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I think the GAO bases its estimates on cheap equipment. I just worked out my expenses for this year, $700 for 7000 miles equals 10 cents a mile. The expenses were three sets of tires, a new crankset, new chain, new cassette, new rear wheel (Sligo Creek Trail brideheads suck) and five sets of brake pads. All my lube products are over a year old (I buy in bulk) so didn't affect this years outlays. Also, the bike was new in October 2004 ($1200 for a Trek 520) so there should be some depreciation factored in there too. There were also bike specific clothing purchases I didn't include. It's still a huge order cheaper than driving to work and far more convenient than driving in rush hour traffic (love those linear parks) or using the Metro system.

If you cycle regularly for transportation you find that it is deceptively expensive. This is particularly true if you cycle in all weather, as many bike components won't stand up to harsh weather at all, and you need more specialized clothing and equipment to travel in bad weather, and that clothing and equipment needs to be replaced regularly. Comparing costs to other modes of transportation, most of the cost of cycling is marginal -- every additional mile gets you that much closer to replacing your tires, chain, cassette, jacket, or headlight. On the other hand, most of the cost of ownership of a car is fixed -- the big costs, depreciation, financing, and insurance, are essentially unchanged by how many miles you drive -- and the only marginal cost is the cost of gas. If you own a car and a bike, and are contemplating a five mile trip to go pick up some milk at the store, from a purely economic standpoint it's probably cheaper to take the car.

There are two cases where a bike comes out financially way ahead of a car. The first is when you have to pay for parking. The second is when you can eliminate a car completely by using a bike, and avoid those fixed costs. But the real reason to ride a bike is not financial -- you can't put a price on the quality of life it brings.

I think driving a car is significantly more expensive than riding a bike. Just as each mile on a bike gets you closer to replacing your tires, chain, cassette, jacket, or headlight so too each mile in a car gets you closer to replacing your tires, air filter, clutch or fuel pump. Each miles means being closer to changing your oil. Insurance companies take into account mileage in their costs, as does the bluebook value. The costs of repairing a car are an order of magnitude higher than that of a car. I suppose it depends on the quality of car and bike in question. Driving to and from work uses a gallon of gas. That's $3. If I were to bike everyday, that would save me $750. I could buy a new bike for that.

Washcycle --

I encourage you to get out on your bike and ride. It really is the best way to get to work. Just don't expect to save a lot of money.

There are two things you are missing. First, bike parts are not very durable, especially when used the way commuters use them. If you're really burning a gallon of gas a day, you're probably going about 20 miles a day, or 5,000 miles a year. Look at the list of what Mike replaced this year -- that's pretty representative of what you'll expect: a dime a mile, just for parts. I rode a bike in today that has exactly two original parts -- the frame and the seat tube. Everything else has been replaced in the past three years -- wheels, gears, chains, pedals, cranks, forks, brakes, seat, handlebars -- some of them multiple times. Like most commuters, I've pretty much given up on having the bike shop work on my bike because it's just not practical; it's quicker and cheaper for me to do my own work. At my level (just shy of 4,000 miles/year) I figure about an hour a week for bike maintenance.

The other thing you are missing is if you are really going to ride to work every day, you need more than just a bike. You need a lock and a helmet. You need warm clothes for the cold days and dry clothes for the rainy days. You need lights for the six months a year that it will be dark coming home in the evenings. You need a bag to carry your stuff. You might need studded tires for the winter. These accessories are expensive -- you could easily spend as much for them as for the bike -- and they don't last all that long either. I pretty much get a new set of lights every winter, and a new helmet about every 18 months.

I haven't done the detailed accounting that Mike has, but if I had to estimate, I would say about a dime a mile for parts, a dime a mile for clothes and accessories, and another dime for labor if you have the bike shop do the work, or the imputed value of your own time.

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