Final transport challenge: Cycling to work saved me around $6,000 a year

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My trust Giant bike
My trusty Giant Cypress bike

This is a blog post about cycling to work.  A few years ago I never imagined that I could write something like this.  But then I made the change.

Famous money blogger Mr Money Moustache famously writes about how he ditches his car in favour of cycling everywhere.  I remember when I started reading his post, I was thinking, “yeah, good but”.  Well at that time I was living in Taiwan with young kids. To my credit, I actually used public transport a lot.  The weird thing is that I actually walked and cycled a lot more living in a city of 2.7 million people than I did when I returned to the suburbs of Canberra.

Back in Australia, I had dreams of using my electric bike to go to work, but then I got my kids a rare place in the childcare centre at my work.  I know some people who can cycle 20+km on hilly routes with two young children, but for me, that was a bit too much.

So I didn’t cycle.  And instead, we did daily car commutes. My butt kept getting bigger and I was too exhausted to do much exercise when we finally got home. So I made a same city tree change and moved to inner Canberra.

When I calculate the move in terms of dollars and cents, there is probably no discernible benefit. I had paid off the mortgage in my home, and I had rental coming in from my granny flat.  From a financial point of view, I was better off staying rather than moving to a more expensive apartment with body corporate.

But sometimes (oh, and as a money blogger I hate to say this), it isn’t always about the money.

Yep, some things such as health and wellbeing are even more important.  Ever since I started cycling to work last April I have felt so much better. This is not my imagination: my Dad noticed it when we went skiing together last August.  I am not a super fit person, I have no dreams of being a triathlete and sadly I still struggle with weight loss.  But if I can cycle to work, anyway can.

I believe that this new cycling routine is adding years to my life.

That said, while I am not financially better off from moving to a more expensive area, I do save money on transport – which is what this post is all about.

I now live 6.5km from work (7km if I take a scenic route).  This is what my daily commute looks like:

First I cycle with my kids to school.  it is a bit hard to get them out the door, but they have lots of fun.

This is the cycle to school. The school is on the right, out of the picture. Note the view out to Black Mountain in the middle.

Then I cycle along with uni students along a pleasant bike path through a park. I kind of feel like one of the crowd.  Then I go through the city centre on a dedicated bike path.  It is relatively quick and I am rarely stuck with traffic.  Over a footbridge, I get to look on all the cars stuck in traffic, reminiscing about how that used to be me.  “So long suckers,” I think to myself as I puff up the bridge and over to connect with the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

This used to be me: before I moved I was in one of these cars, always stuck in traffic along here.
Yep, more cars

I then cycle along the lake.  The first glances of the lake always makes my heart sing.

Cycling in Spring
Cycling in Spring
A foggy view of the lake
The same spot in winter – minus five degrees, no problems.
A little bit further around, on a clear day

Then I cycle over a second bridge, enjoying a view of the National Museum of Australia and Black Mountain.

Rowing boat on the lake
The lake is always busy in summer
The National Museum of Australia in early evening in winter
The National Museum of Australia in early evening in winter

If I am running late I take a short-cut past the historic Hyatt Hotel and then cut past the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canadian High Commissions.  A short cycle up the hill past Australian Parliament House and I am at work.

Flowering azaleas at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra
Flowering azaleas at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra

If I have more time I like to cycle along Lake Burley Griffin past the National Library of Australia and Questacon, with views out past the Australian War Memorial.  Some days I am lucky (or unlucky as it usually means I am running late) to enjoy the sounds of the Carillion chiming as I cycle past.

Lake Burley Griffin, near the National Library of Australia
Lake Burley Griffin, near the National Library of Australia

I usually cut in past the National Gallery of Australia and cycle up past the Department of the Environment/Old Parliament House to the (former) National Archives building. From there it is close to Australian Parliament House and onto work.

On days when I get up super early, I go the long way through Telopea Park and around next to Kingston Foreshore.

Telopea Park
Telopea Park

I haven’t been cycling much over the last week as I was unwell last week. When I stop cycling, even for a short time, I really notice how unfit I feel.

Well, how much does it save me by cycling?  Well, I save up to $12 a day in parking (note: this is the maximum – I previously had cheaper rate leasing from a nearby church but I will use the maximum for now). I also save a bit of hot water as I take showers at work.  I save $20 a week as I cancelled my gym membership.  I noticed a dramatic decrease in my petrol consumption.  Although it was only a short commute to work, but cycling nearly every day I reduced my petrol usage by over half – I save at least $100 a month. I also have been able to extend the need for having the car serviced by around nine months; because I am not using it as much there is much less mileage.  I am also extending the usage of my car in general.  My Dad is taking over my car in May, so I only have my car for a few more months in any case.

This is how much savings stack up:

Parking $12 a day for 48 weeks $2,880
Gym membership savings $1,040
Petrol savings $1,200
Serving fees $1,000
Hot water savings $150
$6,270

To this, I would add that my health and immune system over winter last year was better than it had ever been.  While everyone at work was down with the dread Aussie flu, I was healthy.  Of course, I am not totally immune: after bragging about how I never get colds anymore I suddenly got sick late last year.  That said, I know that I took a lot less sick days last year because overall I had a lot less colds and viruses.

My Giant bike cost $320 secondhand.  It was in great condition and did not need much servicing. I have had a few flat tyres, which my lovely Neil has fixed for me.  He tells me not to ride over bindies:)

Do you cycle to work?  If so, how long do you cycle and do you enjoy it?

12 comments

  1. Ah I am in the same boat with daycare -it’s not feasible for me to ride with the kids. My husband does shift work, so I can’t even abandon the car in favour of the bus at the moment – can’t get everyone to where they need to go and still get to work on time (in civic). Will be much easier when both kids are in school full time but that’s not for 3 years 🙁
    Until then I’m hoping the husband gets a day job so he can do daycare and I can ride to work!

    1. My youngest started at ‘big school’ this year. I blinked and suddenly the two of them are in school uniforms heading off to school. Enjoy this special phase; time passes so quickly. Sounds like you have a bit of a juggling act at the moment. Good luck with it all.

  2. What gorgeous photos. I love the idea of cycling to work but my round trip is 140kms, so perhaps not! But since my new bike arrived late last year, I’ve been riding up to 30kms a week and enjoying it hugely. No money saved but, like you, I can feel the health benefits.

    1. 140km, pfft, I’m sure that’s just an excuse! (I shouldn’t joke with you, because I certainly wouldn’t be commuting like that). That said, electric bikes are making it a bit easier for some people to ride more. The distance isn’t as long as you might think, though.

      Where do you cycle to?

  3. I’ve been taking the train into work and, like you, I’ve been amazed at how long a tank of petrol lasts now! I take the ‘Early Bird’ train in so it doesn’t cost me anything, which then slashes my transportation costs by 50%/$600 a year.
    Your commute looks lovely.

    1. I remember reading your inspiring blog post. Wow, getting in early every single day to take the early bird train:) It is amazing how much you save on petrol when you are not commuting every day.

  4. How inspiring! That ride looks beautiful.

    I have too many kid drop offs for now over the other side of town, but I definitely think David and I can carpool once or twice a fortnight. And I’ve just got my bike fixed up so I can make short trips into Gungahlin on my bike. Every little bit helps!

    1. Every bit certainly helps:) I didn’t ride hardly at all before I moved into my inner North apartment. Even cycling to the local shops was hard as it was hilly on the way back (although I did it sometimes).

      Short trips sounds like a good thing to aim for. It is lovely weather at the moment, and there are some lovely cycle paths around that way. Yes, every little bit does help. I mentally think of every car trip as costing around $5 (it is difficult to definitively cost it out as it is more than just petrol), so if you think of it that way it provides at least some measure.

    1. Thank you. All photos taken on my Huawei Mate8 phone. I felt a bit weird stopping mid cycle but sometimes the views on my morning ride just took my breath away. My car trip mostly follows the same path, although less along the lake, but somehow I never stop to enjoy the beauty of it. Such a metaphor for life: we are all in a rush to get there, missing the incredible journey along the way.

  5. I just started cycling to work. Became a ‘Money Moustache’ reader and with a new job I started cycling to the train station (2 miles each way) then catching the train. Such a luxury after driving to my old job for 45 mins each way.

    After Easter I decided I was going to take the leap and cycle all the way – 10 miles, so 20 miles a day.

    I’ve been doing it a week, and I now actually miss it on my off days where I work from home. I’m very lucky in that I can cycle on the canal towpath (I’m in the UK) all the way as I live next to the canal, and where I work is about 3 mins away! Only thing I don’t like is when I get muddy, as I don’t like walking into work looking like a hobo.

    Canal towpath looks like this: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/styles/main_image/public/rochdale.jpg?itok=0QmzMtqG

    1. Wow, what a fabulous commute you have. I bet you arrive feeling refreshed and positive (whether looking like a hobo or not).

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