Beaterbikonomics: Owning (And Occasional Theft Of) A Bike Is Way Cheaper Than Transit

Ian Sacs's picture

Pains of an imminent NYC transit fare hike and a recent article in the New York Times on bike theft/vandalism defeatism inspired me to validate the overwhelming perceived economic benefits of commuting by bike versus transit, despite the occasional theft.  If frugal is the next big thing and green is the new black, then hop on a crappy old bike if you want to be hip.  In the chart below, I compare the costs of commuting by transit assuming the regular purchase of a 30-day unlimited metro pass ($81 in NYC as of April 2009, but not for much longer) to commuting by beater-bike assuming the occasional theft.  I checked the beloved craigslist for used bicycles and determined that one can find an acceptable replacement for $150 on average (lower if you've got the knack).  I would say that used bikes in NYC are a bit pricey, but if you buy through a local community bike program (or start your own!) such as HoBiken in my hometown of Hoboken, NJ, you can smash this analysis.  Anyway, if you think you can manage to keep your losses to less than 5 bikes per year, surrender your metrocard and start riding:

Ian Sacs, P.E. is a worldwide transportation solutions consultant based in Finland.


Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month
Wood necklace with city map

City Necklaces

These sweet pendants are engraved on a cedar charm with a mini map of selected cities. The perfect gift for friends and family or yourself!
Red necktie with map of Boston

Tie one on to celebrate your city

Choose from over 20 styles of neckties imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.