My friend Sol Lederman wrote this article.
Being a health conscious person I enjoy walking and biking but I have to admit I get most of my exercise at the gym and end up driving to a lot to places I could easily bike to. With our high gas prices in the U.S. I've started wondering what this "driving habit" is costing me. Being a mathematically minded person and serious enough about Math to own a Math-related blog I decided to find out.
The cost I can easily measure is gasoline. Maintenance and wear-and-tear are going to be guesswork to some extent. Cost of driving to the environment is very real but one that I'm not going to try to factor into this calculation.
My little 1991 Toyota Corolla Sedan gets 30 miles per gallon on the highway. (Are you jealous?) Since I'm trying to compare biking to driving, I'll use a mileage of 22 miles to the gallon for city driving. Unleaded gas in snowy Santa Fe, New Mexico costs about $2.80 per gallon.
Now for some Math: For $2.80, I get 22 miles of driving. If I divide 280 cents by 22 miles, I get 12.7 cents per mile.
Let's guesstimate maintenance and wear-and-tear costs. If I get my oil changed every 3500 miles and that costs me $35.00 then I'm spending a penny per mile for oil and its servicing. Not a huge amount but it adds up. So, take the 12.7 cents per mile for gas and add a penny for oil and I'm up to 13.7 cents per mile to drive.
The Toyota is aging (gracefully I might add) and I spend maybe $500 per year to fix and replace things like my muffler that nearly fell off a while back. I drive maybe 10,000 miles per year. So, that's 5 cents per mile I spend on maintenance. So, driving is up to 18.7 cents per mile. Ouch!
I'm not going to factor in auto insurance because I'm not getting rid of the car and the insurance cost doesn't go down if I drive fewer miles than I do.
If I lived 5 miles from where I worked, I'd be driving 10 miles a day to and from work. Estimating 22 workdays in a month, I'd be driving 220 miles per month round trip to work. Those 220 miles would cost 220* 18.7cents = $41.14. That comes out to $493.68 per year. That's no pocket change. Granted, I wouldn't bike to work in the snow so my dollar savings would be less but consider the benefit to my health in biking 220 miles per month. And, consider that I'd be helping to emit a little less carbon into the air. Also, consider that your numbers may look much worse than mine, if you're driving a gas-guzzler.
It turns out that I work from home and don't have a commute but if I did and the roads were amenable to cyclists then I'd bike just for the health benefits. At a decent clip, it'd only take me 20 to 25 minutes each way and I'd get a nice workout doing it. Your mileage may vary.
Sol Lederman is a health enthusiast and owner of Wild About Math, a blog that aims to make Math fun and accessible to everyone.
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