Cycling Cash Cow: Bicycling Will Save Americans $4.6 Billion in 2012

The average annual cost of operating a car is $8,220, but it only costs $308 per year to maintain a bike.

man bikes to work in suit
I'll give you 4.6 billion reasons why this suited commuter is so very happy. (Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images)
Sal holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Sniffing for another reason (besides the obvious health benefits) to ditch your car in favor of a bicycle? Take out your wallet and look inside: you see that piece of paper bearing George Washington’s crinkled face? If you embrace the cycling lifestyle, you could be owning a lot more paper copies of our first President.

According to a new report from the League of American Bicyclists and the Sierra Club, U.S. cyclists will save a staggering $4.6 billion per year in gas and transportation costs.

“Biking is an important piece of a 21st century transportation system,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Biking reduces America’s dependence on oil and lets individuals bypass the gas pump, saving individuals money and protecting our health and environment from dirty oil pollution.”

The fiscal sense of converting at least part of our commuting lives to two wheels rather than four is rather obvious. The average annual cost of operating a car is $8,220, whereas it only costs around $308 to annually maintain a bike, says the report.

Forty percent of all trips are made within two miles of home. Analysis shows that if American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year.

The report is loaded with other eye-popping transportation statistics, like the fact that 33 percent of Americans don’t use a car and that the average American household spends more (16 percent of their budget) on transportation than on food or healthcare.

Listen, we get it, folks—we really do. As much as you'd love to go cold turkey and ditch your car for a bike ASAP, you've got a few kids and you simply can't maneuver about your day without your minivan.

If that's the case, why not try this cycling scenario on for size: first purchase a bike. Doesn't need to be new and shiny. A used bike is plenty effective and a lot cheaper too. Next, plan to take one long bike ride per weekend. Then, as your legs cycle into better shape, and when your in-laws have the kids for the week, simply ride to work one day. See how it feels. If you enjoy the new commute—if you genuinely like crossing off two birds with one stone (commuting and working out at the same time!)—then plan on doing the same thing next month. Rinse, wash, repeat.

What part about bicycling to work do you like more: that it saves you money or that you'd be getting exercise?

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