Monday, November 9, 2009

Cars v. Cycles: a Cost Comparison

According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), of Chapel Hill, NC, the cost of operating a bicycle for a year is approximately $120, compared to $7,800 for operating a car over the same time period. -- from Raleigh's long-term comprehensive Bike Plan.

Edit: Note that I've just added a link to the full bike plan. I'm glad to have discussion about this issue, and those interested will find lots to ponder in the plan about the future of bicycle transportation and recreation in Raleigh.

Edit 2: Here is source for the above statement, and in context:

Economic Benefits

Bicycling is an affordable form of transportation. Car ownership is expensive, and consumes a major portion of many Americans' income. When safe facilities are provided for bicyclists, people can ride more and spend less on transportation, meaning they have more money to save or spend on other things.

Money facts


* The cost of operating a sedan for one year is approximately $7,800 (AAA, Your Driving Costs).

* According to 2004 data from AAA estimates and US Census surveys, ownership of one motor vehicle accounts for more than 18 percent of a typical household's income.

* The cost of operating a bicycle for a year is only $120 (League of American Bicyclists).


Hmmm....Maybe the League of American Bicyclists has a closet full of swag and freebies that helps them keep their annual cost down.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

$120 ??!!! Sounds fishy to me. Same number of miles on the bike and the car? Maybe if I did all my own work on my bike it would be $120 for the year.

skiffrun said...

With a new chain every 2500 - 3000 miles --> at least 2 new chains a year.

With a new cassette every (stretching it) 9 or 10 thousand miles --> a new cassette 2 out of 3 years.

With new brake and derailleur cables probably at least once a year.

A new front tyre every 4500 miles and a new rear tyre every 2500 or 3000 miles.

A new bottom bracket every 12 to 20 thousand miles.

A new front crank, or part of the front crank, every - I don't know how often.

Chain lube.

Pedals wear out.

Shoes wear out.

Helmets need replacing occassionally.

Batteries for lights. New bulbs. New lights.

I just wish the cycling advocates would be REALISTIC with their estimates.

FAKE estimates creates doubt about ev-er-y-thing the "say".

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, anon & Skiffrun. You guys are dealing from your experience. If you commute daily to work by bike, what would you estimate is your actual annual cost? If you commute by car, what is your actual annual cost?

And for those interested, I've included the link to the full plan in the article.

Respectfully, Mike / Raleigh

-b said...

Mister D,

Yeah, the numbers look a bit suspect, however, the fact remains that it's significantly cheaper to operate a bike than a car.

I'm rolling about 5000mi/yr commuting right now and $120 would barely keep me in tires/tubes/chains for the year -- not to mention all the other stuff that needs to be replaced every so often.

Sign on for the Bicycle Commuter Act and get up to a $20/month benefit to help offset the costs: Tax Credit for Bicycle Commuting

Looking forward to checking out Raleigh's long-term bike plan -- thanks for the link!

Cheers,
-b

ToddBS said...

Very nice. Raleigh is actually pretty high on my list of places I want to move after my daughter graduates high school (about 8.5 more years). I like the Piedmont area and the pictures from your rides here and from the Coho site have almost sealed the deal for me.

I'll definitely be checking out the Bike Plan link.

Anonymous said...

Disregarding the capital investment and maintenance costs, just looking at the fuel costs does not put commuting by bike into a advantageous light. My round-trip commute is 52 miles. I go by bike 2 days per week. I drive a Honda Fit the other days. With today's gas prices, commuting by car costs about $3.80. On days that I ride, I buy breakfast at the cafeteria, which costs about $4.00. I also buy an additional late afternoon snack for $1. I figure I burn about 1000 calories on the commute, and the human body is not nearly as efficient as a well designed internal combustion engine, and human fuel is usually more expensive than car fuel. Sure, I could probably get some cheaper food, but that's not going to happen. I just accept the fact that riding costs more.
Tom B.

ToddBS said...

@Tom B

"and the human body is not nearly as efficient as a well designed internal combustion engine"

What? I know you drive a Honda, but do you work for them, too? That's about as far from a truthful statement as you could get. And to your dietary requirements: that is your choice. You could just as easily eat something from home before the ride - which you would likely do even if you drove it. And since you can't disregard capital and maintenance costs (they do exist, after all), the whole argument is pretty much null from that point on.

Anonymous said...

If I commute by car it costs about $3, 20 miles round trip.

My increase in food consumption alone is probably over $3. Then the extra shower when I get home.

Keeping my bike maintained for some reason seems to cost more than my Civic maintenance costs. Then all the clothing, extra laundry, replacing clothing, gloves, knee warmers, toe warmers, batteries, etc.

I love cycling and commuting by cycling, but I consider it a hobby for which I pay into.

sag said...

For me, the biggest cost savings would come if I could own one less car.

Until then, I bike-commute for fitness, fun, and being outdoors, and I pay to do it.

Andy

Anonymous said...

"and the human body is not nearly as efficient as a well designed internal combustion engine"

That statement was based on memory dating back to college classes a long time ago. Since you challenged me on it, I did some vary lazy research, i.e. Wikipedia. According to that source, the typical gasoline engine is 18 - 20% efficient at turning chemical energy into kinetic energy. The human body's efficiency at converting food energy to movement ranges from 18% - 26%, depending on the type of fuel and the type of movement.

So, I stand corrected. The human body is as good as an internal combustion engine, and in some cases a bit better. However, I know that on brevets and other long rides, I spend more money at gas stations than I would if I were driving the same distance.

Tom B.

Anonymous said...

"and the human body is not nearly as efficient as a well designed internal combustion engine"

That statement was based on memory dating back to college classes a long time ago. Since you challenged me on it, I did some vary lazy research, i.e. Wikipedia. According to that source, the typical gasoline engine is 18 - 20% efficient at turning chemical energy into kinetic energy. The human body's efficiency at converting food energy to movement ranges from 18% - 26%, depending on the type of fuel and the type of movement.

So, I stand corrected. The human body is as good as an internal combustion engine, and in some cases a bit better. However, I know that on brevets and other long rides, I spend more money at gas stations than I would if I were driving the same distance.

Tom B.

Anonymous said...

sorry about the double post. i can't seem to distinguish between single clicks and double clicks on my mouse.

WMdeR said...

Hi, Mike,

I actually track my bike costs. In 2009 dollars, if I replaced my total mixed travel mileage with either automobile miles or bicycling miles, account for amortizing the cost of my bicycles, insurance, maintenance, etc, and neglect mileage I ride for fun (I don't drive an automobile recreationally), I get the following costs per mile:

Assuming 12,000mi/year total:
Automobile: $0.48.
Randonneuring bicycle: $0.25.
Allroad bicycle: $0.16.
City Bicycle: $0.10.

In the grand tradition of Thoreau, we can analyze the total life cost spent getting around.

Assuming the car is driven 1 hour per day to yield that 12,000mi/year, and one drives the bicycle at 15mph average speed, one breaks even on total time spent driving/earning the drive at around $12/hour. The automobile gets more time-efficient at greater incomes. Ride faster, or earn less, and the bike gets more time-efficient.

Best Regards,

Will
William M. deRosset
RUSA 2401

skiffrun said...

http://www.yehudamoon.com/index.php?date=2008-02-04