The Economics of Bicycling

In December, the newest member of our family — the Metrofiets cargo bike — arrived. Since moving to Sarasota, Bethany has consistently relied on her dutch-style Linus bicycle to fly around town and run errands as we share a car. But with the arrival of the Metrofiets, now we both became car-light. So we wondered, “Just what economic impact – both financial and human – has this decision made in our own little sphere?” 

Without question, our two bicycles have replaced the car for all trips five miles or less, or about 90% of all our errands and commutes. Prior to our cycle-centric lifestyle, we averaged 12,000 miles per year in our Subaru Outback, only slightly lower than the national average of 13,476 miles per year.

Bethanys LinusMetrofiets livingVANdal Groceries

Since December, with the introduction of us both riding bikes as a major mode of transportation, we have gone from averaging 1,000 miles per month to 375 miles per month on the Subaru odometer. At a savings of 625 miles per month that we’re no longer spending in the car, let’s now geek-out in the spirit of our favorite Freakonomics economists, shall we?

Metrofiets Cargo: Girl and Kitchen Stool
Bethany gets ready to ride home in the Metrofiets cargo box with a new kitchen stool purchased in downtown Sarasota. No car necessary :).


Our Subaru averages 24 miles per gallon of city driving, which translates to a savings of just over 26 gallons per month. Assuming a fuel cost of $2.84 per gallon (the average at the time of this blog in our city of Sarasota), we saved $73.84 per month in fuel alone. If we look at the total cost of car ownership, the IRS values the car’s usage at $0.56 per mile for the average vehicle. Utilizing that formula, our cost savings escalates to $350 per month – or $4,200 per year. Now that’s real money.

Cars vs. Bikes Infographic
Infographic credit.
For clarification on CO2 emissions calculated for bicycle go here.


Cars and the Environment
Infographic credit.

Obviously, riding a bicycle creates additional benefits and savings beyond the monetary. “Our personal vehicles collectively account for nearly 1/5 of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.” (1)

The burning of a gallon of gasoline produces 17.68 pounds of carbon dioxide. Add to that another 5 pounds to account for the extraction, production and delivery of that fuel2, and we find that, by bicycling, our two-person household alone eliminates over 589 pounds of carbon dioxide per month or 7,068 pounds of CO2per year! To look at it another way, riding a bike gives our carbon footprint a smaller shoe size to the tune of about 0.94 pounds per mile.

Ouch. If you’re not regularly hopping on a bike to get to your next destination, then all of this talk of costs and savings is bound to burn….


…Calorie burn, that is! A 175-pound male peddling a bicycle at an average of 10 miles per hour burns 46.5 calories per mile3. Assuming we pedal 625 miles per month (excluding any riding just for the sheer fitness of it), our cycling burns 29,063 calories per month!

Now how’s that for earning great pasta and craft beer one mile at a time! And those benefits extend beyond the waistline to better sleep, better hearts, and better stress levels, too.


So there you go. Try this economics exercise for your household and let us know about it!

Infographic credit.

Better yet, save yourself some fuel, take a step toward minimizing your carbon footprint, and expend a few (or more) calories – Just start pedaling.

PS…We’ll be writing more about our cycling adventures as the newest contributors on ORbike. Go check them out!

ORbikeFilmed By Bike Festival


1 (March 29, 2015). Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved from: http://www.ucsusa.org.
2 (March 29, 2015). US Energy Information Administrative. Retrieved from: http://www.EIA.gov.
3(March 29, 2015). Retrieved from http://www.bicycling.com.

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