Streetsblog.net

Saving Money by Ditching the Car

If you've ever wanted a breakdown of the benefits of commuting by bike versus commuting by car, Carfree.us has got it for you. The writer of this Streetsblog Network member blog, a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina,  is not actually totally car-free, but he has made a commitment to commuting by bike or bus for the calendar year of 2010. From his introductory post:

3640460876_c15aaef0af.jpgThese bike commuters are saving some serious money. Photo: Richard Masoner via Flickr
It’s important to understand I am an average Joe, in my thirties, working  a 9-5 desk job. I have a wife and a one-year-old son. I live in an average-size city with an average public transportation infrastructure, and I live seven miles from the city center. My wife is not a zealous bicyclist, and truthfully, not very supportive of this project! My wife does own a car and I will probably occasionally drive it with my family in the car.  I am not an anti-car zealot, but what I want to highlight are the challenges and choices I will face in my everyday life and the impact they will have on me as I live this (sadly) "alternative lifestyle."  These decisions may be banal but they just might be something more.

I am choosing not to transport myself individually in a vehicle designed to fit five. It’s ludicrous, and we all have grown numb to the impact we have on our communities, on our countrymen and women, and on the world. If I can do it, there are millions of other people in this country who can do the same thing, and that’s the story I plan to tell.

He's now tallied the results of the first two months of car-free life, and they're pretty impressive:

In January and February I commuted by bicycle or bus a total of 36 days or 72 trips, not counting holidays and vacation days. Of those 72 trips I took the bus 32 times. February was a really cold, wet, and snowy month in Charlotte so I took the bus a lot in February.…

In two months I have had the following impact:

  • I’ve saved $47 in gasoline expenses and the equivalent of $457 in fixed costs for a total savings of $471.49 when accounting for bus costs.
  • Burned 22,356 calories which if I had been eating a normal diet is the equivalent of 6.4 pounds of fat!
  • I have kept 543 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (19.546 lbs per gallon and my car gets an average of 21 MPG).

Simply multiplying these numbers for the year would equal 3,260 pounds of CO2 kept out of the atmosphere, $2,542 dollars saved, 134,000 calories burned, and 38.3 pounds of fat.  If I had a car loan payment for a $20,000, the savings jumps to $7,900!

I knew I was benefiting myself and the environment by commuting without a car, but to see the real impact is very amazing. These numbers don’t take into account the savings because of improved emotional and physical well being I am getting because of the exercise. They also don’t take into account the benefit to my community from interacting with my neighbors and fellow commuters. These numbers don’t measure the impact of  the 40,000 people every year who’s lives are cut short because of car crashes.  These are dry,raw, facts, and figures, but if you consider how these facts scale year over year for an individual, or scale for the United State,  if just 5% of the people  who commute by car switched to walking, bicycling, or public transit, the numbers would be astounding.

You can download his spreadsheet from his site if you want to crunch your own numbers.

More from around the network: World Streets on promoting cycling in Iceland. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia on the legality of clipping bikes that are parked on or adjacent to private property. And The Naked City on the looming retail crisis caused by the overbuilding of megamalls.