Be green, healthy and rich by giving up on your car
I’ve noticed in the past few years that saving money, staying fit, and being green seem to walk hand-in-hand like a three-way relationship that actually works. One of the simplest ways this plays out in my own life is on my bike. I’ve always ridden bikes. They were my ticket to freedom at age twelve because I could take them up to the library or the local public pool without my mother. As I got older, they became an easy way to solve arguments in a family of three teenagers by riding my bike to work.
As a college student in Olympia, Washington I rode to work and to the grocery store in the rain. After my bike was stolen in Chicago (because I was using a lock good enough for Northern Michigan) I couldn’t wait to get a new bike, and it took a year and a half. Most of my bikes were cheap hand-me-downs from friends, bought at the goodwill, or a repainted toys r us ten-speed from an adolescent birthday. Today, I have nice bikes – as does my wife, and we don’t own a car. Yes, I live in a city where everything is a bit closer together than in the suburbs, but it still requires a conscious effort.
The beauty of the money, health, green trifecta is simple when using a bike to get around. My commute to work is ten miles one way. If I ride five days out of the week that equals 100 miles a week and ten hours of aerobic activity. An hour of cycling burns about five hundred calories, and I get that exercise without having to plan any extra time into my day. It goes without saying that riding a bike means not paying for gas, car insurance, or car payments.
According to a recent article “The Way it Should Be Is The Way It Is” in the June issue of Bicycling magazine by Marik Jenkins “Americans spend one-fourth of their income on their cars.” It goes without saying that cars are expensive. Both cars and bikes have upkeep costs, but the cost of bike upkeep is minimal; maybe a $50 tune-up once a year, or the occasional new tire or tube. A bike can last a lifetime, with proper maintenance, but the same can’t be said for a car.
Finally, on the green front: a bike has zero carbon emissions, a street needs to be 12 lanes wide to handle 40,000 cars but only one lane wide to handle 40,000 bicycles (Jenkins) completing our trifecta.
Sure, not everyone can ride to work because of the infrastructure where they live which doesn’t provide safe streets for cycling. However people can use their bikes for shorter trips. According to “Clif Bar’s 2-mile bike challenge“:
Forty percent of urban trips in the United States are two miles or less, but people use their cars nearly ninety percent of the time for those short jaunts but people use their cars nearly ninety percent of the time for those short jaunts.”
So maybe you can’t ride to work, but how about to the video store, or to pick up milk for your cereal in the morning, or that short trip to the post office? There are a lot of ways to cut down on your dependence on your car, which will lead to more savings in the end. If gas hovers around four dollars a gallon, and your car gets an average of twenty miles per gallon, you’d save at least one gallon of gas in a week if you made a couple short errands on your bike. If you started riding to work, or further distances, those numbers would add up faster easily getting over twenty-five dollars of week in savings if you abandoned a ten mile drive to work.
Even if you use public transit, which is a greener option that driving yourself, you could still save money by cycling more. Chicago transit prices are $1.75 per ride (if you don’t pay with cash), so ten rides per week to get back and forth to work equals $17.50. Combine that savings with your quick trips to the hardware store on the weekends and you can start funneling that money to the fund that needs it the most.