The economics of biking to work

A little off-topic for my photo blog, but this is one of my other passions — cycling.

bike commutingLast year, I started a new job in downtown Madison, which cut my commute from 44 miles down to 9 miles (each way). This was the perfect opportunity for me to start riding my bike to work on a regular basis. This year, I have clocked over 1900 bike commuting miles and am on pace to break the 2000 mile mark, which was my goal. Along the way, I have pondered the benefits of biking to work. Initially, it wasn’t about saving gas money, or even getting into better shape — it was about the freedom of riding my bike. I love being out on my bike and the fact that I could incorporate that into my commute was perfect for me.

As you can see from the lists below, the actual dollar amount is not in favor of biking to work (EDIT: that depends on how you calculate the cost of driving, see edit in the list below) — I spent more on my bike gear than I would have on gas. A lot of those costs can be amortized over time whereas you’ll always be buying gas, not to mention my list doesn’t account for oil changes/maintenance. So to get to the real economics of biking to work, we have to dig deeper.

Health and fitness is the biggest factor for me. The psychological benefits are impossible to put a dollar amount on — I’m a happier person when I ride my bike. I don’t need to spend money on a gym membership. I have lost weight this year while biking to work. It also means I get to eat more donuts, which I am unfortunately very much addicted to (especially the bismarks from Lane’s Bakery). A quick online search will find you a multitude of studies that show tell you all the benefits of riding your bike more, so I won’t bother going into further detail here.

One final factor is the environmental impact of biking to work. It’s not the reason I started, but it’s another feel-good reason for biking to work. I reduce my carbon footprint by a sizable amount by biking to work.

Taking all of these benefits into account, biking to work is the economical answer. Not just the actual dollar amount, but in all of the intangibles. I would love to see more people out on their bikes, whether riding to work or for the pure enjoyment of cycling. Why do you ride? Why don’t you ride? I would love to hear your responses — feel free to comment!


  • bike: $40 at rummage sale
  • initial cost for full tune-up by a bike mechanic: $100
  • new tires (August 2009): $75 (yeah, I bought the expensive tires)
  • bike rack and panniers: $105
  • lights (front/back): $50
  • shoes and cleats: $105
  • helmet: $40 (already had one)
  • sunglasses: $40 (I have a cheap pair of sunglasses with interchangeable lenses — on cloudy/rainy days, I use the clear lenses because I like the extra eye protection)
  • clothing: $0 (I pretty much use what I already had from other sports I play — I don’t wear cycling jerseys while commuting, just comfortable athletic wear)

vehicle savings

  • Gas savings: 2000 miles @ 30 mpg = 67 gallons @ $2.50/gallon = $167.50
  • EDIT: as suggested by Frank, I could calculate vehicle costs using the mileage reimbursement value as specified by the IRS. 2000 @ $0.55 = $1100

health and fitness

  • I lost weight (the average bike commuter loses 13 pounds of body weight [Bicycling Magazine])
  • my resting heart rate is 52 bpm
  • I lowered blood pressure (120/68)
  • less stress = better mental well-being


Making the tough decision

Stop sign by lgbsneakOne of my wedding clients just canceled their wedding that is only 3 weeks away.  At first, this seems pretty bad — think of all the guests, reservations, bookings, and money that has been spent planning this wedding — worse yet, what will people think of them!

It turns out that during the planning of this wedding they realized that they had to deal with some issues — some really tough issues (and not just details of planning the wedding).  They could have just glossed over those issues and carried on with the wedding (putting on a façade for all of their friends and family), but what would have happened 2 months after the wedding?  Would these issues resurface in a bigger and uglier form?  Would they end up in divorce?  Worse yet, what would have happened if they glossed over those issues until after they had children?

This couple made a very tough decision, and it is the right decision.  They needed more time to work things out before they make a life-long commitment to each other and to God. They were able to face up to the fact that they needed more time, and I applaud them for that.  If more people had the courage to do what they did, we would see a much lower divorce rate and much stronger families.

This couple is still dating, and while they have no plans of marriage at this time, I would wager that if the time comes, they will be more ready than the average couple and I hope to be a part of that very special day.

(photograph by lgbsneak)

Fun in the snow

A walk on the river

This has been quite the winter for snow!  We’ve broken the record in Madison and it’s not even the end of February yet.  This past weekend we were up at the camp (in da UP, eh) and I was able to escape for a nice peaceful walk along the river where there was ample snow and sunshine.

I was really enjoying taking pictures that faced right into the bright sun.  Having such an intense light really added a great deal of contrast to many of my images. It was also fun to play with light and shadow on the surface of the snow.
Don’t let the sun fool you, it was bitterly cold that day.  I had to be extra careful not to let my camera freeze up.  With all of the electronics that go into cameras nowadays, it doesn’t take much to wreak havoc on those high-tech toys.

You can't take pictures without a camera

Winter trees
Lately I have been telling myself that I need to take more pictures. I’ve been doing my weddings and taking pictures of the kids, but I haven’t done any personal work in a while. The first thing that I needed to start doing was actually bringing my camera with me when I go out (‘cuz you can’t take pictures without a camera).

Well, it just happens that the first day I decide to bring my camera with me, my drive to work presented me with an excellent photo op. The weather was just right for creating large amounts of frost on the trees and there was a nice heavy fog in the air.  Even though I was already running a little late, I stopped the car and spent five minutes taking pictures. I’m so happy that I did, because I’m really enjoying the handful of images that I took.

How’s that for synchronicity?

Baby time

Evan Andrew Gormley
I’m a little late with this post, but just about two weeks ago, Evan Andrew was born. He’s a big fella, weighing in at 9 pounds 12 ounce. For those who are interested in the details and pictures, head on over to his website. (Yes, he has his own website already, that’s what happens when his dad is a photographer/web geek)

April snow

baby robin

This winter has been rather odd. No snow for Christmas, a huge snow storm in February, great weather for St Patrick’s day, and now snow in April. The snow coincides perfectly with me getting my bike tuned up and ready for summer. I guess I’ll just have to wait a little longer.

Still lurking about

I have good reason why I haven’t posted yet this year — we’re expecting another baby! Vicki is due on July 9th and we just found out the other day that it will be a boy, so Isaac will have some friendly competition. This will make for an extremely exciting summer!