Economics 101 of Cycling

There is a growing debate and criticisms of recreational weekend cycling activities that claim to be doing good for the environment ie “greenwashing”. Some claims that only utility cycling (carrying and transporting goods on a bicycle, trishaw, etc) and bicycle commuting for work or school (activities which otherwise would be done using vehicles that consume fossil fuel) are the only true form of “green” and “sustainable” cycling.

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Personally, I am not planning to take side on this as I support all forms of cycling and like to see more people getting into cycling whether in commuting daily or just for the weekend recreational rides. But just for the fun of it I would like to see these two cycling forms (recreational vs commuting) through the economic lenses.

Let us start by generalizing a typical recreational cyclist:
• Basically a weekend cyclist that rides once or twice a week
• Most probably rides a mountain bike or a road bike
• The bikes are normally top of the line (lighter, faster) with accessories
• Cycling with full jersey, pants, helmet and all the other cycling gears
• Transport the bike by car to the cycling events or cycling spots (ie Putrajaya)
• Sometimes drive 50km one way just to cycle 20km (or even further for out of state jamborees)

The economics for a recreational cyclist in a month:
• Assume: Petrol price per litre :RM1.90 can go for 10km (so 0.19 sen per kilometer)
• Cost of petrol : 50km x 2 ways x 4 times a month = 400km x 0.19 sen = RM76
• Toll to Putrajaya from Shah Alam : RM6 x 2 ways x 4 times a month = RM48
Eating post cycling : RM10 x 4 times a week = RM40
• Cost to health (massage sprained body and calf after cycling) : RM40/hour x 4 = RM160
• Cost to environment for emission driving 400km to cycling venue: unable to calculate
• Total quantifiable cost for a month of recreational cycling : RM 324 (Spent)

Let us now look at a typical commuting cyclist:
• Commute daily to work for a distance of 25km one way
• Using “normal” bikes; could also be mountain or road bikes but not top of the line models (fear of getting the flashy bikes stolen). The motto for bike commuting is the less attractive looking the bikes the better.
• Bicycles are normally heavier with mudguards in case it rains and locks, bell and bike stand and rear rack for carrying loads.
• Cycling using normal clothes unless there is changing facility at the destination
• Sometimes do not wear a helmet (Note: I advise to always wear a helmet even for a short ride)

The economics for a commuting cyclist in a month:
Assume: Petrol price per litre : RM1.90 can go for 10km (so 0.19 sen per kilometer)
• Savings of petrol : 25km x 2 ways x 20 times a month = 1,000 km x 0.19 sen = RM190
• Savings on Toll of 30km road stretch (assume) : RM6 x 20 times a month = RM120
• Savings on Parking cost : RM150 per month (KL rate)
• Total quantifiable cost savings for a month of commuting cycling : RM 460 (Saved)
• Contribution to the environment for reducing the emission from fuel based vehicles : Priceless

There you have it folks, based on the assumed scenario (not scientifically proven though) a typical weekend recreational cyclist would spend RM 324 per month while a typical commuting cyclist will save RM 460 per month.

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Pictures credit: Liyana Kamaruzaman
But like what we like to say in Malaysia “Tak kesah lah bro, yang penting enjoy!” (No worries brother, in the end everyone enjoys) 🙂

Note: USD1 = RM3.50

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3 thoughts on “Economics 101 of Cycling

  1. I consider 25km daily, one way, herculean effort.
    My daily commute is a nice, manageable 7km/20ish minutes :-).
    Nice blog and keep writing (and riding) :-).

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