I have a Wednesday evening ritual. I go to the Philips 66 gas station at Boston and Sunset and pay about two and half dollars for a fried pie and a carton of whole milk. A Hostess Cherry Pie has about 500 Calories. The milk with about 300 Calories brings the total up to 800 Calories. This $2.50 worth of junk food will get me about 25 miles on my bike. That's somewhat farther than I could go on a gallon of gas in the average vehicle sold in the U.S. in 2005.
Jim Carson looks into the economics of bike commuting in more detail. He adds up his bike maintenance and use expenses, compares that with what he didn't spend driving the Subaru, and discovers that, financially, he came out behind. He concludes that "the economic argument isn't working."
I'll spend about $600 this year on bike expenses -- maintenance, a couple of new lights, a new jersey and gloves, several tubes and patch kits, new tires and so forth. I'll put about 6000 miles on three bikes this year, which works out to about 10 cents per mile. That's considerably less than the 40 cents per mile the IRS tells us it costs to run a car. Plus, I can eat fried pies, drink whole milk and not get fat.
IMPORTANT: Please post comments for this article at the new CYCLELICIOUS 2.0 version of this page.
Be sure to add in $800 for a year's health club membership on the "car" side. I don't ride because it's cheap, I ride for environmental reasons and to have fun. Every time someone says "Hey, that saves you some gas money" I say "Yeah, but I'd be riding even if gas were free."
I've been doing the math and hvae found that I don't save money, either. Even though I ride to work every day, it's only 3.3 miles from home to work. I pick up a few things at the grocery store mid-week, but my wife and I like to go together for the main shopping and that involves the car.
We own only one car anyway, but we can't go completely without a car, so there are no savings on insurance, car payments, etc.
But, like itsjustme says, I ride because I enjoy it, not because it saves money.
Oh, and the health club thing: it's a free benefit through my employer....