I recently had occasion to take a car in for its biannual drive-clean test. The engine emissions passed the test comfortably, but the car needed an oil change, which meant an inspection, which uncovered problems with the ball joints and the brake pads and rotors. It all cost over two thousand dollars.
Last week, I rode my bicycle to the Loblaws, and noticed that the ratchet in my rear hub had started slipping badly. On the way home, I found myself in the middle of a road with a car approaching, pedaling furiously, and getting nowhere. Alarmed, I went to the bike shop. The proprietor cleaned and greased the wheel ratchet, then gave me the bad news: back gears of my bicycle came riveted to the hub, and the shop owner could not take it apart to fix it. After a decade of service, my faithful steed needs a new back wheel. The bill could run as high as sixty-five dollars.
Aside from taking less space on the street, not adding to the Earth's warming or my waistline, and (most important) making getting around the city a pleasure, my bicycle costs thirty times less than the cars I pay to maintain and insure. Buying, fueling, and insuring a car can cost up to half the after-tax income of many workers. A cycling colleague of mine once put it this way: drivers spend more time working for their cars than they save by driving them.