Did you know that the average American spends approximately 16% of their income on transportation? Behind housing (33%), this is often the second largest expense for the majority of Americans. How can we be paying so much towards transportation? While I’m sure much of the reason has to do with the increase of convenience paralleling the increase in cost, I don’t have a concrete answer for you. However, I do know that there are ways to pay far less to get around.
Bottom line: your car sucks!
That’s right. On top of being one of the most inefficient means of transportation, it also sucks your health, your money, and even your time. That last sentence may have stirred the pot, but before hippity hoopla-ing me and xj’ing out – hear me out.
Over the next 1,500 words or so I will make it crystal clear why your car totally sucks, and why it should be your last choice for daily commutes.
Let’s dive in.
The average car weighs around 4,000 pounds, and the average American weighs about 175 pounds. Let’s assume a person carries an additional 100 pounds in their car, bringing the car’s total load to about 275 pounds. Doing the math, we can see that the efficiency ratio for an average car is 4,000 lbs/275 lbs = 14.5. In other words, for every pound of weight the car can carry, the car weighs 14.5 pounds.
What about the average bicycle? It weighs about 17 pounds. While you can carry a pretty heavy backpack while riding a bike (I do it all the time), for the sake of our example we’ll say that there is no additional load. So, if a 17-pound bicycle is carrying a 175-pound human, that gives the bicycle an efficiency ratio of 0.1 (17 lbs/175 lbs).
In other words, for every pound of weight a bicycle can carry, the bicycle weighs just 0.1 lb (17/175).
We can’t even pretend to claim that a car has anywhere near the efficiency that a bike does. Plain and simple.
I know what you’re going to say: cars go much faster and farther than a typical bicycle. They take less physical labor, they are convenient, and they have taken our civilization far forward ove the last century. I don’t disagree with any of that.
The average bicyclist rides at about 10 mph, while the average automobile travels at 30 mph, which drives me to my next point.
I’m certain that this is where I will get the most pushback. I am going to make a statement that many won’t agree with : if your commute to work is under 10 miles (and if it isn’t, it should be!), riding a bike is going to SAVE you time. I know, say what!?
As mentioned above, the average speed of a car is 30 mph, while the average speed of a bike is about 10 mph. Assuming a 10-mile commute, a car ride is going to take about 20 minutes while a bike ride will take about an hour.
Note that this calculation takes into account the average speed for both methods of transport. If you live or work in a city where rush hour traffic impacts your commute, your drive time may actually be much longer.
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So I live in Denver, a densely populated city. If I wanted to go 10 miles east through Aurora during rush hour, it would take me around 45 minutes one way. On a bicycle, traffic is no longer a factor. When looking at the delays rush hour traffic will bring, the additional time it takes to ride a bicycle is now just 15 minutes, one way. Are you starting to see the bigger picture?
Ok so fair question, that’s still 15 extra minutes. Where might you borrow that time from other daily activities? Hmmmm how about the gym!?
Riding 20 miles round trip is a great workout! Consider cancelling your gym membership, or at least drastically reducing the amount of time you spend there. Maybe you go do strength training or weights for 30 minutes, but you certainly don’t need any more cardio.
The option to cancel your gym membership or at least minimize the time you spend there alone will save (or at least net even) the extra time it takes to ride a bike—and we didn’t even talk parking. Need I say more? Actually, you know I will!
Winter mornings in Denver are no joke. The wind is ruthless and temps can get down to 0°F (-17°C. But man do I love my morning bike rides—bundled up with multiple layers, hat, gloves, and face guard, smiling ear to ear over how great it feels to get the blood flowing before sitting at a computer the rest of the day.
During my commute, I often glance into the windows of the cars I pass as they sit in traffic. If you told me this was a zombie apocalypse – I’d believe you! If it’s anytime before 9:00 a.m., the entire city looks like the walking dead (except they aren’t even walking!). In their toasty temperature-controlled cars, they are visibly tired, stressed, and deflated.
It’s pretty ironic, right? You’d think the guy being exposed to the all those wintry elements elements riding his bike would be far unhappier and stressed, but on the contrary: happy as a clam and totally winning.
Let’s take a look at a study done at the Concordia School of Business, which took a survey of 123 employees at a Montreal-based company called Autodesk. The study showed that within 45 minutes of arriving to work, the cyclists showed significantly lower stress levels compared to the sedentary commuters.
As a former sedentary commuter myself, I can attest to the accuracy of their findings.
The reasons cycling have health advantages over driving are becoming pretty clear at this point. While I am not necessarily judging sedentary commuters (ok not thaaaat mu!), it’s not very often you see someone who is both overweight and biking to work each day.
Her’s another study performed by the University of Glasgow that surveyed 250,000 commuters for a total of five years.
The analysis was controlled by sex, age, ethnicity, deprivation, pre-existing conditions, depression, body mass index, smoking, and diet. In short, the study shows that active commuters had a 41% lower risk of dying from health-related causes.
I don’t think I’m making any new assertions here when I say that bike riding is defnitely more beneficial to your health than sitting in a car.
You never stop paying for your car. They serve as a black hole, constantly taking a portion of your paycheck and never making you a penny more with typical use. What’s the impact there?
The average commute is about 30 miles per day. Multiply that by the 2018 IRS standard of $0.545, and it costs $16 each day to drive your car. This amount includes gas, insurance, repairs, depreciation, and so forth. This total can be about $500 each month or $6,000 per year, this could be RENT in an inexpensive market. Even more so, that estimate doesn’t even touch the interest payments you make on a financed car. Depending on the loan type and car you are driving, you could be paying close to $10,000 per year just driving to work.
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Let’s compare this to, you guessed it, the bicycle.
Your average bike costs about 1% of an average car, meaning there’s a very small chance that you are taking a loan out to purchase one. You also aren’t paying for additional insurance, or gas, bike repairs are often minimal and affordable, and there are no interest payments to worry about. In fact, repairs on a bike average about $20 each month— maybe replacing a tube and tire, or getting a basic tune-up.
Driving a car for just two days costs more than it does to ride a bike for an entire month. By transitioning over from driver to rider, you could end up reducing your cost of transportation by literally 96%. This number doesn’t even include medical savings you could experience from healthier, potentially getting off of medications or seeing your doctor less regularly due to the incredible vitality increase a daily bike ride provides.
There’s not a whole lotthat needs to be said here: a bicycle is obviously far better for our environment than driving a car is.
Let’s assume a 10-mile commute, 5 days per week:a mid-sized vehicle would emit 1.3 tons of CO2 per year in burning gas. After accounting for the foam, plastic, steel, and rubber used, the pollution effects multiply. During it’s lifetime, a car will produce 1.3 billion yards of polluted air and about 40 pounds of worn tire particles (just particles alone!), brake debris and worn roads..
Riding a bicycle reduces this pollution to zero. Enough said.
Cars take a huge toll (ha! Pun intended) on the condition of roads. An Australian study showed that with less driving and more biking, the Australian government could save around $20 million per day in highway/road maintenance costs. Given that the U.S. is about 30% larger than Austrailia, we will say that the U.S. could save on average about $25 million per day, or $9 billion per year, if more people were to choose a bike.
The excuses become endless and I’ve heard everyone in the book when it comes to opting out on the bicycle It’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s snowing, raining, or it’s cloudy with a chance of falafel (I’m half Jewish).
But when we at countries that have the most bike commuters per capita we can see why it is so important to make the sacrifice. As you would of course expect, the top countries are in the warm and sunny tropics — Including the Netherlands, U.K., Germany, Sweden, and Norway. Wait what? Ok I’, playing! These countries are much colder with much harsher weather conditions than many parts of the United States, yet the vast majority commute via bicycle every day. If they can do it, so can we.
Interestingly enough, many of these countries also rank as the happiest countries. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
So if you want a happier, healthier, and wealthier life, then changing the way you commute is a no-brainer. Ditch that car and get your bike on! The road to financial independence is best traveled by two wheels and a set of pedals. You’ll thank me later. See you on the road!