Give Yourself a Raise

Your Driving Costs

Each year, the American Automobile Association publishes the Your Driving Costs pamphlet to help members determine their automobile expenses for the year. This year, they estimated the average cost of operating and maintaining a sedan to be approximately 58.5 cents per mile. This includes fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, license, registration, taxes, depreciation, and finance charges. Their fuel costs were based upon the price of gas at the end of last year which was $2.88 per gallon. I did some quick math and adjusting to this week’s $3.86 average raised the total costs to around 62.75 cents per mile. Based upon their estimates and adjusted for higher gas prices, at 15,000 miles per year we’re looking at around $9,412 dollars per year to operate and maintain a typical passenger sedan in the U.S. Of course, these numbers are only averages and it’s possible to spend less by purchasing a used car, maintaining it yourself, and keeping it longer, but no matter how you look at it, cars are expensive!

Let’s look at bikes for comparison. Bike consumables include tires, tubes, drivetrain parts, and cables. There are no real figures on these costs, but I can safely say I’ve never spent more than $300 per year on bike maintenance. Let’s be generous and assume a $2,000 bike, spread over 5 years (to be consistent with AAA), with a resale of $1000. Including parts, maintenance, and depreciation we have $500 per year. Let’s also assume a bike commuter may sometimes take transit due to illness, injury, or weather and factor in $50 per month, or $600 per year, for a grand total of $1,100 per year.

Here’s where it gets good. If we take the total for purchasing and operating a passenger sedan of $9,412 per year and subtract the total for purchasing and operating a bicycle of $1,100 per year, we’re left with $8,312. If we divide that amount into the typical work year of 2,080 hours, we have $4.00 per hour. That’s a significant raise people can give themselves by eliminating a car!

Of course, these numbers are only estimates and they’ll vary dramatically depending upon a person’s specific choices, but even when adjusting the automobile expenses down to the bottom of the range, the potential savings are dramatic. Also, not everyone is going to be able to eliminate a car, but even reducing the amount of miles driven per year can result in a significant reduction in expenses.

[NOTE: This post has been edited to correct the initially faulty math. Many thanks to those who pointed out the errors. —ed.]

AAA Exchange
Your Driving Costs 2011 [PDF] →

38 Responses to “Give Yourself a Raise”

  • Andy says:

    I’ve tried to do the math on this myself, but finding concrete numbers is still difficult. I do keep a list of all the bike and car costs I’ve incurred over the past few years, and the costs of driving and cycling were actually very similar for me. Though I do own several bikes, use them for commuting throughout the year, and use them for recreation as well. I wish I could ditch the car, but I do visit family throughout the year, which is not something two of us could reasonably do by bike. If only transportation options existed… oh well.

    I find your numbers a bit backwards from my uses though, interestingly. My commuter bike was $650 (a cyclocross bike a few years used), though I spend a good amount on replacement parts, repairs, and bike-related clothing to keep me happy about riding through the year. My go-fast bike which doesn’t see the winters costs me significantly less in parts and maintenance though.

  • Blake says:

    Please double check your numbers. I think you used the 10,000 mile a year figure and then multiplied it by 15,000. AAA has a separate (lower figure) if you drive more miles. Also, I think they have already factored in the price of the car (depreciation), which I think means that your figures would have counted it twice.

    Still – I agree, the price we pay for a car (in more ways that one) is huge and largely below the level of our consciousness.

    – Blake

  • Carl B. says:

    The AAA estimate already includes ownership costs. The depreciation and financing components of their estimate add up to the sum of your payments minus resale value (all in present value). So your $9,412 per year includes both operation and ownership costs.

    What it doesn’t include is external costs: the cost your emissions impose on everyone, the costs of roads that aren’t funded by gas tax or registration fees, the unreimbursed costs of accidents, the cost of parking subsidies, the cost of wars to keep the oil flowing, etc.

  • Alan says:

    @Blake

    If you follow this link, you’ll see they’ve accounted only for depreciation, not the initial cost of the car (loan payment):

    http://www.aaaexchange.com/main/Default.asp?CategoryID=16&SubCategoryID=76&ContentID=353

    Also, on the cost per mile, I adjusted up from their 15,000 mile base figure (58.5 cents) to account for the rise in gas prices from December 2010 to now (4.25 cents per mile).

    Thanks,
    Alan

  • Ian Hoffman says:

    I’ve got the rough numbers for my car, but haven’t put them all together.

    I know that at current gas costs I’m at $.15/mi for fuel. I do drive ~10k/year. I’ve been setting aside $100/mo for maintenance and that’s been coming out even over the years. Registration, only $50. Insurance, ~$700. Thankfully the car is paid off, so no costs there.

    So round it off and comes to $3500/year for my 10k miles. $.35/mi. Certainly less than their average, but still enough to get your attention.

  • Alan says:

    @Carl B.

    Ah, I get it. I didn’t factor in the resale value. That’s why I’m not an accountant! :-) I’m going to edit the post to reflect this. Thanks for the correction (you too Blake).

    Thanks,
    Alan

  • John Ferguson says:

    Thanks Alan – I’m forwarding this post to my wife, although I’m pretty sure I spend significantly more in transit and bike maintenance costs over the course of the year. Still, there’s real savings here which it’s always good to call out.

    I use Mint and I’m a fiend for categorization so adding up my costs last year (during which I did not purchase a new bike except for my 5 year old). Let’s do a little math on my expenses:

    My employer offers a transit benefit, so I’m pretty clear on how much I spend per year on Bay Area transit expenses. I do my own maintenance (a remnant of many years spent as a bike mechanic), so all expenses incurred are parts and none for labor. I enjoy the work, so it’s not much of a cost for me. So:

    Transit costs: 130/mth average, so $1560 per year
    Bike maintenance costs: $2660 last year (4 bikes, mostly transit related costs)

    So I spend about $3700 in bicycle and public transportation costs. Maybe a little lower in some years, but that’s what I spent in the last 12 months. Quite a bit higher than Alan’s estimate.

    I’m definitely not buying cheap parts, but I’d estimate that over the life of the bikes I probably spend 50% more than comparable because the better bike parts generally last longer too. Still, that’s a significant difference.

    On second thought, I probably won’t send this article to my wife after all. She’ll just ask me why I spend so much on bike parts (again..).

  • Pete says:

    If you can’t give up the car completely, you can’t do much about the fixed costs like insurance and car payments, so you need to look at only the incremental use costs, which vary for one’s particular situation.
    A 10 mile errand run in a car uses $2 in gas, roughly, so if you do that on a bike instead 3 times a week for a year you’ve offset the maintenance (and some of the gear – good point @Andy) costs of the bike – about $300. Still a long way from thousands. If all you are saving is gas, and you are going “car lite” but not car free, it might be hard to justify on numbers only.
    In my case, I bike to the train station to commute to work. The cost of the train, not insignificant, is fixed. However, it costs $8 to park at the station, so I save that plus $1 in gas each time I ride instead of drive. Now, that starts to add up pretty quickly!

  • Mike I. says:

    I ran through this same cost analysis about a year ago when i decided to try to commute by bike more often. At the end of the analysis, I quickly realized that a significant chunk of savings can really be had by just selling my car outright. Not only did I get a “bonus” from the sale of the car but I got a huge yearly “raise” by not having all the fixed car expenses. The way i figured it, I could get a new bike every year and still come out on top. Although i know this might be more difficult for some, for me it’s really a no brainier given that I can “share” my wife’s car.

    I realize AAA has their numbers all figured out but I could not wrap my head around how high the average price of owning a car was. My cost was easily half that number. Given that it’s an average, half the car owners are spending more that $10k/year. Holy smokes that’s is crazy man. What the heck are people doing with their cars? It just boggles the mind.

  • Daniel M says:

    Even if you can’t give up the car completely, there is still something you can do about the costs – why buy new?

    I have never owned a brand-new car and think it is the most financially pointless thing that first-world people do. Going into debt makes sense for something that is expected to appreciate in value (i.e. a house), but for something that depreciates markedly the second you get it home it makes no sense to me whatsoever. And to add insult to injury, the financing costs add significantly to the cost of the car. Both the financing costs/interest and the depreciation are a bottomless pit – you pay and get nothing in return, except for new-car smell.

    Every car I have ever purchased has had at least 90,000 miles on it and was purchased for less than $6,000. No monthly payments and SIGNIFICANTLY lower insurance costs. And even though there is occasional maintenance, it comes nowhere near what monthly payments would.

    My best example is an ’89 Jeep that I bought with 100,000 miles on it in 1999. When I sold it 6 years later (for $500) it had 212,000 miles on it and had traveled all over the American West and endured some of the roughest 4wd trails of Death Valley, the Mojave Desert, and Southern Utah, in addition to performing daily commuting / utility duties. I probably spent another $5000 in maintenance during those years, but compared to the cost of a new vehicle I think I made out spectacularly well.

    The successor to that vehicle now sits idle in my driveway most of the time as I use a bike for all of my local trips and only drive on longer trips out of town. Since I bought it outright for under $4000, it is costing me next to nothing when not used. Insurance is about $50 a month.

    ANYONE can go out and buy a used Honda, Toyota, Mazda, etc with 100,000 miles on it for the price of a nice Rivendell and reasonably expect to get another 100,000 miles out of it. If you use a bike for all your local trips and can manage an auto-free commute, that car could last you a decade or two.

    Just something to ponder for those of us who still need a car from time-to-time.

  • Garth says:

    Even if you cannot give up the car, and still have to pay insurance, you can often cut your insurance costs substantially if you let your insurer know your mileage.

    I require a car of my own, to be able to drive out of town for work. But because I commute every other day to my office, my mileage is only about 3k a year. It’s been a little while since I checked, but I think the low mileage discount on my insurance is saving me a couple hundred bucks a year.

    So if your annual mileage is really low, don’t forget to check with your insurer. You could be missing out on some decent savings.

    Garth-

  • Daniel M says:

    Forgot to mention I paid $5500 for the Jeep in ’99; wish I could edit my previous entry.

  • Paul Souders says:

    I’ve tracked car/bike costs in my family budget since 2003 when I met my wife. So I can add some real-world, historical numbers to this conversation although obviously YMMV.

    In 2003 I had a 1990 Honda Civic with no payments, minimal insurance, and almost no maintenance costs. Gas at that time was about $2/gal AFAICR. I also live in Oregon which is one of the kindest climates in the world for cars. So what I spent on that Honda is probably the cheapest a mostly-reliable car can cost, which was $1500 that year. We donated that car to charity after we moved in together.

    We bought a new car (a new-model Subaru wagon) in 2004 but kept her old car, a used late-model Jeep she owned outright (so about the cheapest a “good” car can cost, albeit with poor mileage). A year a later we sold the Jeep and saw the “cars” line of our budget drop about $4000/yr., all in maintenance + gas, and a modest savings in insurance.

    In 2006 we sold our remaining car when we moved overseas for a year, which saved us $7000 for gas + maintenance + insurance + payments.

    In 2007 we moved back the US and bought another new station wagon, with good mileage and good resale value in Oregon. We spend a regular $6-8000/yr. on our single car depending on gas prices. So conservatively, just living “car-lite” saves us $2-3000/yr., and probably more like $4-6000/yr. when you figure in gas prices.

    This also leaves out savings from stuff like decreased health bills.

    We have six bikes and one trailer in the family, including my son’s kick-bike and a custom hand-built bike and two racing bikes (so: we spend way more on bikes than is necessary). Bike costs are a little tricky to pull out of our budget because we might buy some bike stuff at REI at the same time we buy ski gloves. But the bike + outdoor items in our budget have been a steady $2-3K/yr since we met.

    Other than having half as many cars as other American families, we are *really* stereotypical. Two kids, one dog, a mortgage on an oldish “previously-owned” home in an inner-ring suburb.

  • peter r says:

    No doubt that car ownership is expensive and likely to get a lot more expensive as fuel prices shoot up. BUT, you are comparing the cost of driving a car 15,000 miles a year to bicycle ownership. If you bikes 15, 000 miles a year, that would eat up a lot of time. Assuming you average 10 mph ( not your bicycling speed but end-to-end trip time) and you did most of the bicycling on the 200 days you went to work, that would work out to be 7.5 hours a day of bicycling!

  • Alan says:

    @peter r

    My experience was that when we ditched one of our cars, our total driving mileage decreased by much more than 50%. Prior to that, we were driving only semi-consciously, taking many, many unnecessary trips. Now, we only drive when necessary and we combine trips whenever possible. That’s one of the beauties of the bicycle; it causes one to slow down and think about what they’re doing. So while I wouldn’t mind riding all day, it’s only a fraction of that time that we spend on the bikes… :-)

    Alan

  • peteb says:

    Love the concept, and love the numbers, but the assumption that bike commuting is readily achievable, and that there is no trade off in housing costs, salary, benefits…. is a bad assumption. The decision to either move within bike commuting distance, or switch jobs to get something closer without moving, is costly. I don’t think we have a lot of people commuting 3-10 miles to work, and neither does the US Census. Since you are debating the relative costs, it is either academic, or you have to look at the huge number of people who commute the US Census Average of 24 miles (last I checked), and the tiny number of people who use a bicycle to commute that kind of distance. So you have a life changing decision shoehorned into the academic consideration of $/mile based on mode. Bus commuters, train commuters, carpoolers, telecommuters… all face similar issues.

    As a scientist working in the climate change and energy field, I had to make a very purposeful effort to look beyond simple ratios and numbers and look at the infrastructure. I’m not being dismissive of this post, and very much the opposite I applaud it. But for most it is purely academic unless they are making a similar lifestyle choice regarding the distance to their job and the terrain they inhabit.

  • Daniel M says:

    @Alan & peter r:

    I am having the same experience as Alan. Now that I use my bike for all solo local trips (can’t always convince the girlfriend when it’s cold/late night/raining but at least then we’re carpooling), I always look for a local place to do my business, which also fits in with my strong feelings about spending money in one’s own community. If something can really only be found in an outlying suburb, I wait until I have the time to either ride out there or use the appropriate transit/bike mix. All in all I make many fewer trips outside my local area whereas in the past would have jumped in the car without thinking. And when I travel by myself to visit my parents, I have started to find the 4 hour train/bus/bike trip home to be preferable to two hours in the car.

    So fewer trips overall and more miles on transit (which does have its own costs) means those of us who previously drove 15,000 miles a year don’t necessarily need to replace all of those miles. In my case quitting a commuter job and starting my own local business was the first step.

  • Stuart G. says:

    I’m interested in the Car lite cost savings comparison.
    My car costs 54 cents/mile to drive. Thats for all costs.
    My bike costs 18 cents/mile to ride. A tuneup, tires, tubes, new stuff (rack/bags)s add up.
    When I ride a bike, instead of taking the car, I save 15 cents/mile in gas savings.
    I can’t really claim any reduced car costs since the car is still there. It will last longer, and cost a bit less since I drive a little less, but there are no cost savings.

  • Andrew says:

    For what it’s worth, the price that I’ve paid for my transportation bike (read: beater), including buying it, all parts and maintenance (read: essentially none, since it languishes outside, abused and neglected) is a sum total of about $120 over the course of 1.5 years.

    …that’s not to say I haven’t managed to spend hundreds of dollars on bikes in that same 1.5 years, but bike commuting can be an absurdly cheap proposition.

  • Sally Hinchcliffe (aka townmouse) says:

    I’ve been trying to do similar sums here (where our diesel costs around £1.40 a litre or – can this be right? $8.67 a US gallon). Our (one) car gets good mileage – around 65-70 miles to the (imperial) gallon so I make that about 9p a mile, or 14 cents just in fuel costs alone. If I didn’t have the bike, and the willingness to use it for longish distances, we’d almost certainly need a second car (our bus service is pitiful). My bike gets an annual service at about £40, having covered about 2000 miles, so that’s about 2p a mile, plus fuel costs (I believe the accepted rate is 1 rasher of bacon for every 10 miles) which means … if my calculations are correct (and there was a lot of google conversion involved) … that I can definitely justify buying another bike!

  • Pete says:

    I think there is a real opportunity here for an incremental step – what if people could use a bike to just get rid of ONE of their cars (one of 2 for a couple, one of 3, 4, 5 or more for a typical US family)?
    That would already be a monumental change, and might seem a bit less daunting to people who feel it is all-or-nothing. I think if a lot of households look at how often they actually need all of their cars, they’d realize they could probably get by with one less…

  • kanishka azimi new england says:

    car lite + car free periods – year four, i certainly have saved quite a bit of money. but i don’t think it is a very effective argument, appealing to people on dollars for why to ditch a car or use it less. i’m a bigger fan of advocatign for the health and quality of living improvement, and the cost savings being a tangential benefit

  • Pete r says:

    As a transportational bicyclist for the last 30 years, I could discuss in detail the actual costs of car v. Bicycle. As noted by another poster, for most people, you must choose carefully where you live to make a bicycle lifestyle practical. Generally, these locations are more expensive than living in the far suburbs. If you choose to shop mostly locally, you pay more than if you buy at the distant megalomart. It all adds up. The cost of bicycle, maintenance, and special bike wear needed to make year-round bicycling practical in my rather extreme midatlantic climate is trivial compared to these other costs.

    Additionally, one can easily reduce unnecessary car travel with a little discipline. I’m sure we’ll see many people do this when gas prices shoot up in the near future.

    My point is that it is hard, in our American society, to justify a car-free lifestyle just on cost, although I do think there is some amount of cost savings over-all. But it is VERY easy to justify a bike lifestyle in terms of quality of life and health.

  • John Ferguson says:

    Reporting in from Average Commute-ville and Car Lite suburban living:

    @peteb, I’m 42 years old in reasonably good shape but way past my prime in terms of overall fitness. I live almost exactly 25 miles from my workplace. I ride my bike to work, sometimes multi-modally (I have access to a ferry service and buses) sometimes all the way in (like tonight, which I’m looking forward to despite the fierce headwind on Marina green.. I’ve recently met a few of my neighbors who did not know of my cycling tendencies. I’m now a subject of much discussion in our neighborhood (Oh, the guy who rides his bike to San Francisco!..)

    I think it’s a failure of imagination more than anything else to think this isn’t a normal option. Without pushing it much, I can get to work in about 100 minutes which is about 15-20 minutes longer than it would take me to be on the bus or drive to the ferry or drive all the way in during high traffic times. It’s exercise, which is what I see most people driving to in my town. I save the gym membership fees and put it into nice bike parts because that’s how I roll. I’m in a family of four, wife and two kids so that makes us pretty darn average. We have one car, which gets little use. My sons only want to ride their bike – I’ll take some credit for that but it’s just a natural impulse which we drown in fear and trepidation of the consequences and perceived hardships. As I’ve been telling my neighbors (to disbelieving looks), it’s really no big deal. It’s just what I do. I have plenty of options and when I don’t feel like it, I don’t ride. Pretty normal, methinks. And around-town biking will be enhanced this year with the addition of a longtail bike to get our stuff around. The car will be jealous..

  • Rob Williams says:

    This gets even better if you feed in some numbers from the UK. Assuming google’s unit converter doesn’t let me down, petrol is currently at just over $10/gallon, insurance+tax on my 1994 Volvo would have been $2700, and servicing and MOT for the year probably around $600.

    Given that I went car-free a year ago, I feel no guilt over occassional impulse buys of ‘nice things’ for the bike…

  • Rob Halligan says:

    I take the money saved from being car-free and put it towards living in a more convenient location. In adition to the money spent on cars, the time it takes to keep them up and legal is much greater than bikes. I use Zipcar about twice a month and rent a car about 3 times a year. No regrets.

  • Garth says:

    Peteb, I think you are underestimating the numbers for commutes of 5 miles or less. I have a very short commute, in a city with a lot of great, inexpensive older housing stock close to the downtown, and it takes me about 2 minutes longer to get to my office by bike than by car. I simply cannot justify driving to work.

    What are those numbers that are always getting cited? Half of our trips are within 20 minutes by bike, and a quarter of our trips are within 20 minutes by foot. 40 minutes is not going to be much longer than driving those miles, and if you’re not doing at least 40 minutes of exercise a day, your health is suffering significantly.

    For those who feel compelled to live in a suburb, that is partly lifestyle choice, and partly poor city planning. However, more and more cities are focusing more inward, and suburban decay is a real phenomenon. The only reason I would move farther out would be fore more acreage for more gardening space, but I can actually get decent acreage pretty close to our city center here. And the big box stores on the edge of town don’t need my patronage. If I want cheap supplies, I can shop online or make an occasional drive. We grow most of our own produce anymore anyway. Local produce keeps all the economic benefits local, and eliminates transportation costs. I suppose online shopping increases transportation costs, but goods have to get shipped to the big box store anyway, and then customers have to drive there. The bottom line, though, is to reduce our transportation needs, and improve our land use.

    Anecdotally (since everybody else is doing it!), I saved at least $1200 last year just in fixed car costs by minimizing my car use, in parking, gas, and lower insurance (low mileage discount). Of course, I have no financing charges (you should never finance a car), so the car really costs nothing else, other than depreciation and maintenance. In terms of bike gear and maintenance, I spent maybe $300. Sadly, I spent a lot more on car maintenance. So my savings are pretty small, but still better than nothing. And my health and wellbeing benefits are much greater.

    Garth-

  • Bee says:

    Its odd that everyone calculates the cost of fuel for driving but no one (other than Sally and her bacon) seems to be calculating the cost of fuel for riding.

    Unless you’ve got a lot of free bike fuel stored up on your behind, you have to buy and ingest calories to get yourself from point a to b. The cost is considerable: if you eat one $3 coffee shop scone to reward yourself for a 10 mile ride, you’ve just bought fuel at the rate of 30 cents per mile (or 15 cents if you figure you’ll use the scone to power your return trip!)

    Calculating the cost of calories is tricky, but a few years ago I did the math, amortizing my average on-the-bike and coffee shop break consumption across the mileage I’d traversed that year, and I was amazed to find that the food cost twice what my fancy bike had cost; I had spent nearly $2,000 on fuel to power 7,000 miles of riding. Since then I have been much more conscientious, trying to buy the cheapest calories possible instead of “sport nutrition”, so I’m sure my spending per mile has dropped off a bit.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Bee,

    Whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling for sport, or bike commuting, I need the exercise anyway, so for myself at least, the calories consumed for bike commuting are just a part of living a healthy lifestyle. In other words, I’m going to get the exercise and consume the calories one way or the other – it just so happens that bike commuting accounts for a fair amount of that exercise.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • John Ferguson says:

    @Bee, I can think of nothing sadder than searching out the cheapest fuel for your body. This is one vehicle that you can’t trade in, so give it the best fuel you can find! Besides, the cost of repairs is astronomical, especially if the damage is within the circulation or control systems. Personally, I’ll economize on almost anything else to give myself and my family the most nutritious food we can find.

  • Micheal Blue says:

    I cannot live car free, unfortunately. My job sometimes (fortunately fairly seldom) requires driving, plus to get from my place out to nature is at least 45 km one way = out of the question for biking (I don’t do TdF stuff). I got into biking (commuting) seriously last June. For me to get the (financial) ROI for purchasing the bikes (one got stolen) and the gear, I’d have to bike every workday for at least two years without spending anything on bike maintenance. Another thing is that a bike tune up every two thousand km costs 40 – 70 dollars (that’s not even 3 months of biking). Regular car maintenance seems cheaper – about the same amount for 8 thousand km. So in my case the financial savings are not that great. OTOH, it takes a single stone launched by a truck wheel to pay five hundred bucks for a new windshield (happened twice); to keep the insurance payments low, the deductable is higher, so it doesn’t cover repairs below 500 bucks. Of course, the health benefits, joy and fun I get out of biking go beyond any savings/spendings.

  • Brandt Absolu says:

    I am a college student living with my parents, and I don’t own a car. I ride my bike about two miles to a bus stop, and the bus takes me to school, 23 miles away. I pay 2 dollars each way five days a week, so that comes out to $80 a month. Mostly I maintain my bike myself, but occasionally I take it to a bike shop when the need arises, and when I do I usually spend between $10-20. I don’t know what my total costs are per year, but I know for sure that it’s WAY less than driving all that distance every weekday.

    In the future I plan to use zipcar for when I have my own place and need a car for those situations where biking just won’t cut it.

  • peteb says:

    great discussion. very lively.
    @John F. – It is great if you can do it. But your multi-mode option is probably not free (either you pay a fare, or your taxes do), though it still beats driving. I am positive it isn’t a failure of my imagination, because I deal with statistics and polling data here in Connecticut, and have been for almost a decade. I checked and the National average commute is about 16 miles, but here in CT it is closer to 24 miles. And we have virtually nothing for multimode, unless you are on the shoreline, and then bikes are not a priority. Metro North never lacks for ridership. Butts win out over bikes. And I’m not taking it personally, but I have the imagination. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be posting here. For my personal situation: I’m definitely biased because of my location here in Connecticut. We just had the first real break in the weather since Late October, and it is 70 and raining. My YMCA membership is what allowed me to hop on the bike this spring and pick up where I left off. I personally can’t handle a lot of biking when the temps get below 45F, and even then it is a grind. That pretty much limits me to 7 months a year!

    @Garth I am using USDOT data, US Census Data, and statewide DOT data here in CT. If the US Census National Average is 16 miles, I am probably not underestimating the number of commutes 1/3 that distance. You would need a similar population of commuters with 50-mile commutes to get a 16 mile average. Even in a city with a lot of short-haul metro commuters, the highways are clogged with cars traveling much more than 5 miles. Maybe I’m biased by being wedged between NYC and Boston, but I think it is the norm in most cities. I agree on the online shopping conundrum… it is (not quite) like taking a taxi to avoid driving. Unless UPS starts showing up on a sweet cargo bike!

    Random Though: My wish is to see better bike infrastructure in the US. Standing in the way is a morass of entrenched car infrastructure laid on top of an increasingly limited stock of land-use options. Putting that genie back in the bottle is a massive challenge. In the cities where I have seen truly good planning, the transit infrastructure precedes the housing. Retrofitting a typical US suburb to look like Copenhagen is a monumental challenge, and IMO if the will to meet that challenge existed we wouldn’t have built communities the way we did in the first place. That said, there is progress all over, and in time I think it will spread to areas that previously seemed impermeable.

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  • Jonathan Krall says:

    According to my notes (I track my spending via an app on my phone) I spent about $3000 on transportation in the past last year. That’s out of pocket and doesn’t include depreciation on my car ($12000 in 2001, paid cash) or two of my three bicycles ($3000 total, each about 5-6 years old). About half of that was spent related to driving (about 2900 miles) and about half related to biking (about 3800 miles). Less than $100 was spent on transit. The biking portion includes a new bicycle ($800) and the selling of the bike it replaced (-$150).

    Bottom line: If I dropped my car entirely I could probably get the total down to below $1500 (I’m guessing I’d spend more on transit and some on zipcar). Right now I’m on track to drive less than 1500 miles in 2011, so fuel is less than 10% of my total. I suspect I’m getting into the range where selling my paid-for car and signing up for zipcar would make sense, but I’m not sure.

  • kanishka azimi (new england!) says:

    @peteb,

    having commuted year round in the hartford area (which is much worse than where you live), there are a lot of multimodal options. people often forget how many more transit options they have if they use a folding bike for work commuting. i brought my brompton on any form of transit you can imagine in connecticut. i found mostly that hte connecticut system is great for getting to work, awful for getting to social events at night.

 
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