Brandon Joerges is a year-round cyclist in Southeast Michigan. Brandon’s 14Bikes blog is a part of his campaign to help communities and businesses that want to shrink congestion without losing customers understand that up to 14 bikes can fit in one standard parking space and bicycling has benefits for everyone.
In America, for the first 25 years after the invention of the car, it was a luxury. For the next 25, it became a necessity. For the next 25, two were a luxury. For the next 25, two were a necessity. We’re now just past 100 years of driving cars and I think that for this 25 years cars will be a burden. This leaves a wonderful opportunity for those that want most to live a greener life without breaking their wallet in half.
I have a toddler son and a daughter on the way. I want them to grow up in a world better than what so many doomsayers predict. I want to live a greener life and know that the one place where people spend the most money and make the most impact is the one that they can actually do something about.
For myself, I’ve lost and kept off almost 50 pounds. I’ve cut my monthly car insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs almost in half. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve also reduced my impact on the environment from what it once was. I also get to enjoy doing something thing I love with my family.
I borrowed a bicycle from my dad and bought a helmet. I rode as often as I could. I saved my gas budget and bought my own bike. I rode even when it seemed ridiculous (like strapping a stroller to a rear rack or riding with studded bike tires in a snowstorm) . A year later I made the big decision, getting rid of my car and cutting back on our use of my wife’s van.
Instead of paying several hundred dollars out every month to cover the loan payment and interest, insurance, gasoline, maintenance and being frustrated daily in traffic, I get to enjoy a 30 minute vacation. Selling a car isn’t right for everyone. It is tough to do some normal things when you go against the mainstream. However, most trips of all transport types are two miles or less. The cost effectiveness of riding a bike is nearly unbeatable.
A good quality bike will set you back around $350. Properly equipping it to be a primary vehicle can be another $200-$500 depending on your needs. Getting well-outfitted to be car-free can mean another couple hundred dollars. For around $1,000, most people can be ready to take 80%-100% of their daily trips by bicycle instead of by car. A grand is a pretty large chunk of money for a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be spent all at once and there are certainly other options to go a more frugal route. Remember, you are buying a vehicle, not a toy, stay away from the big-box stores and visit your local bike shop for help in taking your transit down to two wheels.
The best part is, the return on investment seems to just grow on it’s own. It doesn’t take long for the variable bills, occasional speeding or parking tickets, repairs and replacements to get cheaper and happen less frequently. For some, dropping the two-ton monkey off your back can become a reality. Dropping the car completely means saving thousands per year. $100-400/month in payments, $30-$150/month in insurance, $30-$150/month in gas, and several hundred per year on maintenance.
Somewhere along the way, we got complacent with the cost of cars. People were frightened that $2/gallon gasoline would ruin everything. Then we dragged through months hovering around $4/gallon, so now $2.50 seems cheap instead of a strain. What changes would be made if our current average USD$2.78/gallon jumped to Canada’s current $3.87/gal or Britain’s $6.69/gal? The time will come when the US reaches such a figure. Unfortunately, when it does, many will still be enslaved to their motor vehicle and not see another option. But, that doesn’t have to happen to you.
Daily transportation in a gasoline powered car is extremely environmentally damaging. Electric cars aren’t the answer, either, as the fuel that fills their batteries is primarily from burning coal. The most cost effective and minimally impactful way to get around is on a bicycle.
Ridership keeps going up. The more people on bike, the safer and more accepted it becomes for everyone. As more people begin to ride, infrastructure is redeveloped, bike racks are installed in more places, and cities grow with increased traffic from people freed of the burden of their motorized vehicle. As more people ditch their cars for greener transport, it becomes easier for others to pursue the same path and reduce or eliminate their own daily transportation impact and costs.
Dig out that old bike from the rafters and get it tuned up or shop around for the bike that’s right for you. There is a large community of cyclists who would love to have you come out for a ride. Whatever your style, pedal onward.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”
-John Howard (1985 Pedal-Powered Land Speed Record Setter)
Kelly’s notes: I love the idea of traveling by bike or foot more. As some of my readers know we did survive on one car for several months, but ultimately our schedules and the length and location of some of our weekly activities made that short-lived. Ideally we’d like to move to an area in a few years that is more pedestrian and bicycle friendly so we can ditch at least one car.