Tanya Mohn, 20 May, 2012
New data highlight that bicyclists in the United States save at least $4.6 billion a year by riding instead of driving.
The average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308, compared to $8,220 for the average car, and if American drivers replaced just one four-mile car trip with a bike each week for the entire year, it would save more than two billion gallons of gas, for a total savings of $7.3 billion a year, based on $4 a gallon for gas.
The findings were announced by the League of American Bicyclists, Sierra Club, and the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy organization for the Hispanic community, to reflect the strong economic and health benefits of bicycling, and its importance as a safe and efficient mode of transportation.
“There are so many reasons more people are riding, from improving their health to protecting the environment,” Andy Clarke, the League’s president, said in a statement. “But, especially in tough economic times, bicycling can also be an economic catalyst, keeping billions of dollars in the pockets of American families.”
More Americans are choosing to bicycle for everyday transportation. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of bicycle commuters grew 40 percent nationwide, and was even greater — 77 percent — in some cities, according to the report. Yet “government funding of safe bicycling projects is not keeping up. Though biking and walking account for 12 percent of all trips in the U.S., these transportation modes receive only 1.6 percent of federal transportation spending.”
The average American household spends more— 16 percent of its budget—on transportation than on food or healthcare. Low-income families spend as much as 55 percent of their household budgets on transportation, the report noted.
Making it easier and safer for people to walk or bicycle “is a matter of fairness,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote on his blog Fast Lane on Friday. “Many Americans cannot afford a car or are physically unable to drive. According to a recent Brookings Institute report, more than 10 percent of Americans not only don’t own a car, but don’t even have access to a car. In our cities, that number is even higher.”
LaHood noted that walking and bicycling are options people want, citing a national poll released by Princeton Survey Research Associates International in March that indicated that “more than 80 percent of Americans support maintaining or increasing federal funding for biking and walking.” “The benefits of bicycling are real, and there’s no arguing with the impressive ridership data,” LaHood said. “Bicycling is an important part of the 21st century transportation mix.”