Monday, March 14, 2011

The Pinch at the Pump

Gas prices are up in the U.S., and people are complaining and already fearful of the summer, when prices traditionally go up anyway. I haven't been too worried about this, even though I have a twice weekly thirty mile commute, because I've been making more and more trips by bicycle.

So I've decided to calculate exactly how many miles I'm going on these trips to see roughly how much gas I'm saving. I've only included utility/meeting other people trips, I cycled a lot more this week on my quest for the mall and other cycle pleasure trips. I think I've remembered everything...so here goes.

Grocery store-2.4 miles
Guadalupe and 22nd-5.6
Zilker Park-2.8 (kite festival)
Walmart-3.6
(you can sort of count on a homeless man hanging out near the bike racks, I like to think he's watching out)
Westgate Shopping Center- 1.9

I added them up and then times it by 2 to get a total of 32.6 miles cycled this week. So that is pretty much one one-way work commute for me. According to fuel economy.gov, it takes 1.09 gallon of gas to drive 25 miles for my car. Average gas price right now is 3.29 in my south austin area right now.  So I saved close to four dollars or so.

Of course, there is a lot more to fuel economy than pure distance between point A and B. I can't put a real fine point on it if you take into account idling at stoplights, being stuck in traffic, and my personal driving style. My real savings could be more. I don't think they could be less, I don't really drive in a such a way that sucks up gas. Other things, like the heavy traffic at the kite festival and the impossibility of finding parking at West Campus makes it likely I would use more gas than implied on a map. Math is not my thing so if I did something wrong in my calculations, by all means correct!

Put in those terms, my savings do appear small. Over a month, I could be looking at 20 dollars in my pocket. Put that over twelve months, that is $240. Okay, I like that number better. It's nice to know my bike could potentially pay for itself in a year. If gas goes up to five buck a gallon, maybe sooner.

Obviously, I don't have the schedule of a regular working stiff. That could change over the next couple of months after I graduate, but I think it goes to show that by doing non-work commute things on a bike, it has the potential to save you some serious coin over time. Ok, $240 is a lot of money to me, maybe not to others, it is a fourth of my monthly take home pay. I can understand why people focus on the work commute, it's often people's longest journey of the day, and if I had the fortitude to do that, I totally would! But by focusing on that, you ignore the ton of other places people go. I've said before, I think that is where people should start, using your bike for small errands and pleasure outings.

So here is to saving money, four dollars at a time.

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