Photo by wvs.
I’ve always owned a bike, but mostly it sat in the garage collecting dust. When we moved to the USA, however, we decided not to get a second car but to rely instead on our bicycles. For the first six months or so, my bike remained in the garage, but on the 4th of July last year I dusted it off and haven’t looked back since. Independence Day in our neighbourhood is a big thing. People from all over make the trip to our little city and clog up the streets with cars. If you don’t get a park by about 5am, you aren’t getting one at all. The parade down the main street at 10am makes getting around by car even more difficult. The solution? Peddle power. We rode everywhere that day – to the parade, to the shops, to a friends party on the other side of town. What I hadn’t expected was how much fun it would be. At about midnight as we slowly cruised back home, there were still plenty of people out riding their bikes and enjoying the beautiful night. Since then, I ride everywhere in my neighbourhood and to work most days.
Saving Money I know this is so obvious that I probably don’t even need to mention it, but have you ever done the sums? Here’s what we pay for our one car on a monthly basis (averaged over three years):
- $105.00 – insurance
- $8.00 – roadside assistance
- $30.00 – registration
- $55.00 – maintenance
- $95.00 – gas
Since we always make a point of buying our cars with cash, we don’t have interest payments to consider. However, if I have $10,000 earning 7% in my mortgage offset account rather than using the money to buy another car, that’s another $2,329 in interest earnings over three years. I also need to account for depreciation which is the most painful aspect of owning a car in my opinion. Using a car depreciation calculator I worked out that a $10,000 car could depreciate between $2,950 and $4,880 in three years. Over the three years we will be living in the USA, the decision to not have a second car saves us somewhere between $15,800 and $18,000! That’s a darn good holiday!
Health Benefits My legs are stronger, my heart is fitter, my mind is clearer. These can only be good things. Taking away a passive activity (sitting in a car) and replacing it with a simple everyday activity has been an easy way to increase my movement. I’m usually the type of person who battles exercise, but when I took up riding with its many benefits, I didn’t see it as just exercise. It’s been a clever way to trick my mind.
Better for the environment For me, this is a big one. Often when I ride home from work I overtake about a hundred (not an exaggeration) cars caught in traffic jams. I casually cruise by while each of their gas guzzlers idle and belch out toxic emissions. Not only am I saving money, but I’m saving non-renewable raw materials. I’m reducing my carbon footprint. I’m keeping the air cleaner and reducing that nasty smog which seems a permanent fixture in many American cities.
Simplifying Life Getting out and riding a bike to work and around the neighbourhood truly makes me notice things I wouldn’t have while stuck in a car. I enjoy the breeze in my face, the sun on my back, the exchanging of pleasantries with people I pass. I find it so much more relaxing to ride to the local library than to drive and try to find a park on the main street. Using the bike has so many benefits that I truly hope that this can be a permanent change in my life. Who else has discovered the joys of using a bike instead of the car?