasn’t using it.

    My brother on the other hand drives to work around about a 50k round trip going from one toll road to another. He spends about $14 a day in tolls and buys a tank of fuel a week roughly (he uses his car on the weekends too). I did suggest drive part way and ride the other. He drives the M5, then M7 in Sydney. M7 has nice cycle path. Could cut some expense out.

    Maybe suggest to people ride/drive combination could work. But then again it depends on your circumstances what works best.

  • Joan Hanscom

    I love this. And it’s very true. I live in Chicago. I spend $65 a year on my DIVVY membership (bike share – why maintain your bike in the crappy Chicago winters when DIVYY will do it instead!). If I were to take the bus each way it would be $4 a day. The train? $4.50. This would = $80-90 per month. That is a savings of over $1100 a year for me give of take. Then there is the time factor. My ride is 20 minutes each way by bike but roughly 40 minutes by bus or train. That means I am saving 40 minutes a day by riding my bike. And WAY fewer germs (for the germaphobes in the house.. not saying that I am one but hey, wash your hands as soon as you can when you get off, touch nothing and HEY COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH)

    • Jessi Braverman

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Joan -and now you’ve got us talking about doing a bike share article….

  • Nightshade

    Do not recommend. I started commuting on an old bike and saved money. Then it turned into an addiction. I now have 5 bikes with countless kit and accessories and have definitely lost money from cycling haha
    I do still bike commute though…

    • Kieran Degan

      Studies have also shown cycling can cost you up to $10/km if you like Rapha and carbon.

    • Scott

      So true haha

  • Kieran Degan

    Great article. I have a 20km round trip. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’m in a good mood when I get to work, and when I get home to my wife and daughters, I keep healthy without having to find time for a run/walk/gym and we only need 1 car instead of 2. My 3 yo bike lover thinks riding to work is what everyone does. She asks her friends parents how their ride to work was. It’s great she’s growing up thinking commuting by bike is ‘normal’. It’s also good for my rep. My students think it’s amazing that I can beat the bus home (not that difficult really, but I don’t tell them that). The money is a huge deal in a single income family, especially when I want to justify buying more bike related stuff.

    I’ve been loving these Ella articles. Great perspectives and really engaging writing style. Thanks

    • Jessi Braverman

      Thanks for the props – and sharing your anecdotes. These sort of comments add so much to our stories.

  • Coach

    As a cycle commuter of five years… my take is “really”? That’s like the drug dealer telling someone to snort coke because you’ll eat less food.. :D

    In all seriousness in the five years I’ve been cycle commuting I’ve saved $2,000 a year on public transport, but I’ve spent way more than $10,000 on bikes. :o

    But on the positive – it’s transformed my health, and as Jules observed I’m not too worried about buying a new car every few years now. Each time you do that you loose so much money that I’m well ahead financially.

    Thanks for a great read!

    • jules

      my other point was that you have $10k worth of bike stuff! whereas spending the same on petrol and parking leaves you with nada

  • Mark

    I commute by bike every day (have done for 16 years) . I gave my car to my son quite a few years ago as it wasn’t being used. With what I don’t pay for car upkeep I go skiing in Japan each year. Missing this year’s ski trip as I bought my first titanium bike. It really is a no brainer.

    • jules

      yep Ti bike > skiing

  • Matthew

    Great article and so happy to see the environmental focus addressed within.
    Well done

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  • Ant

    The elephant in the room – the hidden cost of cycle commuting – is the extra years you have keep shelling out for food, clothes and shelter because cyclists are so damn fit they live several years longer than sedentary people!

    • jules

      you may find it interesting that this cost is discounted under accepted rules of social cost-benefit assessments, due to the fact it would otherwise lead to promoting policies most efficient at killing people off :)

      • Ant

        I’m pretty sure our current govt is working on exactly those kinds of policy :-/

  • Darren

    “If you work too far away from home to reasonably ride both ways each day, consider asking if there is a safe place there to store your bike overnight.”

    Or do what I do. I live 40km from work. I drive part of the way, park my car and ride the rest of the way. There are plenty of spots to park at the edge of supermarket/hardware store carparks. They usually don’t care if you don’t pick a suburb that is tight for parking, or near a public transport hub. Just be sure they REALLY don’t care to avoid getting your car towed!

    And with this method, you can adjust your pedalling/driving distance every day if you like, to suit your available time. You can also avoid parts of your commute that you don’t feel safe on. If you want to get creative, you could even pick a different place each day to park to change your scenery!

    This method is also really great if you are just starting out riding, as you can start off driving further/riding less and adjust as you become better on the bike. Depending on how far you live from work, you could use this method as a springboard to eventually riding all the way.

    Yeah – you still need a car, but you can at least reduce your fuel usage/miles driven.

  • overthehill

    I have a fantastic coastal commute just shy of 20k each way. I ride no matter what the weather. Colleagues used to think I was a nutter, walking out to the bike after work in pouring rain and wind. But in the last six months a few other bikes have started to keep mine company on nice weather days. And I think that’s another great thing – after a while others think “Well if he can why can’t I?”
    The only down side I can find is the extra clothes I need to wash each week. In every other way cycling is just brilliant.

  • Efe Ball?

    My commute is 11 km each way and it’s my favorite way of going to the college. I definitely agree on the multitasking part, commuting is a good way to do recovery after a long&hard Sunday ride or full on training, which is better left to the commute back home. The bike is also a conversation starter (wow, that’s LIGHT) and it is actually useful to navigate around the campus.
    The bets I’ve won through the bike (there’s no way you can make it there in 20 min) is a whole ‘nother story.

  • I tracked my mileage and costs over the lifetime of one of my previous bicycles to determine cost of travel. The Surly Steamroller was $3,736.35 in maintenance and replacement parts, $711.75 for initial purchase and covered 25,360 mi or 40,804 km in the time I owned it. This gives a final cost per distance unit upper bound of 11c/km or 18c / mi of travel. In 2015 AAA revised their estimate for running costs; even using the most optimal of running estimates at 27.9 c/km (44.9c / mi) it is more expensive to run a car by a lot.

    With these numbers, it costs me $10.80 a week to commute to and from work (or about $1 per commute), while driving would cost me $64.37 per week (mostly in parking). When added up with the incentive that my workplace gives me to bike commute, it’s enough to pay for a round trip to Australia for two from Seattle every year.

    I’m actually using these numbers to determine where we’ll be moving to in 2 months, such that my wife’s car commuting cost and my bike commuting costs are optimized against the price of renting a place to live.


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