The cost of cycling

2€ coin fr 2002-2012

Since I bought my everyday bicycle in early May 2010, I reached a milestone of 20,000km. I’m even far over it now, but let’s keep things simple.

So I thought it was time to look back on how much I spent on the habit of using my bike for almost every move, commuting as well as holiday trip.

  • The bike itself was bought 870€. It means about 4.35ct/km (so far, no depreciation math)
  • New brake pads every 3,000km for 12€ (0.4ct/km)
  • New tires every 20,000km worth 70€ (0.35ct/km)
  • Almost complete drive-train change after 12,000km worth 260€ (2.2ct/km)
  • Several minor repairs and « upgrades » for around 15€ every 1,000km (1.5ct/km)
  • Some trips using TGV (French fast train), requiring extra reservation for the bike 10€, about once every 5,000km (0.2ct/km)
  • Accessories: bike panniers: 220€ (yes, I own 2 pairs) (1.1ct/km) and locks: 110€ (0.55ct/km)

(I don’t count gifts like the pricey Brooks saddle, thanks mum and dad.)

Total cost per kilometer: 10.65ct

Total cost over 20,000km: 2030 €

Total cost per year: 900€

What if I still used public transit? A yearly subscription is worth 847€. Employers have the obligation to refund half of it to their employees. So it would cost me 423€, covering only commuting and travels close to Paris.

Cycling covers a wider range of uses, at least that’s true for me. Places that were almost unreachable by public transit become really accessible on a bicycle, or combining bicycle with train for instance.

What if I had a car instead? What a silly question. Seriously it causes so much more trouble than it brings advantages, that it doesn’t deserve a close look.

What if France transportation policy was fair and sustainable?

Motorists get various indemnities for their mileage expenses driving to work. Public transit users have a 50% refund on their monthly or yearly subscriptions (as I said above). Cyclists get nothing.

I will use Belgium as an example. If you’re commuting by bike there, you get 0.21€ per kilometer from your employer (or as tax deductions, I’m not sure how it is applied).

I live 11km away from my workplace. I cycle 5 days a week, about 39 weeks a year (not counting holidays and winter days I don’t ride to work), which means about 4,400km a year, only commuting.

In Belgium I would get 900€ a year, one way or another, for cycling to work.

Why doesn’t such a thing exist in France?

Meanwhile in France the government promises to reduce taxes on gas, for an estimated cost of 300M€. Enough money to fund 1.5 billion kilometers of bicycle commute. And this is only temporary, gas prices will next year be higher than today. This money would have been better invested in more sustainable transportation.

No matter how much efficient, safe, clean, reliable, low-maintenance, exhilarating or whatever commuting by bike is, politics remain very short-sighted on transportation issues and solutions.

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