Americans love their cars. Type “America’s love” into Google and it automatically completes the phrase to say “America’s love affair with cars.”
It’s fine if you love your car. But how much money is it costing you? Probably more than you think.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, driving a car will cost you, on average, $5,522 each year. If you are still paying for your car, that amount jumps to $9,576.
Why not save on transportation costs by using your bicycle to get around town?
The benefits to biking instead of driving a car are many:
* Biking helps you stay healthy. Need to lose weight or relieve stress? Want to exercise your core and legs? Want to prevent heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure? Medical studies say bicycling can help with all of that. One study by the University of Glasgow found regularly riding a bike can help reduce your chances of developing cancer as well.
* Every time you bike instead of drive you are helping the environment by replacing an activity that burns fossil fuels and pollutes the air with an activity that does neither. The positive effect on the environment can be significant: Adventure Cycling Association estimates if people biked (and walked) more, each year we would save between 700 million and 1.6 billion gallons of fuel and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by between 6 and 14 million tons.
* You’ll save money.
The IRS estimates owning and operating a car will cost you 57.5 cents per mile in 2020. They take into account, not only the cost of gasoline and oil, but also depreciation, insurance, repairs, and other common costs associated with owning a car.
Don’t tune out here because we’re talking about saving a measly 57 cents per mile. It will add up over time. If you ride just 10 miles each week on average over the course of a year, you’ll save $299. Double your miles and now you’re saving close to $600.
You might even discover that you’re able to accomplish your fitness goals through biking alone. Now you could quit your gym membership and save even more money.
If bicycling as a form of transportation is a new idea to you, don’t let that stop you. Just start out small. For goodness’ sake, don’t make your first ride in 12 years be your 19-mile commute to work. That will just get you sweaty, dirty and injured on the side of the road with a flat tire. And you’ll be late to work.
Pick a destination that matches your fitness level. If you haven’t ridden in years, start with a destination three or four miles away. If you know you can ride farther, then go for it.
To find a bike-friendly route to take, use Google maps. Enter your start and end points for your ride, then click on the bicyclist. Google will show you the best route to take, complete with mileage and an ETA.
When you’re ready to start biking to work, you’ll be amazed to learn that it can actually save you time, if you usually exercise before or after your job. For example, my commute in a car is 34 minutes round-trip, while biking usually takes me 70 minutes.
If I drive to work and plan to exercise for an hour after I get home, I’ll spend one hour and 34 minutes on those two activities combined. If I bike to work, I will spend only one hour and 10 minutes biking to work. When I get home, I’ve already exercised, and I end up saving 24 minutes. How much time you save may be different, of course.
Ride your route a few times so that you’re comfortable with it. That way, you’ll be ready for Bike to Work Week, which is Sept. 21-27 this year.
So if you’re one of those Americans who loves cars, that’s fine. I’m not going to tell you to sell your car or anything. But maybe give bicycling a try. You’ll be healthier, help the environment, and save a bunch of money. That’s three birds with one stone.
Dave Kinzer is a music teacher and a financial coach in Springfield. Contact him at www.davekinzer.com. His column will appear here every other Wednesday.