422 comments

Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation

bikenight

Bikemont, Colorado

Of all the objections I get from people about why they can’t ride a bike to get around, perhaps the most frustrating is the claim that bicycling is too dangerous. According to this line of reasoning, we all need the protection of a two-tonne steel cage in order to survive the trip to the office or the grocery store.

I’ve always felt that this was complete bullshit, but I admit that my emotions may have been playing a part in this rapid condemnation as well. I started riding bikes about 32 years ago, and I just never stopped. To me, bicycling is being alive, and I’d rather run any necessary risk of death than be condemned to a life where cars were the only way to get around, because that sort of soggy dependence wouldn’t be much of a life to me.

But luckily for all of us, we don’t have to choose between safety and freedom. They both come together perfectly in the form of bicycle transportation, and once we work our way through the statistics of the matter, all talk of choosing cars over bikes because of safety can be banished from the face of the Earth – forever.

There’s going to be a bit of math involved, so for busy people we’ll begin with the final answer, then work through how we got there below.

Riding a bike is not more dangerous than driving a car. In fact, it is much, much safer:

Under even the most pessimistic of assumptions:

  • Net effect of driving a car at 65mph for one hour: Dying 20 minutes sooner. (18 seconds of life lost per mile)
  • Net effect of riding a bike at 12mph for one hour: Living 2 hours and 36 minutes longer (about 13 minutes of life gained per mile)

In engineering and math, one method we use to prove a case is to define the boundary condition. If you can prove that your design holds up even in the worst possible case, it is guaranteed that it will work in all situations. So the box above is as bad as it gets. It’s already pretty good, so let’s see how we got there.

First of all, in the entire United States (Population about 310 million), there were only 623 cyclist deaths in the year 2010. For perspective, there were about 26,000 deaths due to each of “falls” and “alcohol”, and 35,000 caused by car crashes.  So for every cyclist who dies on a bike, 56 die in cars. Out of the MMM readership alone (roughly 0.1% of the US population), 3 people die in car accidents every month. 

But of course, we are a nation of Car Clowns, so as ridiculous as it seems, we cover a lot more miles in cars than on bikes. Still, we cyclists put in a good show given our small numbers, pumping out about Nine Billion Miles on our rippling leg muscles.

Dividing 623 into 9,000,000,000, we end up with a cycling fatality rate of about 6.9 per 100 million miles. According to the NHTSA, that same statistic is 1.11 for cars in 2010.

So on the surface, it looks like cycling in the US is about 6.2 times more dangerous than car-driving per mile (note that this is dropping as cycling grows in popularity – in the Netherlands, cycling risk is way down around 1 per 100 million). One of the goals of this blog is to help make the same thing happen here.

But we’re not done yet. First of all, let’s compare a cyclist at a comfortable commuting pace of 12MPH,  with a car driver on the interstate at 75MPH. Now, the risk per hour is equal, because the car is covering 6.2 times more miles than the cyclist. So the accident risk per hour of the two activities is roughly equal. Many will complain about this comparison, but it is valid in the sense that cars encourage people to cover ridiculous amounts of ground each year for no good reason – an average of 15,000 miles per driver per year. So the average driver ends up much more likely to die than the average cyclist in a given year.

Exactly how big is the risk in a typical hour of cycling or driving? Let’s calculate it this way: the average MMM reader probably has about 55 years left in his or her expected lifetime (1.73 billion seconds) . Dividing this by the chance of trouble in each activity, each hour of driving or biking subtracts between 20 and 24 minutes from your expected lifetime due to the risk of accident.

But wait – we’ve so far neglected the whole reason I even talk about bicycling on this blog: because it is extremely good for you, and it saves you a shitload of money. It is not an exaggeration to say that a bicycle is a money-printing fountain of youth, probably the single most important and highest-yielding investment a human can possibly own.

How powerful is this effect? Consider this: for every hour of exercise you do, you extend your lifespan somewhere between 3 and 9 hours. So while the fatality rate above suggests that riding at 12MPH for one hour would shorten your expected lifespan by 24 minutes, you more than counteract that with a gain of at least 3 hours*. The net benefit of 2:36 is what you see in my box above. And that’s the worst case – it only gets better from there.

The years you do live will not only be greater in number. They’ll be healthier ones. How would you like to be packed with energy every day, rarely get sick, and be able to climb mountains and lift heavy things without fear of injury? What about being more attractive to the opposite sex, more desirable to employers, having a clearer mind, and the ability to work harder? All of these are gifts that the bicycle giveth, even as the car taketh away.

What about money? Each hour of 12MPH bicycling also saves you about $5.00 in car operation costs (figuring cars at $0.50 per mile and bikes at $0.05). So that’s a minimum of $5.00 per hour of after-tax salary based on mileage alone.

Studies show that even mild exercise like riding 2 miles a day also saves you from missing about two sick days of work per year. Assuming your days are worth about $300, you spent 60 hours riding to earn $600. An additional $10 per hour. And how do we account for those extra 2.5 hours of life you gained? Since one of my rules is that your spare time is worth more than $25 per hour, you get another $62.50 in pay for each hour you ride your bike.

All-told, the net benefit is probably over $100 per hour, given the fact that being a cycling athlete makes you more productive, more attractive, more sexually capable, and better in every way than your old car-dependent self. And then there’s the joy of just getting out of that ridiculous clown apparatus and being a real human, powering your own transportation as you should be.

So that’s the worst possible case. It gets even better from here. Are you ready for a few final rounds of ammunition to fire into the limp corpses of the whining anti-bicycling complainers?

  •  Remember the US cycling fatality ratio of 6.9 per 100 million miles? That’s with our current group of cyclists: a disproportionate number of children under 14 with no driver training, homeless people, DUI-convicts who have lost their license, competitive road racers and downhill mountain bikers, and the less than 1% of adults who actually ride bikes to work like they should be doing. When you and I ride our bikes, we stop at the red lights and stop signs, obey the lane markings and use arm signals, use bright lights and reflective clothing at night. We plan our routes to pick the safest roads and paths. By following these steps, our own crash rate can be much lower than the national average. Probably even safer than the average for cars.
  • In the box above, I used the minimum 3 hours for the life-extension estimate. In reality, it is probably closer to 5.
  • While already much safer than car-driving, cycling gets even safer as more people join in. Drivers become more aware of cyclists, and more bike lanes and dedicated paths get approved and built instead of Clownways. So you win, AND you change the world – every time you ride.
  • “But I’m still afraid. How about I drive my car to the gym, and then work out really hard there to extend my lifespan?” – not a terrible idea, but you’re missing the math here. Car driving shortens your lifespan. Bike riding extends it. You’ll be safer if you ride your bike to the gym and do that same workout.
  • By saving so much money through biking, you are able to retire years earlier, potentially cutting out thousands of additional car-commuting trips to work. This improves your safety statistics even more.
  • And all this without even getting into the whole “Planet” issue. Sure, biking also solves most of the biggest problems facing developed countries – energy consumption, carbon output, climate change, urban sprawl, obesity, heart disease, depression, even wussypants mentality. But isn’t it amazing that the case is so strong even if you don’t give the slightest shit about the Earth?

Given these final adjustments to the data, I close the article with my own best estimates:

Biking vs. Driving

Driving a car at 70MPH for one hour:

  • 20 minutes of lifespan erased
  • $35.00 per hour of money burned

Riding a bike at 12MPH for one hour:

  • 4.5 hours of lifespan gained
  • $100 of monetary gains secured


On a Per-Mile Basis:

  • Car: Lose 50 cents and 18 seconds of life
  • Bike: Gain $8.33 and 1350 seconds of life

 


Regardless of how you tweak the stats for your own personal situation, the case for cycling over driving is so enormous that it would be difficult to even put them on the same level. Can you afford to take the risk of NOT riding a bike?

 

*Obviously, the life-extending benefits of exercise have limits, otherwise we could all live forever just by exercising enough to extend our lives by at least 24 hours each day. If you dig deeper into the linked articles and studies, you’ll find that the limit is somewhere in the 1-2 hours per day range, depending on exercise intensity (cycling is pretty low intensity, so let’s say two hours to max out the benefits).

I don’t know about you, but even as a retired person with a bike, I still don’t always get 2 hours of exercise every day. For the average modern citizen, the stats tell us that the average level is far, far lower – many people get ZERO exercise beyond walking between the car,  office, fridge, and couch. Maybe a visit to the gym or yoga a few times a week. For the average person, getting up to an hour a day will deliver spectacular benefits, and when you rule out “car clown” behavior (using a car for any trips less than 2-3 miles), it happens automatically.

Your situation might be different, but remember the intent of this blog is to change the behavior of a big swath of smarter-than-average people stuck in average situations. So I stand by the general accuracy of this part of the argument.

Further Reading: a random collection of bike stats at bikesbelong.org: http://www.bikesbelong.org/resources/stats-and-research/statistics/safety-statistics/

A nice comparison of safety stats at the Ohio Bicycle Federation that reinforces how damned safe bicycling is: http://www.ohiobike.org/misc/CyclingIsSafeTLK.pdf

Today’s Dilbert is appropriate for this: http://www.dilbert.com/2013-06-14/

An amazing story of the effects of bike transportation in other countries at The Guardian.

  • Jamesqf June 13, 2013, 11:44 pm

    Just a random thought re the “protection” of that two-ton steel cage. Eggs are proverbially fragile, so are they shipped in a protective steel box? Nope, in lightweight containers of paper pulp or styrofoam, which a child could crush in one hand.

    OK, so eggs are cheap, and maybe not worth protecting. So did your expensive new computer or other piece of electronic gear come cradled in protective steel? Bet not: cardboard & styrofoam, probably. And the UPS/FexEx guy probably gave it a good tossing around, too.

    So try an experiment at home. Got a nice sturdy safe? Well, put a few eggs in this protective steel cage, and push it off a table. Bet the eggs don’t survive…

    Reply
    • Wrecked June 14, 2013, 6:35 am

      That’s why crumple zones, seatbelts and airbags exist :)

      Reply
      • Jamesqf June 14, 2013, 12:45 pm

        True, yet you will still find many, many people who believe they need the two-ton steel cage to be “safe”.

        Reply
      • Bakari June 17, 2013, 12:35 pm

        Exactly. Those things exist to protect you FROM the steel cage

        Reply
    • Jeff June 14, 2013, 1:00 pm

      You try an experiment. Drive around in a car made of styrofoam.

      Reply
      • Jamesqf June 14, 2013, 4:50 pm

        Assuming I could find one, sure. But I do drive around in a car (Honda Insight) that’s made mostly of aluminium, and which weighs 1840 lbs – less than half the weight of a typical SUV.

        Reply
    • Jexy103 June 14, 2013, 4:40 pm

      So, what I hear you saying is: we are more likely to survive if our brains were protected by foam (read: bike helmet) than a steel cage (read: car)? ;-)

      Reply
      • Jamesqf June 15, 2013, 10:43 pm

        Well, you will notice that very few (if any) modern helmets (bike, motorcycle, etc) are made of steel. Most have a good bit of styrofoam included.

        Reply
      • muu June 17, 2013, 12:33 am

        you may not know it, but you brought up a good point. Ever watch car races? Notice how they all have helmets on? There’s a lot of damage that can be done to your head or neck when you get in a crash; a low-speed collision can leave you with a whiplash that affects you for months. For true safety folks SHOULD be required to wear helmets within a car, as the required protection is actually woefully inadequate in an actual accident situation. This never gets pursued, because 1) those companies don’t really care about your safety, and 2) it’d affect car sales if they required people to put on a safety hat. At least, all the images of high-class cars, or badass pickup, or anything of that sort goes out the window/.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf June 17, 2013, 3:08 pm

          Not just helmets. Most auto racing also requires an HANS device http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HANS_device and fireproof Nomex suits.

          For the “2 tons of steel” folks, note that the empty weight of a Formula 1 car is usually less than 1000 lbs, yet drivers routinely walk away from high-speed crashes.

          Reply
      • Brian June 17, 2013, 9:28 am

        You’re assuming a crash has already happened. The article is about the probability of having a crash, not surviving one.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf June 17, 2013, 10:53 am

          No, I’m talking about the people who wrongly believe they need more than two tons of steel around them to protect them just in case they do crash.

          If you think about what goes into crash survivability, it’s not strength per se, it’s reducing acceleration. If – to carry things to a logical extreme – you had a car made of infinitely strong material, what would happen in a crash, absent seat belts, airbags, and such? The car would come to a stop, you would continue moving (Newton’s Laws of Motion, remember?) and in a fraction of a second be smashed against the interior.

          Reply
          • Bakari June 17, 2013, 1:46 pm

            You don’t have to go to any logical extreme.

            As it is, with a steel frame and 2 tons of mass, including crumple zones, seat belts, and air bags, a head-on collision at 55mph (each), causes the human body to hit the seatbelt and airbag and decelerate so quickly that the internal organs slam into the ribcage with so much force that they literally explode on impact.

            There is a reason that crash tests are done at 35mph – its because safety features don’t compensate for physics.

            Reply
            • CALL 911 June 19, 2013, 12:27 pm

              Nothing “explode(s)”. Rapid deceleration can lead to aortic rupture (rare) or shearing of blood vessels/organs as the relatively fixed parts stop and the less well fixed parts decelerate more slowly.
              The reason tests are conducted at city street speeds, is because that’s the most common speed in the most common accidents. It is exceptionally uncommon to have a head on collision at 75 mph (150 mph closing speed) on a multi-lane divided interstate. Common things are common, so that is the standard they design to.

              Reply
              • Jamesqf June 19, 2013, 4:57 pm

                City streets and divided interstates are not the only roads that exist. Quite a bit of travel is done on 2+ lane roads, where (legal) closing speeds could be well in excess of 100 mph.

                It’s also not at all uncommon for drivers to run into stationary objects – trees, brick walls, vehicles parked off the road, etc – at highway speeds. Now I admit that I don’t quite understand WHY this happens, but it does. Saw an instance last weekend: 4 lane highway with center divider on that stretch, nearly deserted since the freeway alternative opened. One of those highway department digital signboards on a trailer, parked well off the shoulder, yet some clown manages to hit it dead-center, apparently (from the wreckage) at considerable speed…

    • Miss Growing Green October 29, 2013, 7:39 am

      Haha, good point! I hadn’t thought of that.

      Brings me back to the days in school where we did “egg drop” experiments. We all had to design protective cases for eggs and drops them from the ceiling in an effort to keep them from breaking. There were a few kids that tried using hard metal objects as protective cases… guess they grew up to design automobiles ;)

      Reply
  • Mr. Bonner June 14, 2013, 12:13 am

    I whole-heartedly agree with your argument. As an engineer myself I do a fair amount of number crunching, so the way I’d tweak the numbers would be to normalize the death rates to the population. The first hit on google said there are 57M cyclists, so the cyclist death rate would be 1 in 91,493 whereas the driver death rate (assuming 190M drivers) would be 1 in 5,429. Same conclusion, slightly different path.

    San Diego has a large cyclist population including myself, but unfortunately, these statistics hit home once in a while. There was a cyclist from a big local bike club killed last month not far from where I live on a stretch of road I ride weekly. He was 42 and left behind a wife and two children. Seeing a small memorial there every time I ride by is a reminder that I need to stay defensive on the road.

    Reply
    • Mr Money Motivator June 14, 2013, 3:50 am

      Here’s an interesting thought for you: What number crunching needs to be done to work out the accident/death rates for the number of seats on/in a vehicle? If I crash my bike, it’s unlikely I’ll kill other cyclists around me. If I crash a car with my wife and 2 kids in, that’s one accident, but 4 injuries/deaths, not including whoever else may have been in the vehicle I crashed into (assuming it wasn’t a wall!!)

      So for cycling: 1 crash = 1 injured person
      For cars: 1 crash = multiple injured people

      We generally call this collateral damage…

      Reply
      • Beth June 14, 2013, 4:41 am

        As a pedestrian, I was once hit by a cyclist. So yes. Cycling accidents can hurt other people. Still, I’d rather have been hit by a cyclist than a car!

        I don’t bike to work because there’s nowhere to store a bike and nowhere to clean up when I get there. (Which, unfortunately, is a necessity when you’re a woman and trying to look professional!) I’m experimenting with the bus to see if I can ditch the car for the commute. I wonder how public transit accidents fit into all this number crunching?

        Reply
        • Debbie M June 14, 2013, 8:54 am

          I don’t know that number (there’s still the problem of sitting instead of exercising, but there tends to be less stress when I’m reading on the bus than when I’m dealing with rush-hour traffic myself).

          Just want to point out that in my area, the buses all have a place to carry up to two bikes. If your buses are the same, you might be able to bus to work and bike home.

          Reply
        • scott June 14, 2013, 10:27 am

          Beth,

          I used to think the same thing about the incompatibility of bike commuting and being a professional. I acknowledge that the challenges for a professional woman are real. But they are not insurmountable. Do some research online. Be creative. Just know that as long as your workplace has a bathroom with a sink it is doable. That’s a fact. It just depends on whether you or not you want to make it happen. If you WANT to commute by bike you can make it happen. If you don’t really want to commute then it is easy to write off bike commuting as “impossible” for someone in your particular circumstances. I would encourage you to give it a try.

          Reply
        • Mrs PoP @ Planting our Pennies June 14, 2013, 10:59 am

          Beth,

          Before you give up completely, check this out – Mr. 1500 and I described how we stayed professional with our bike commutes. Mr 1500′s commute was 30 miles near Chicago and mine is 9 miles in FL heat and humidity! It’s possible, and if anything I dress much more professionally when I bike than when i drive. (Dresses of synthetic fabrics and fabric ballet flats are much lighter weight to carry on a bike than jeans and sperry deck shoes!)

          http://www.plantingourpennies.com/the-logistics-of-bike-commuting-and-staying-professional/

          Reply
          • Elizabeth June 14, 2013, 6:51 pm

            Cool! Thanks for sharing your post — it’s helpful to hear your
            experiences. If I already owned a bike, this would be a no-brainer.

            Unfortunately, I don’t own a bike so I have to consider the cost of a bike, gear for weather, appropriate clothing (for riding and for work), a rack, etc. Still, I think this may be worth considering because I now live closer to trails and safe places to ride.

            Reply
        • Rachel June 14, 2013, 1:54 pm

          Hi Beth,
          I’d join the chorus in encouraging you to consider biking to work. I have to dress professionally as well, but I’ve found that taking along a change of clothes, baby wipes, and deodorant can take care of any issues. (strapping things to a bike rack also helps so you don’t get a sweaty back from a backpack) It may sound silly, but I also use a key to come in the back door at work so that I encounter fewer people before changing in the bathroom. And if they do see me walking in, I can just feel all bad-ass for having biked in while they drove. I know several people who also have issues finding a place to lock a bike at work. Their solution is to use a cheap garage sale bike when commuting to work and just lock it to a lamp or pole somewhere outside. That way they don’t worry as much as they would with their “good bike” sitting out on the street.
          Give it a shot! It’s sooooo much more fun than driving once you get the hang of the routine!

          Reply
          • Joggernot April 19, 2014, 12:20 pm

            One man who rode to the Metro at Vienna station near DC kept his bike in a locker provided by Metro. He paid for the locker only after:
            1) losing his bike after it was locked to a pole
            2) buying a better lock only to lose the front wheel
            3) buying a second lock only to lose his bike seat and rack
            4) adding a lock to hold his seat on, only to lose his handlebars.

            I admire his perseverance. The lockers allow storage of a bike in a vertical position and when last I talked with him he had not lost anything for several months while using the locker.

            Reply
          • Ted Q April 20, 2014, 7:47 pm

            I hate carrying a backpack, and I also like to ride light road bikes without racks, so I leave a ton of clothes in my office in Seattle. I roll in, change into one of my ten outfits, and call it good. Of course, I’m an IT guy, and I live in Seattle, so no one expects me to look remotely nice, but it works really well for me. Once in a while, when it’s pouring and I have the car, I’ll take my stuff home and wash it. I would really encourage people to try this! It’s way more enjoyable for me to ride without a backpack – I wear a jersey and carry keys, wallet, spare tube and phone, that’s it!

            Reply
        • Naners June 14, 2013, 3:28 pm

          If you have even a spare corner in your workplace, consider a folding bike. They really do compact down into a very small space and they’re not much more expensive than regular bikes. Other pros: they’re no more work to ride than regular bikes (just a bit slower), and they’re also extremely light (something to consider if you need to carry a bike upstairs).

          Reply
          • Elizabeth June 14, 2013, 6:52 pm

            Thanks for the suggestion! I didn’t know there was such a thing. That would solve my lack of storage issues at home and work. I’ll look into it.

            Reply
            • Naners June 15, 2013, 9:27 am

              You’re welcome! If you do decide to go the folding bike route, be sure to get a set of fenders and also some kind of rack or basket so you don’t have to carry a backpack. The former will keep you dry during the rain and protect you from road dirt, the latter will keep you back dry and comfortable.

              Reply
        • Anonymouse August 17, 2013, 10:33 pm

          Transit buses 0.2-0.5 fatalities per 100 million passenger miles. Passenger vehicles were 1-2 per 100 million passenger miles. Motorcycles are currently around 25. In other words even safer than bicycling. Without the added health benefits of course.

          http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/index.html#chapter_2

          Reply
      • Bob Sayer June 14, 2013, 1:57 pm

        Instead of “thought experiments”, just look at the actual stats. They don’t support the blogger’s conclusion. Let’s suppose I decided to take a bike instead of my Honda Insight hybrid (which averages 89.8mpg, so minimal environmental impact):
        .
        Deaths per billion kilometres:
        3 car
        44 bike
        54 walk
        .
        I would be increasing my risk of death by 14 times. No thanks. Personal anecdote: My dad and my friend’s dad both had bike accidents the same month, and both are permanently disabled. One of them almost died in the ICU. I prefer to have steel & airbags surrounding my body, because I can trade-in an accident-damaged car, but not a damaged body. You only get one.

        .
        Conclusion: Make a bicycle that is enclosed, and I might consider buying it for short trips. Unfortunately I routinely drive 100 miles a day, sometimes as high as 200 depending on how far-away the clients are located, so it would have to be a very fast bike. ;-)

        MORE STATS:
        Deaths per billion hours:
        130 car
        550 bike
        Deaths per journey:
        40 car
        170 bike
        However you look at it, the bike is not as safe as the car (or bus or train).

        Reply
        • Bob Sayer June 14, 2013, 2:03 pm

          P.S. It bothers me that the blogger is misleading people with bad math (because something is rare, that must mean it is safer). That’s a logical fallacy. His argument was convoluted & seemed to make sense, but the Actual statistics are a better way to draw a conclusion.

          They are clear, concise, and easy to understand. I worry the blogger will erase my post rather than let other people see those stats.

          Reply
        • Phil June 14, 2013, 2:34 pm

          By your logic, we should never walk anywhere either.

          Reply
        • Naners June 14, 2013, 3:44 pm

          People are never afraid of what they should be afraid of. The leading causes of death in America are heart disease and cancer. Exercise has a massive effect on risk for both of these conditions. Sure, you could get your exercise by going to the gym, but my impression is that few people maintain a regular gym habit. Cycle commuting is ideal because it’s part of your daily routine, not something extra you have to do after getting home, and it’s damned enjoyable too.

          Reply
        • Bakari June 14, 2013, 6:35 pm

          since you are measuring in km, I’m guessing you aren’t in the US?
          the stats aren’t the same in every country.

          also, neither you nor MMM corrected for cyclist behavior. Most cycle crashes (in the US) are caused in part or in full by the cyclist breaking laws or riding recklessly. If you don’t ride that way, divide the fatality rate by ten to find your own personal risk factor:

          130 per billion hours car
          5.5 per billion hours bike

          Reply
          • Brian June 17, 2013, 9:41 am

            Let’s compare apples to apples by excluding long, interstate trips in cars, which obviously drive the accident probability way down. We are talking about riding a bike for what, 5-10 miles? Let’s compare that to only car trips of less than ten miles. The accident rate in these short car trips is much higher. Most car accidents happen within a few miles from home.

            Reply
            • GregK June 18, 2013, 8:45 am

              I’d love to see those stats, but I’m not sure they exist.

              Unfortunately (for those trying to come to a conclusion about the accident rate close to home), the fact that most accidents happen within a few miles from home isn’t because the few miles from home are more dangerous; it’s because most car travel occurs within a few miles from home.

              If you do find something that supports the hypothesis that shorter trips are more dangerous, please share it!

              Reply
            • lurker June 18, 2013, 10:02 am

              closer to home but at lower speeds so I would think car fatalities would go down if we could actually measure this? I love biking and that is what I know for a fact…it makes me feel better and gets me away from the computer for some amount of time everyday….what I hate are bad car drivers…

              Reply
        • Gmaxwell June 15, 2013, 1:27 am

          This is explained in the post. Yes there are more deaths per X miles on bikes but at the same time using a bike _increases_ your life expectancy. This is only surprising when you’re myopically paying attention to the risk of getting hit by cars and not considering the well established positive health effects of bicycle use.

          Reply
        • slowth June 15, 2013, 11:28 am

          “Let’s suppose I decided to take a bike instead of my Honda Insight hybrid (which averages 89.8mpg, so minimal environmental impact)”

          Dear Mr. Sayer, if your vehicle is in fact not made of 2,000 lbs (900 kg) of metal, and the NiMH batteries are not made of mined materials, and your vehicle runs on liquified unicorn poop instead of gasoline, then this statement is accurate. I drive a car, but let’s not delude ourselves. We should recognize the negative environmental effects of all cars, regardless of the hybrid nature of your particular vehicle.

          Reply
        • SZQ June 15, 2013, 7:15 pm

          I don’t care what ya’ll say about biking – there’s NO WAY IN HELL I’d be biking on any busy road!!! The way people are these days behind the wheel – TEXTING and TALKING!!! It’s gotten out of control! They certainly aren’t looking out for bikers if they aren’t looking out for oncoming traffic!!

          It’s just not worth the risk to me. I prefer to have a little protection being in a vehicle than to have all my limbs exposed out there – trusting that the drivers are paying attention to driving!!! One “OOPS’ by the driver and I’ve lost a leg, or an arm, or am paralyzed.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache June 15, 2013, 11:01 pm

            Thanks for this ideal example of how NOT to make your financial and life decisions – anecdotal perceptions and fear. A 100% contrast with everything this article is trying to express.

            Both car and bike injuries and deaths per mile have been dropping for years – even since the advent of this deadly “texting” thing everyone is afraid of. But more importantly, SZQ, you are missing the elephant in the room – the chance of most people losing DECADES of healthy life due to not exercising enough is close to 100%. Replacing all local car errands with bike ones is one of the most effective ways to fix that.

            Focusing on one risk while ignoring the other is like keeping your money permanently in a checking account at 0.8% because you are afraid of stock market crashes. Or never talking to any attractive people, remaining single forever because you’re afraid of rejection. A guaranteed worse result in exchange for a false perception of safety.

            Here’s an anecdote to fight the dangerous ones: I have biked on what most would consider to be “busy roads” pretty much every single day of the year, since at least 1999 (then at least 150 days of the year for the preceding 10 years or so). Somehow I remain alive! And as long as this blog continues to operate, each day you can assume I have ridden on busy roads AND defied certain death yet again.

            Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache June 15, 2013, 10:47 pm

          Bob – unlike you, I linked to the source of my stats throughout this article, which are from the NHTSA.

          You’ve clogged up my commments sections with your misunderstandings for too long now – Please go away.

          Reply
          • Diane C June 17, 2013, 12:05 am

            Dear MMM,
            I don’t care if Bob is right or wrong, but dissenting opinions and opposing viewpoints lead to enhanced learning and comprehension, as evidenced so beautifully on the MMM Forums.

            I care that you called him out publicly. Really, two comments are “clogging up my comments section”? First, I thought comments were for reader’s input and second, it’s not nice that you called him out publicly. You couldn’t have sent him an email? Is this some kind of diabolical MMM plan to quash all viewpoints other than your own?

            And for crap’s sake, will you please number the comments?

            Reply
            • guitarist June 17, 2013, 10:51 am

              I am guessing this isn’t the only article Bob has commented on.

              MMM has every right to call out a commenter providing “facts” without their sources.

              Reply
            • slowth June 17, 2013, 12:49 pm

              Let’s distinguish differing viewpoints and apparent comment trolling. If you look through Bob’s comment history, you will have much evidence in favor of comment trolling. It’s hard to argue he’s trying to encourage discussion. There’s a reason MMM called him out.

              Reply
        • ActualStats June 16, 2013, 1:41 am

          Hi Bob

          What I’m hearing when you raise these concerns is that, to you, the risk of being in a life-altering accident in the near future weighs heavier on your mind than dropping dead of a heart attack at 60. I actually understand that perspective — if you know someone who’s suffered a major traumatic injury at a young age, it’s hard to put that trauma aside.

          However, I think you might find this study from the Lancet to be illuminating. Please note that this is a peer-reviewed article in the premier British medical journal — not merely a back-of-the-napkin calculation (however thoughtful). http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961714-1/fulltext

          The authors considered riding bikes versus driving cars in London — both in terms of loss-of-life, and in terms of alterations in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs — which is how statisticians can account for debilitating injuries in young people).

          Their findings, for those who don’t have access to the full text of the article, are as follows:

          CRASH RISKS:
          1. Loss of 11 lives (418 life-years),
          2. 101 additional life-years impaired by disability, a cost of 519 DALYs.

          HEALTH BENEFITS:
          1. 528 deaths averted (5496 life-years)
          2. A reduction of 2245 life-years impaired by disability, a saving of 7742 DALYs.

          For the data nerds out there, they also did separate analyses attempting to quantify the public health benefits of reduced pollution — and applied all these same models to New Delhi (which, gah, can you think of a scarier place to bike!!??)

          Reply
          • ActualStats June 16, 2013, 1:48 am

            there are numerous other peer reviewed articles that come to similar points in other cities (and using slightly different methodologies). something to chew on.

            Reply
          • AS June 21, 2013, 3:10 am

            There is another study on Paris region. The complement compared to the english study is that they concluded that the biggest risk from cycling is due to air pollution and not accidents.

            They also calculated that depending on the increase of biking, health benefits for the entire Paris region (not only the bikers) would be 19 to 27 times bigger than costs. And that doesn’t include reduced pollution.

            Link to the study (in french though) :
            http://www.ors-idf.org/index.php/publications/rechercher-un-document/book/11-politique-de-sante-publique/185-Les%20b%C3%A9n%C3%A9fices%20et%20les%20risques%20de%20la%20pratique%20du%20v%C3%A9lo%20-%20Evaluation%20en%20%C3%8Ele-de-France

            And to conclude, in France the figure for the risk of accident (base 1 for car driving) are :

            walking : 2
            cycling : 2
            motorcycling : 8

            So, in France, not particularly cycle-friendly country, riding a bike is not more dangerous than walking. Hope people realize it and get on their bikes…

            Reply
          • Tommy B. March 4, 2014, 12:35 pm

            I work in the active transportation field in the SF Bay Area and it’s helpful to have cost-benefit stats like this. Mr. Money’s equation used a vehicular speed of 75mph on average, which is too high in my opinion. It should either be the average speed of vehicles in the city and hwy (probably closer to 50 mph) or better yet, it should just include data from accidents that only happen in the city and use a 35mph average since these are the trips cycling replaces.

            This study found the following stats for the Bay Area:
            Increasing median daily walking and bicycling from 4 to 22 minutes reduced the burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes by 14% (32,466 DALYs), increased the traffic injury burden by 39% (5907 DALYS), and decreased GHGE by 14%
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23409903

            I think the 39% increased traffic injury is an overestimate because there would be increased awareness and infrastructure around cycling as it became more popular.

            Reply
            • stepthrough March 6, 2014, 7:26 am

              Oooh, I know this is an old thread but so cool to hear from SF here! That region is doing some really innovative stuff accounting for the health and economic impacts in their transportation planning models. I think it’s interesting that you mention GHGEs but not ambient air pollution, not that climate change isn’t important but there have been a couple of recent studies that now show that more people are killed by transportation related emissions than by crashes.

              Like you, I disagree with the theory that crashes or injuries would increase. All the studies show that the rate of injuries decrease when more people walk or bicycle, at a population level, for pedestrians and cyclists AND motorists. At the individual level it’s a bit more tricky… The injury/death rates are higher by quite a bit for bicycles *per mile traveled* – but people travel significantly fewer miles by bike (by about the same factor, 1:10 or so). And on a per trip basis, the injury rate is also higher, maybe less than double, but interestingly enough the rate for women is statistically identical (women bicycling vs women motorists). Weird, eh? Must be all those daredevil men. ;) I’ve probably already written this elsewhere in the comments somewhere, though.

              Reply
        • KruidigMeisje June 17, 2013, 1:20 pm

          Dear Bob,

          Please check velomobile.nl for an enclosed bike, which is also very fast. It does run on pedalcraft, so your speed is in your own hands, eehh, legs. Unless you cruise downhill of course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzL2ww-0QVg
          And 200 miles a day? Doable: http://www.velomobiles.co.uk/tag/roam/ was done by normal people (bike enthousiasts of age 30-70)
          If your argument about all it would take is a link to a commerciale available enclosed bike to take you to bike, I am curious about your reaction.

          Reply
  • Mrs EconoWiser June 14, 2013, 12:27 am

    The Netherlands calling!!! Yes, I totally agree with you that most anti-bikers have BS arguments as to why they prefer the car. I always ride my bike to work. However, I was being a Car Clown sometimes by using the damned vehicle to get to places within a 10km radius. I have now forbidden myself to do that and so I have started to bike everywhere within the 10km radius now. Oh, and I also bought a cargo bike trailer and now I am doing my grocery shopping with the thing. Thank you MMM for teaching this Dutchy to make the best use of her bike!!!

    Reply
    • Patrick June 14, 2013, 11:13 am

      This comment reminds me of a conversation I overheard in the bathroom where I work.

      One young fella was complaining to another young fella about the terrible commute:

      “I takes me at least an hour to get here everyday! And, yesterday it took an hour and a half just to get home.” I had to ask, where do you live?

      Turns out he lives about 7 miles away in one of the worst choke point areas of DC (which also happens to one of the most lovely bike routes).

      There are no excuses here — this is straight up stupidity. There are bike shares, dedicated bike lanes, showers, free bikes, bike to work days, flexible scheduling, etc. The list goes on and on and on and on.

      These are guys with Master’s Degrees making these really awkward decisions. Yet, they’re still working out on the treadmill everyday (huh?).

      Reply
      • Marcia June 14, 2013, 11:46 am

        Wow, that’s pretty funny. I used to live in the DC area. I metro’d, carpooled, and walked (I moved a few times in my 5 years there). My husband often biked (did get his bike stolen once though).

        The bike path options in the DC area are so awesome.

        Reply
      • Bobbi Shaftoe June 21, 2013, 11:50 am

        My former colleague was complaining about how there was no good way to our workplace (near White House) from Glover Park. Buses slow or required transfers, no Metro option. I asked him why he didn’t just ride the 3 miles. Oh, too dark, rainy, hot, cold, whatever. OK, buddy, keep your 45 minute public transport commute

        Reply
  • Nathan June 14, 2013, 2:44 am

    I’ve been cycling for 30 plus years too, however what really boosted my confidence to cycle pretty much anywhere was reading a modern cycling manual.

    Some of the more advanced techniques to keep you safe can initially seem a little counterintuitive if you are migrating from vehicle to bike.

    You might find this book useful;

    http://www.bernan.com/Online_Catalog/Title_Page.aspx?TitleID=81018864

    To really boost your confidence you can find an instructor who will teach you the more advanced techniques in real traffic.

    Reply
    • GamingYourFinances June 24, 2013, 8:35 am

      Safe riding techniques are so important!!! I’ve been riding my bike to work for three years now. I’ve also been riding motorcycles for +10yrs. All the techniques they teach motorcyclists for safe riding are directly applicable to riding a bike.
      - Watch drivers head movements in their mirrors, it helps you predict what they’re about to do
      - Be noticable! Lights, reflectors and a bell! Bikes have a narrow profile and are hard to spot.
      - Positioning. Avoid blind spots, take up the lane if necessary, you’d rather slow down traffic for a bit than get squeezed by a car sneaking by
      - Scan ahead. Look beyond the next few cars and anticipate actions of approaching cars.

      Reply
  • Sandy June 14, 2013, 2:54 am

    Love your example about cycling in The Netherlands, which is where I live and you are correct: not many deaths here.

    However: I’ve been to the US on several occasions (at least 6 times) and I wouldn’t dare ride my bike there. The reason mortality rate in The Netherlands is so low is because there are bike paths EVERYWHERE. In the biggest city’s (Amsterdam and Rotterdam) it’s saver, faster and much more fun to get around on a bike.

    In the US there are no bike paths in city’s. Even to get to the mall I needed to cross what seemed to my Dutch eyes almost an interstate. I’d never dare do that on a bike. Never mind the distances one would need to cover to get from point A to point B. It’s ridicules!

    For the record: I own 3 bikes for various occasions and so does my husband. We have no car and commute by train (paid for by the employer) and bike for work. We love this lifestyle but I really think it’s only manageable because we live in The Netherlands. At least until the US government gets on board and starts building safe bike paths.

    Reply
    • Emily Allred June 14, 2013, 6:14 am

      I would like to see MMM respond to this. MMM, do you think the lacking infrastructure is an issue in large urban areas?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 7:03 am

        Sure, mainland US biking infrastructure (as represented by Atlanta) is not as good as it is in Denmark or Holland. But it is enormously better than Mexico or Hawaii!

        I remember scoping out Atlanta in particular as a place to live when I got a job offer there. For me, this meant seeing if there was a good neighborhood with a nice bikeable route to the office area. It looked great – the streets are wide, the density is low, lots of parks and open areas to cut through, etc. Much better than the bike commute between Downtown Hamilton, Canada and the university I had to bike through the winter season for four years.

        I don’t want to get anyone into a crash. But if you design a route and practice it on the weekend, it will probably surprise you with how well it works. I’ve been able to do effective bike travel in every US city I have tried it in, and will be doing more for this blog in my little idea – the “Cross Country Make MMM Bike Your Commute” documentary :-)

        Suburbs in general are a great place for cycling. You don’t need a bike path to be able to bike safely.

        Reply
        • Jimbo June 14, 2013, 7:19 am

          What a neat idea! This documentary will be very interesting. I would love to have you over here in Montreal, but the commute would be: “Take almost any street. Yup, you got it.”

          However, winter would be more challenging.

          We are getting to the point of the season where I think : “I really need to bike it through winter”, but I can’t seem to make it work as soon as snow gets here. At least there’s the metro…

          Reply
          • plam June 14, 2013, 8:25 am

            Jimbo understates the greatness of Montreal’s fast-developing bike infrastructure (described by someone at a bike store here in not-Montreal as “dreamy”). Not only are there tons of bikes—when I used to live in Montreal, while bike commuting out of downtown, I’ve counted 10+ bicycles at a stop light on Sherbrooke. But there are also tons of bike paths, including separated bike paths which are all over. Some of the bike paths are supposed to be plowed in winter too. (I did ride my bike in winter in Montreal when I was a kid!)

            Reply
            • Gerard June 17, 2013, 6:46 am

              Quebec even has “bike highways” between cities!

              Reply
        • Stephen at SE June 14, 2013, 9:17 am

          I lived in Atlanta and still have most of my family there. It is often referred to as the quintessential ‘worst bike cities’ and ‘most car miles driven city’. However, you can actually quite comfortably and safely ride your bike in the city if you simply choose where you live with safety somewhere in the picture. Places like Virgina Highlands or Midtown Atl have plenty of safe biking areas. Even dense areas like buckhead are starting to get bike lanes. Commuting from the suburbs by bike is unrealistic but a lot of people throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to biking in ‘not bike friendly cities’. I agree with MMM that you can safely ride in most cities if you do a little planning.

          Reply
          • Paula / Afford Anything June 30, 2013, 6:24 pm

            @Stephen — You might be happy to hear that Atlanta recently opened up major sections of a pedestrian/bicycling path called the Beltline. Atlanta’s city planners are making major strides in adding pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly infrastructure throughout the Intown neighborhoods — including dedicated bike lanes, more pedestrian crosswalks at intersections, etc. :-)

            Reply
        • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:34 am

          Things needed to bike safely:
          A working bike (with good brakes!)
          Confidence
          Lights if it’s dark out

          Reply
          • Brandon (And Higher Still) June 14, 2013, 12:10 pm

            Don’t forget the helmet!

            (And, if you’d like to ride that same bike home after work, a lock!)

            Reply
        • scott June 14, 2013, 10:48 am

          You can’t sit around waiting for the government to make things happen. You have to do it, encourage others to do it, and make it happen.
          I recently watched some documentaries on cycling in the Netherlands. I used to assume that their cycling infrastructure was so great because “those people over there really like cycling.”
          That is not actually not true. According to the documentaries the cultural shift towards cycling began in the 60s/70s in response to fuel prices and the rise in mortality rates from car accidents, particularly child and infant mortalities. Their incredible cycling infrastructure hasn’t always been there and did not show up over night either. It has been a work in process over the last 40 years.
          We just need to refuse to tolerate the status quo. We can also take it upon ourselves to self select to live in places that are more conducive to bicycle transportation.

          Reply
        • stepthrough June 17, 2013, 7:39 am

          I refer to that as the “Atlanta 12-foot bike lane”. There’s so much excess capacity here that you pretty much always have the right lane to yourself.

          To reiterate, somewhat belatedly, all the other good points on here:
          I’m female, and I’ve been primarily bicycling to work in Atlanta for almost a decade. This has included reverse commutes out to the suburbs with my bike on the bus part of the way, and now my delightful 2.5 mile commute downtown.
          I have found that most drivers are careful and polite around me. I hear about two car horns per year. But there is definitely a correlation between how I’m dressed and how I’m treated – a skirt and heels seems to bring out the best in everyone. Smiling helps too. Riding predictably and lawfully seems to make everyone else perfectly content to share the road with me.
          I’m also a public health researcher. It is hard to assess the actual safety of bicycling, because we have so little data about bicycle trips, miles traveled, or behaviors/risk factors. It appears that bicycling has about the same rate of injuries and fatalities as driving, maybe marginally higher (but with all those great health benefits you lose by driving). But there are some fun facts in there too, like that female cyclists seem to be much safer than female motorists. I assume this is related to riding behavior, not actually physiology? But it definitely suggests that you have a lot of control over your own level of safety.
          And of course, the more people start riding bicycles, the safer it becomes – also the opposite of driving.

          Reply
    • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 6:30 am

      Because American social norms differ greatly from Dutch social norms, replicating the Dutch-style infrastructure here is not going to happen any time soon.

      I find that most bicycle-oriented infrastructure in the US is designed to get cyclists out of the way of faster, presumed-more-important auto users, and is far from a safety enhancement. We have wonderful wide lanes for use by all vehicle drivers, however.

      That said, there are excellent options for crossing the traffic sewers you describe. Stop and watch the traffic on that big, wide thing for a bit. You’ll discover that traffic moves in platoons, and that there are often periods between platoons that a cyclist can exploit to get from one relatively quiet neighborhood to another.

      Reply
      • Mr. 1500 June 14, 2013, 7:33 am

        It does seem like things are getting better in the US though. I never remember seeing bike lanes as a kid and now it seems like most cities go out of their way to include them in the infrastructure.

        The rise of bike sharing programs is similarly awesome. I used to lament not being able to tour a new city by bike when on vacation (one of the best ways to see a new place), Now, bike sharing is everywhere. For a couple bucks, I can jump on a bike and explore.

        Finally, Google Maps is pretty great for finding good bike routes.

        Reply
    • Reepekg June 14, 2013, 7:01 am

      I lived in Denmark for 5 years, which got me into the bike commuting habit to work and for anything within 5 miles. It was much more comfortable to pick up the habit there as you feel safe in dedicated bike lanes (that come with their own bike traffic lights!). You don’t get brushed by cars, and car drivers are used to looking for you at every intersection.

      That being said, I have found that the states can be a safe place to bike if you put in forethought. MMM is quite correct to point out that you need to plan your route ahead of time to optimize safety. Americans always default to pick the busiest roads between A and B because you can drive the fastest on major roads. Cycling is limited by your legs, so you are better off cutting through neighborhoods and taking 25mph side roads. My 15 mile work commute through Chicago would be terrifying if I tried to take the highways or median-divided 2 lane main arteries, but it is absolutely beautiful and calm (albeit with like 20 turns) if I cut through old neighborhoods. Sometimes there just isn’t a good route, but like many things MMM, you can improve your outcomes if you start by changing your mindset.

      Reply
      • Giddings Plaza FI June 14, 2013, 9:23 am

        Hats off to you for biking in Chicago! I’ve lived there intermittently over the years (usually I’m there a couple months every year), and it’s my fave US city. That said, I’d be terrified to bike there. And, it’s scary driving there because there’s a pretty reckless biking culture in the city–weaving in and out of cars, most people NOT wearing helmets…Most of the year Ilive in Seattle, which has some bike lanes, and a safer biking cultures.

        Reply
        • Eric June 14, 2013, 10:34 am

          Why would you be terrified of biking in Chicago? The streets are wide, there are plenty of bike lanes, and there’s even a beautiful lakefront path that runs the whole length of the city! It’s an absolutely great city to ride a bike in.

          Reply
      • Giddings Plaza FI June 14, 2013, 9:38 am

        MMM, I’ve written in comments in your blog, and in articles on my own blog, that I hate biking. I used to do it for years in college, in Madison, WI, through crazy hot and crazy cold / snowy weather. When I could finally afford a car, I bought one (stupidly!). About 4 months ago I finally got wise, donated my car, and started walking / bussing / car sharing. BUT…BUT, because of constantly reading about your advocacy of biking, I am actually, for the first time in a looong time, going to start biking. A friend of mine left her bike behind when she moved, and I’m fixing it up and hoppin’ up in saddle. I’ll report back. I’m started with baby biking–to the store and whatnot. http://giddingsplaza.com/2013/05/22/update-on-carsharing-i-love-it-most-of-the-time/

        Reply
    • Patrick June 14, 2013, 11:19 am

      This is actually a good point.

      I lived on Staten Island for a spell (horrible). Nobody rode a bike there, and when I started, it was downright hostile.

      But, you keep trying and keep hacking. I definitely had to go out of my way to be safe. A good friend of mine almost got killed out there when he got hit by a Suburban, and had 2 surgeries to correct a lot of damage.

      I did it because it made the most sense, but I was often terrified out on that road. It wasn’t like old Astoria, OR where nobody would bother me on my bike. DC is a great place for cyclists, but conversely, I see cyclists do stupid things all the time here which makes us sort of a menace.

      Reply
    • CincyCat June 14, 2013, 12:30 pm

      It is for the reason mentioned above (lack of suitable bike-friendly paths) that I probably will not be biking to work any time soon. Even though it is only 6.7 miles away. :( I would have to cross an actual interstate taking one route (the most direct – as the crow flies); or else bike along a hilly, winding, tree-lined (read: low visibility) side road with no sidewalks or even a shoulder. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had near-misses in my CAR from this road, but it is the shortest, most direct route via car (saves gas). Also, this road literally drops off into a drainage ditch on both sides, with no sidewalks.

      That said, I am VERY likely to bike to do my regular shopping, and I’m researching bikes & trailers suitable for this purpose. It will probably take a while to recoup the savings in gas that I’m not buying, but the health benefits should be realized fairly quickly, regardless.

      Reply
      • Holly@ClubThrifty June 16, 2013, 10:59 am

        We don’t have a lot of bike paths in my area and I don’t feel unsafe when I’m alone. However, I would feel incredibly vulnerable towing my kids behind my bike! They would be terrified! They are the main reason that I don’t bike everywhere.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache June 16, 2013, 1:37 pm

          I would feel incredibly vulnerable NOT towing my young kid behind my bike (i.e., driving him around town in a car), because I’d be endangering my own health, and indirectly biasing him against a lifetime of local cycling, which would in turn ruin his life as well. Because remember: bikes are safer than cars. Nowadays he’s too big for the trailer so we BOTH ride our bikes together.

          Reply
          • Holly@ClubThrifty June 17, 2013, 10:32 am

            To each their own!

            I have no desire to tow my kids around behind my bike. However, they both have bikes that they are learning to ride. My youngest just turned two on Friday so she’s still on a tricycle….not quite ready for the open road.

            Luckily, we don’t drive much anyway. I work from home now and my husband only has an eight or ten minute commute to work. We can walk almost anywhere from our house so transportation just isn’t an issue for us.

            However, I do think it’s absurd to say that a person driving their kids around in a car might be “ruining their life.” I’ve driven my kids all over the place. I think they’ll be just fine.

            Reply
        • nubbs180 June 16, 2013, 8:15 pm

          I tow my two kids (8 months and 2 years) around in a trailer, and while the area has several bike paths, I have no compunctions about taking to the road. Cars see and respect the trailer. I’m guessing it is because no one wants to ever be responsible for bringing harm to a child; they give the trailer as wide a berth as they can.

          And that being said, both kids LOVE the trailer. The 8 month old frequently falls asleep while I’m pedaling, and the two year old prefers it to car travel in any circumstance. (Full disclosure: the first ride in the trailer for the older kid, through a park, was tears the whole way, the next was all eagerness)

          Reply
        • Jake F. June 21, 2013, 8:05 am

          I find when pulling a bike trailer that cars give me a wider berth, slow down around me, and are more likely to smile and wave. This is true whether I’m pulling my toddler or just getting groceries solo.

          I wonder what the stats are on bike trailer fatalities. I would assume that pulling the trailer is safer even than solo biking.

          Reply
    • CincyCat June 18, 2013, 1:46 pm

      UPDATE!

      I was making good on my “bike to the grocery” idea, and so I went to a local bike shop yesterday to check out the merchandise.

      Lo and behold, I discovered that they had FREE bike route maps for our entire greater metro area! When I was checking out various routes, I discovered that the route I believed to be “unsafe” for getting back & forth to work (when I posted earlier) actually is mostly along “preferred” roadways! Who knew?? This was a happy surprise!

      Anyway, I showed the bike that I want to my husband, and he is supportive of me spending the money to get it. :) If I can bike to work most days (I definitely need practice … it has certainly been a while), then I can save probably $150/month in fuel costs! Yay!!

      Reply
    • Alan Heppenstall June 19, 2013, 7:16 am

      The infrastructure seems pretty varied in the US and is quite good in Palo Alto where I currently live. One advantage that I feel exists in the US is that residential roads tend to be very wide and quiet. Contrast this to the UK where there are more cyclists but residential roads are narrow and tend to be busier. You’re right that it feels dangerous on the busy multi-lane roads but stick to a residential road that runs parallel and you’ll be fine. Google Maps navigation with ‘Bike’ selected seems to be quite good at finding these types of streets.

      Reply
  • The Kechi One June 14, 2013, 3:28 am

    Nice post! It’s because of you MMM that I bought a bike the last time I was in the states and brought it back to Japan. I feel like a kid again everday on my way to work. The roads here a reasonably safe as many Japanese bike as well.

    Reply
    • Andy June 14, 2013, 8:15 am

      I’m curious about why you bought it in the states and brought it back instead of buying one in Japan. Was it a price issue? Or is the selection better in the states?

      Reply
      • The Kechi One June 14, 2013, 6:15 pm

        Hi Andy,

        I bought the bike back in the states for the price. I was coming back to visit anyway and a good friend of ours works for a well known bike company. I was able to get a huge discount (about 25%) off a brand new bike plus it was free to take it on the airplane through Korea Air. The selection is wider I think in the states as most Japanese bike shops tend to carry Trek, Giant, and Louie Garneu (I am probably spelling that wrong). And those bikes have large markups as well.

        Reply
  • Mr Money Motivator June 14, 2013, 3:44 am

    MMM, have you considered changing your terminology to:

    “Bicycling: The MOST BENEFICIAL Form of Transportation”

    When people do a risk/benefit analysis (either consciously or subconsciously), being surrounded by metal is less risky than being on a bike. It doesn’t matter what statistics tell us, it is about how people perceive the world around them at that specific time.

    Risks are usually considered only in the short term, benefits only in the long term. As Mustachians, we obviously think long term, but we need to work on making those non Mustachians (naked upper lip-ians?) see the benefits, not focus on the risks.

    Reply
    • Jimbo June 14, 2013, 7:23 am

      I think non-mustachian is glabrous…

      Also, I don’t see the problem with safest. This is exactly what he calculates: it’s safer (as well a beneficial) to bike.

      Reply
      • Dr.Vibrissae June 14, 2013, 7:54 am

        I think glabrous is unable to grow hair, whereas non-mustachian is unwilling (constant shaving…in the extension of this analogy perhaps waxing would be debt i.e. removing the hair before it even reaches the surface) ;-)

        Reply
    • JZ June 14, 2013, 3:03 pm

      Sure, but that assessment that it is safer to be in a car is simply wrong, and there is no reason to be patient or accepting of people offering up wrong answers.

      It might be understandable to think that 2.99+2.99=4.00, but if someone starts giving that kind of math to me while telling me about anything money related, I will tell them to their face bluntly that they are wrong, and I will not be ashamed about it. This is the exact same sort of issue, where the facts are simply not in question or doubt. I’m not going to humor people who are completely and utterly wrong by toning my words down to avoid contradicting them, and I don’t expect anyone else to either.

      Reply
    • Bakari June 14, 2013, 6:43 pm

      “When people do a risk/benefit analysis (either consciously or subconsciously), being surrounded by metal is less risky than being on a bike. ”

      I think what you meant to write is “being surrounded by metal FEELS less risky than being on a bike. ”
      Because it isn’t. It just feels that way. That feeling is wrong.

      Just like it FEELS like your kids will be safer if you drive them to school than if they walk, because you hear about kidnappings on the news, even though they are literally over 2000 times more likely to be injured in a car crash than by a stranger.

      The whole point of this article is to educate people that their feeling is wrong. People’s intuitions are faulty, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn.

      Reply
      • Tim June 14, 2013, 7:22 pm

        Did you read the same article I did? The one I read said that the risk of dying while riding a bicycle is six times higher than driving when talking about the same trip.

        Reply
        • Bakari June 15, 2013, 11:23 am

          without considering my point that riding safely can eliminate 90% of car / bike crashes, the comment I was responding to was on risk / benefit analysis. The article points out that you are more likely to live longer because you ride a bike than you are to die from riding it.

          People’s feelings focus only on the perceived risk in the moment, and don’t take into account the much higher risk of dying from heart disease as a result of NOT riding a bike.

          Reply
          • Dillon June 17, 2013, 7:56 am

            Why couldn’t car drivers have the same ability to drive more safely? If bikers are allowed degrees of how safe they ride, then car drivers should be afforded some wiggle room as well.

            Reply
            • Ben Alexander June 17, 2013, 10:34 am

              The thing about that is that with driving, we’ve got most of the low-hanging fruit covered.

              Plenty of people still ride bikes the wrong way with no lights, weave in and out of parked cars, hop on and off the sidewalk unpredictably, intentionally weave “to scare drivers off”, ride bikes with no working brakes, all kinds of crazy behavior. Dangerous driving aside, it isn’t the norm to see cars coming the wrong way with no lights at night. There is simply more room for improvement with how bicycles are used.

              Reply
              • Dillon June 17, 2013, 12:07 pm

                I wasn’t saying the factor of 10 had to be the same, just the notion that there is variance in driving as well. There are plenty of driving behaviors, which might not show up as illegal, but which would seemingly be more risky (as well as behaviors which reduce risk).

                Plenty of people still drive without headlights when they should (see: raining outside). Plenty of vehicles, including tons of motorcycles, weave in and out of MOVING vehicles let alone parked cars. Plenty of vehicles change lanes unpredictably. Plenty of vehicles are operated without proper upkeep (headlights, taillights, brakes, etc.). Are they in the same proportions to the bicycle equivalents? Perhaps not and I do not really know. I do know some drivers are safer than others.

                My whole thing is that it is unfair to just add in this factor of ten for safe bike practices while ignoring the vehicle side altogether. The factor may very well be lower but it does exist. I’m all for bicycles becoming more popular and having more of their own infrastructure but at the same time I don’t want vehicles to be compared unfairly.

              • AndyD June 18, 2013, 2:41 pm

                “Low hanging fruit” of poor driving behavior is not actually covered. So many car crashes are a result of texting, cell phone talking, drunk driving, or being distracted by music, let alone poor driving habits as Dillon mentions.

              • Bakari June 18, 2013, 6:13 pm

                Call it “brushing the ground” fruit if you want.

                There are plenty of people drunk on bicycles (including those who lost license or car in a DUI, and those slightly more responsible who couldn’t find a designated driver), plenty of distracted cyclists (on cellphones, plus plenty with stereo headphones) and garden variety bad driving/riding (not signaling, following too close, weaving out of the lane).

                In addition to all that which bad drivers and bad cyclists have in common, cyclists ALSO frequently ride on the sidewalk, the wrong way facing other traffic, no lights at all at night, blowing through stop signs as a regular habit. Close to no car drivers ever drive on the sidewalk, or on the wrong side of the street.

                If cyclists and drivers do moderately stupid stuff, like operating drunk in close to equal numbers, and mildly stupid stuff like talking on phones or using stereo headphones in roughly equal numbers, then those numbers all balance and cancel each other out. That leaves you with just the incredibly stupid stuff, which is behind a majority of bike accidents, and almost no car accidents

  • Free Money Minute June 14, 2013, 4:08 am

    I would love to ride my bike to work everyday, but I live to far away to do this and 6 months of the year(or more) it is either snowing or raining out. I am not trying to make excuses, but it would be hard to do. I guess you need to make the decision to live closer to work (as you have explained before).

    Reply
    • Christof June 14, 2013, 5:31 am

      How far away is too far? My commute is just 16 miles but many already consider this to be too far. Even with six months of snow and rain, that’s another six months with sun that you could bike once a week, or so.

      Reply
    • Rockstache June 14, 2013, 6:39 am

      I hear you Free Money. My commute is 27 miles each way (in New England). I can’t move closer to work because I live with and take care of my grandmother in her house. I pay very little rent, but the commute is a killer. I can’t find a job closer to my house that pays even half of what I am making now (nevermind the benefits), so for now I am stuck clowining it. But I do consider this a choice that I am consciously making for this period in my life that provides other benefits (important time with grandma), and someday I hope to be a biker.

      Reply
      • CincyCat June 14, 2013, 1:25 pm

        Hello! I recently had an epiphany that even though I could not bike to work, I certainly CAN bike to other places, like the grocery or the hardware store, which are much closer to home. I’m looking into getting a bike for this purpose so I don’t have to get into a car for a 3-4 mile trip.

        Reply
    • JZ June 14, 2013, 3:09 pm

      I have spent several years commuting to work by bicycle in southcentral Alaska. I once rode a bicycle to a business meeting 14 miles away in December.

      They have these amazing things called “clothes”. Some of them are waterproof, and if you wear enough layers of “clothes” you can exercise in fifty degrees below zero. Just keep your exertion to a steady pace by adjusting your pace and gears so that you don’t sweat through them, and make sure not to wear any cotton.

      They also have a cool invention called “studs” that go in tires. Buy a pair of Nokians with carbide studs and you will have much better traction on the ice than any other vehicle that might be out and about.

      Reply
      • Sister X June 17, 2013, 11:26 am

        My husband bikes to work/class all through Fairbanks winters, too, thanks to the amazing invention we call “clothes”. I wuss out and am scared of (my hybrid bike tires) slipping on the ice, so I switch to walking instead. It’s amazing what you can pull off, even when it’s -60F, because of “clothes”.
        There’s even a woman where I work who bike commutes 3 days a week with her two small kids in a trailer, down to -30F. So most of the year. The kids get hot drinks, blankets, a hot water bottle, and they’re fine. I don’t know why people in the Lower 48 complain so much about a little rain and “cold”.

        Reply
        • JZ June 17, 2013, 7:25 pm

          Yep. Though I stopped worrying after the first couple days I tried the studs. Zoomed and weaved through a parking lot without incident, pulled to a stop, got off the bike and whoops! Wet black ice! I couldn’t walk on it. Crawled back onto the bike and rolled to a snowy spot. no more wussing out about slippery roads after that!

          Reply
    • Reepekg June 15, 2013, 9:54 pm

      “I would love to ride my bike to work everyday, but… it is… raining out.”

      Amazing as it sounds, it is actually possible to bicycle in the rain. I do it all the time. Spoiler alert: You just get wet.

      Reply
      • ActualStats June 16, 2013, 2:02 am

        although i will say, riding my bike in the smoke from all our fires out west is definitely harming my lungs. i finally had to stop, or keep over-using my inhaler!

        Reply
      • lurker June 18, 2013, 10:15 am

        i would just suggest testing your brakes BEFORE you need them when riding in the rain….broke my wrist once when I went to stop and nothing happened…slick rims…but riding in the rain is not awful…not the most fun for me as I lack a back fender so I get sprayed. cheers

        Reply
  • Elizabeth June 14, 2013, 4:34 am

    I have to admit, the math is pretty persuasive and I’d be curious to see the numbers for my area. My city isn’t great for cycling — a lot of busy, multi-lane roads with no bike lanes, for example. We have a lot of good trails and neighbourhoods where biking is more common, so that would skew the numbers of accidents right there. (Less chance of trouble if you’re biking for pleasure rather than commuting.)

    There are far fewer cyclists on the roads here in winter (ah, Canadian winters!) so that again would lower the number of cycling accidents if people are relying on public transportation during dangerous conditions.

    I’d love to hear from people in areas that have similar challenges. Do you bike through it all?

    Reply
    • Karen June 14, 2013, 5:02 am

      Hi, I live in London, Ontario and there is usually a month-two months each year where there is too much snow for most cyclists, me included. Some people do it with special tires, but the snowbanks make the roads narrower and visibility worse so it seems unsafe to me. Rain? Sure, I ride through that all the time.

      Side note: I ride most places because it’s quick and easy, but I have to say that I think that walking is by far the best mode of transportation. It’s easy to do all year long, better exercise than cycling, and way more relaxing. Days when I make the time to walk to work and back are pure heaven :-)

      Reply
      • Roy June 14, 2013, 11:19 am

        Another Londoner? Hello!

        I agree with you about riding here in the winter– the salt and narrow roads (snowbanks) make it pretty unreasonable. During the worst months, it’s LTC for me, which really makes me appreciate riding even more…

        Reply
    • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 5:54 am

      When I learned riding styles taught by the folks at http://cyclingsavvy.org, I found a couple of things changed for me.

      Big roads are now far less intimidating–to the point that travel on a six-lane arterial is less stressful than on busy two lane roads!

      Motorists are far more agreeable when they can see me from greater distance (lane position, lane position, and, oh, yeah! Lane position), so they have more time to adjust their travel paths to get around me (and they are more able to see what I plan to do, since I signal my intentions).

      Quiet streets are, to be sure, more enjoyable than busy roads. Wayfinding such that one can link quiet neighborhoods can be tricky in areas where all development was done under the assumption that if you were anybody, you’d drive a car everywhere. We have to learn to deal with the streets and roads we have, at least for now. Cycling Savvy (http://cyclingsavvy.org) is a great program that spends time focusing on creating those links.

      Reply
  • Joe June 14, 2013, 4:34 am

    I’m itching to ride my bike more. The biggest mental hangup for me is how to navigate the roads when turning. Might sound dumb to you diehard cyclists. But, I have NO CLUE, for example how to pull off a left hand turn into a parking lot when there’s a turning lane (and traffic) without getting squashed. Or what to do at a stoplight with a line of traffic (i.e. get in line with the cars stopped there? Ride to the intersection?).

    Don’t get me wrong, not being a complainypants. I want to learn!! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies June 14, 2013, 5:17 am

      For me, on smaller roads I’ve been getting in line with cars. On bigger roads, I get off the bike and walk it through the crosswalk – takes longer, but feels safer.

      Reply
    • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 5:26 am

      It most certainly does NOT sound dumb, Joe. We all were there at some point in our lives.

      I don’t know where you live, but you might find a Cycling Savvy (http://cyclingsavvy.org) class near you. Have a look at I Am Traffic (http://iamtraffic.org) and Commute Orlando (http://commuteorlando.com) for a wealth of good information on safe riding tactics.

      Mrs PoP has it partly right: getting in line with cars (we call it “control the lane”) is very good (we allow motorists to pass when it’s safe to do so–we’re not there to keep folks from getting where they are going, we just want all to be safe). This works especially well on multi-lane roads! I use a helmet-mounted mirror, and can see motorists change lanes hundreds of yards back when they realize that they will need to change lanes soon.

      Reply
    • Debbie M June 14, 2013, 9:09 am

      If you are a complete chicken (like me), one way to turn left into a parking lot is to continue biking to the next intersection, cross there (as a pedestrian walking your bike if necessary), then head back and make a right turn into the parking lot).

      At stop signs, I’d think you should line up with the other vehicles in your lane. If you’re sharing a lane with cars, line up with them. If you’re using a bike line (either painted or imaginary), you’d pull up to the intersection but be extra careful of motorists turning right (who may or may not signal). In my area, the bike lanes disappear at intersections, which I used to think was rude, but which I then learned was to make right-turning motorists and bicyclists merge before the intersection just because of this problem.

      Reply
  • Donna June 14, 2013, 4:45 am

    I am one of the people who does not bike to work because I think it is unsafe for me to do so. This article really doesn’t change my opinion because it doesn’t have anything to do with the safety of biking in general, but the safety of biking on the specific roads I would have to bike on to get to work.

    Right now my four mile commute takes me over a narrow (no median, shoulder, or sidewalk) two lane road that is a no passing zone due to hills that reduce visibility, where I have personally witnessed several accidents, and then a busy stretch of highway.

    My local government has construction plans to widen this road and to connect two roads that would give me a potential alternate route in the next few years, so this will hopefully change, but for now I’m sticking with the car habit.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 7:22 am

      Give us the rough start and end intersections – maybe the MMM cycling research team can find a bike route for you – it has happened several times in the comments section before.

      Reply
      • TOM June 14, 2013, 12:09 pm

        And in the meantime, take about the same amount of time you spent commenting here to write a note to your state senator or representative about how much you support infrastructure investments like widening roads so people like you can choose to cycle to work!

        Reply
        • willis montgomery III June 17, 2013, 9:10 pm

          well said. squeaky wheel gets the grease. the “fear” folks feel to bike because of poor urban and roadway planning is totally unnecessary. the problem I see is that most dpw depts. design roads the same way they did in 1950. wide roads increase speeds and increase fear and in some cases perceived danger. in my town the dpw has actually said to our bikeways committee “we don’t want to encourage cycling on that road” to me this is an admission that they aren’t designing roads correctly and are unwilling to fix a problem that they themselves acknowledged and created. i’m tired of paying taxes for roads that don’t represent me.

          Reply
    • Itchin4Scratch June 14, 2013, 3:35 pm

      I have the same problem as you, Donna. I’m terrified to bike where I am, especially with the kid in a trailer. I live in a rural area with no medians, shoulders, or sidewalks, and there are ditches on each side of the road (for flood prevention) so I cant ride on the grass. The speed limit is 55 (most people go faster) and there are so many hills that it makes it impossible much of the time to tell if there is a car coming. I want to ride my bike so badly!!! We often drive part way to a safer road, then bike the rest of the way.

      Reply
  • woodnclay June 14, 2013, 4:45 am

    Fantastic post!
    Being a 52 year old, lifetime-cycling mustachian, I am looking forward to that extra 55 years you have promised me!! (on average!)

    Reply
  • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies June 14, 2013, 5:04 am

    Definitely agree with the health benefits of riding a bike – two months in of riding my bike to work almost all the time (except for that pesky tropical storm last week!), and the MENTAL health benefits are enormous. Instead of being stressed out after a hard day of work and still being stressed out at the end of a drive home, by the time I’m 3 miles away from the office on the bike, I have a giant smile on my face and have dropped my stress somewhere along the way.

    One quick question for people who have been doing this longer than me – what about lightning? I got thoroughly soaked in a rainstorm, but can live with that (all my electronics were in ziplocks in my backpack). But how unsafe is it to be out on the bike while it’s lightning? FWIW, there are tons of tall palm trees and a good number of tall condo buildings along my ride.

    Reply
    • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 5:47 am

      There is some “lore” regarding lightning and cycling, but I’ve not seen much in the way of hard data–I presume because most folks are not interested in being test subjects!

      My own strategy: If there is likely to be lightning, I am happy to wait five minutes or so. Predominant weather patterns in my area are such that storms with lightning tend to travel southwest to northeast, so if the lightning is north of me and I’m going south, I am less worried (although still mindful).

      My regular routes have numerous businesses I can use as “rabbit holes” should weather get much worse while I am en route.

      Reply
    • plam June 14, 2013, 8:31 am

      Lightning not so good. I looked it up once and tall things nearby don’t protect you that much (although you definitely don’t want to be the tallest thing around). Having said that, total death rate from lightning (most of non-cyclists) in the US is 150-300 per year, and injury rate is 100-1500. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      Reply
    • Dave Galligan June 14, 2013, 12:37 pm

      MrsPop, I have experienced some too-close-for-comfort lightning strikes in the past so I don’t ride while lightning is active. I have access to a computer so I check the local radar on-line before heading out in rain. If lightning is involved I either leave work a little early, or stay a little later. In my geographic area (Iowa) lightning typically is in faster moving weather and I haven’t had to adjust my schedule very many times. I’ll admit that I have had some exciting fast-paced rides home to beat an oncoming storm. As rainy as the past few months have been here I’ve only put on my wussypants / lightly trimmed my stache once and called my wife to come and load my bike in her car. I do not regret that decision one bit. Ride to live, live to ride.

      Reply
  • Jim June 14, 2013, 5:18 am

    I think you would want to analyze the deaths on bicycles statistics before really comparing. The one bicycle death I know of in my extended circle was of someone cycling downhill in a race. He crossed into incoming traffic and was hit by a car. Why wasn’t traffic shut down for this race? It was a race and not normal biking. I feel pretty safe that I would never die in a situation like that, however, my 30 mile highway commute to work doesn’t feel so safe. You’d also want to remove motorcycle deaths from the road fatality numbers.

    Auto driving is safe today because of the considerable investment in the technology – seat belts, advanced brakes, better tires, air bags, wider roads, traffic rules/signals. Just adding bike lanes would make biking a lot safer in many areas. You also have places where drivers are actively aggressive towards cyclists (see Lance Armstrong’s experience in Austin). As live/work patterns change, biking to work becomes more of an option (biking 30 miles each way to a job isn’t realistic time-wise).

    It’s going to be hard to convince someone that thinks biking is dangerous to take it up. It’s like telling someone that they don’t need that SUV to be safe on the road (because of roll-overs and the proportion of roll-overs that are fatal, SUVs can be considerably more dangerous than cars).

    Reply
    • Patrick June 14, 2013, 11:35 am

      It also really depends on the rider.

      I’ll be honest. I’m a hardcore supporter of cycling and have been for many yeras. It’s been a residence requirement with very few exceptions.

      I don’t really care about the statistics because I don’t have access to the data set. In other words, there are all sorts of biases that could be in here, that are pretty much irrelevant.

      It always comes down to where you are and who you are. What looks perfectly acceptable for a well-conditioned 30 something man is not the same thing for a 57 year old overweight guy with a 9 year old daughter.

      The statistics don’t account for what would happen if we threw about 1 million newbie cyclists out on the streets. Maybe nothing. Don’t know.

      I take this as another way to think about transportation with another gentle nudge in the right direction. If you’re on the fence, get off of it. There are other safe ways to get to work without driving. Just have to think about it. Or, just move. It is actually that simple.

      Reply
    • Bakari June 14, 2013, 6:54 pm

      “Auto driving is safe today”

      correction: auto driving is safER today.

      It is still the number one cause of death of people under 40.
      It is still the number one non-disease cause of death of all people.

      Remember the whole big thing about gun regulation recently?
      There are 3-4 times as many auto accident deaths each year than homicides by firearm.
      Reviving (and enforcing) the 55mph speed limit would save more lives each year than a complete repeal of the 2nd amendment.

      And that’s with seat belts, advanced brakes, better tires, air bags, wider roads, traffic rules/signals.

      Driving a car is not safe.

      Reply
      • Jim June 15, 2013, 5:44 am

        Point taken. There are things you can do to make your driving experience even safer. Don’t drink or text or do other things to impair your ability to drive.

        Reply
  • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 5:20 am

    As a cycling educator, I wholly agree that cycling is safer (and more beneficial) than driving a car.

    The safety difference gets even better when folks take good classes on how to ride. Yes, some (like Nathan, above) can learn much from good books (and Cyclecraft does have some good information).

    For many, however, learning is best done by doing while under the watchful eye of a good instructor.

    I recommend Cycling Savvy (http://cyclingsavvy.org) as the best class I have taken. I encourage readers to find a Cycling Savvy class close by. As it is a fairly new program, it is not as widespread as the League of American Bicyclists’ “Traffic Skills 101″ class, but Cycling Savvy is more about experiential learning.

    I’ve taught the League’s “TS101″ class for five or six years, and it can be great–if you have the right instructor. It is, as mentioned, more readily available, and if Cycling Savvy instructors are not close enough to you, the TS101 will certainly help many riders.

    Reply
  • BBaxter June 14, 2013, 5:31 am

    Cycling is safer for the other users of the roads. I recently had a heart attack while riding my bike and suffered a separated shoulder and some road rash. I hate to think what could have happened if I had been driving a car.

    Reply
  • Miser Mom June 14, 2013, 5:44 am

    EVEN THOUGH my husband broke his neck in three places after a bad downhill bike crash, and EVEN THOUGH in my area, motorists will sometimes throw cigarettes or beer cans at bicyclists just to be nasty, I still want to say bicycling is AWESOME.

    I’ll add another reason to consider bikes safer than cars: my teenage boys are getting close to drivers’ licence age. They’re both a bit ADHD and regularly wreck random things around the house already; I want to keep them away from car keys as long as I can while giving them some autonomy. We’ve been doing some amazingly fun commuting rides together, to general delight. When there are three bikes together, all lit up (and some of the bicyclists whooping and hollering because they’re rowdy boys), I feel pretty darn visible to cars.

    (By the way, my husband got better. In fact, when he recovered from the bike accident, he reenlisted in the National Guard and served a year in Iraq).

    Reply
    • Neil June 14, 2013, 9:14 pm

      I am Miser-Mom’s husband. Yes, I have broken 15 bones in bicycle accidents, but I have broken 17 others in explosions and motorcycle accidents. So bicycles are slightly less dangerous for me than test-firing missiles or riding crotch-rocket motorcycles.

      As MMM points out bicycle racing has higher speed and higher risk. 12mph and obeying traffic laws will keep you out of a lot of trouble.

      I race on a team and ride a lot–up to 10,000 miles a year. I also know a lot of bicyclists and some former bicyclists. Breaking just one bone–usually a wrist or a collarbone, ends the riding career of some people. Riding a two-wheeled vehicle can be a deliciously risky thing to do–I love flying through downhill corners.

      I love bicycling, but I respect people who decide it’s not for them. Proximity with cars really bothers some people. They should not make themselves miserable.

      Reply
      • JDB June 21, 2013, 10:34 pm

        +1 to that! Just days after this article my hubby was side swiped by a driver trying to go around him and make a right hand turn. As an athlete he fell properly and no broken bones, just sore. All non bikers told us we need to stop riding these dangerous bikes, but the same people didn’t also advise me to stop driving a car when I was rear ended while sitting at a complete stop (and 6 months pregnant). Yes there are bad drivers, shit happens. Be smart and alert and reap the benefits of the best choice. Sidenote, I wont take my toddler out in a trailer on these roads… for the two days she goes to daycare I run her home in her stroller. Sometimes we drive. I think eventually I will come around, just need time. But we’ve been hit 3 times on the same road and it’s a bike path!

        Reply
  • Debt Blag June 14, 2013, 5:56 am

    I think the mere fact that you can’t be fuddling with the radio or yelling at fighting with someone in the passenger seat makes it safer. Add to that how aware of you are of your surroundings and your own senses, and it just makes sense.

    Reply
    • plam June 14, 2013, 8:32 am

      I see too many people bicycling while wearing headphones. Not recommended.

      Reply
  • Emily Allred June 14, 2013, 6:11 am

    Ah, MMM, you’re jabbing me in the ribs with this one. I know I need a bike, and I also known I am very concerned (terrified) about my 10 miles roundtrip solo commute through Atlanta traffic.

    I’ll try to let the math sink in and take effect… also I think maybe I will ride on the sidewalks if there are no pedestrians around… any thoughts on that?

    Reply
    • Brandon June 14, 2013, 6:22 am

      Emily- go to http://www.mapmyride.com and use the site to enter your starting and ending address. Chances are good that the site will suggest a route that employs bike paths and side streets with lower speed limits that are much safer than the route you would take by car, but are the same overall distance. In a car you are usually looking for the route with the highest speed limit to cut down on time, but in a bike you are actually looking for the route with the *lowest* speed limit as you will be safer with cars going a lower speed relative to your ~12mph commuting speed. I had this same concern when I started bike commuting awhile back, but I was amazed at how easy it was to find a relatively safe route with few cars.

      Reply
    • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 6:23 am

      Riding on the sidewalk is far more dangerous than controlling a travel lane, ESPECIALLY in urban areas.

      Consider, please: On a sidewalk, you are moving faster than the primary users (walkers), who have much more maneuverability than a cyclist (they can stop or change directions at a single step). People open doors to enter or exit buildings. Sidewalks intersect with driveways or alleys or roads, and motorists using those aren’t looking for someone moving as fast as a cyclist on that sidewalk. The view of sidewalk users from the motorists’ perspective is often blocked by parked cars.

      When riding as part of traffic (i.e. in the left tire track for most of us, right track for folks who drive on the left side of the roadway), a cyclist is far more visible from others’ perspectives. Our own ability to see what is happening and adjust our own speed and trajectory is better, too.

      I encourage you to seek out a Cycling Savvy class. I don’t know that there are any in Georgia, but there are several in Florida (where the program originated). http://cyclingsavvy.org for more details.

      Reply
      • Emily Allred June 14, 2013, 6:57 am

        What you’re saying is what I have read elsewhere, I am just fighting against the knowledge :)

        I see no pedestrian traffic on my daily commutes, and there are no structures that feed directly onto the sidewalks. There is also very little turning traffic, as most cars are headed out of the residential area into the business area.

        However, you are still right. And now I am back to having no desire to commute on a bike in the chaos I see daily. Cars drift in an out of lanes, texting or talking, and whip angrily around the slightest slow-down (which would be me, were I on a bike).

        I see the math, I just am having a hard time accepting it. I’ll keep trying.

        Reply
        • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 7:24 am

          I recognize your reluctance.

          What we find is that by taking a primary position (left tire track), we make ourselves more relevant to other road users, so they pay better attention around us. Remember that by taking a good lane position, we make ourselves visible from greater distance. That kid texting knows he has to look up once in a while, and our buffer zone is now larger.

          I won’t deny that I encounter motorists with ugly attitudes. However, they don’t want to run you down. They just want to get where they are going. We are different, so we are more readily recognized as different. They get over it–by the time they pass you and start yelling, you’ve already won! You know they see you and they want to get around you rather than run over you. Good lane position on your part helps other road users not make stupid mistakes. You have far more control over your safety than you seem to realize.

          Also, a point worth mentioning: We too-often anthropomorphize cars. Cars don’t make decisions, road users do. Road users may be cyclists, they may be motorists, they may be walkers.

          Best results!!

          Reply
          • Emily A June 14, 2013, 7:40 am

            Thanks!

            Reply
            • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow June 14, 2013, 2:58 pm

              I personally see nothing wrong with biking on the sidewalk, especially if the alternative is a busy road. You simply need to use a bit of common sense. Use your (dorky yes) bell and be considerate to people walking.

              Second as mentioned when crossing a busy road, get off and cross with the pedestrians.

              Reply
        • scott June 14, 2013, 10:18 am

          Experienced car drivers forget that car driving is a skill that they have developed over time. It would not be wise for a 15 year old with a learner’s permit to make their first attempt behind the wheel on a busy 4 lane road. Instead you start by learning in an empty parking lot.
          Yes. It might be a disaster to try to replicate your exact car commute on a busy roads with a bicycle if you haven’t ridden a bike since elementary school. But don’t write off bicycle commuting just because you can’t realistically go from car clown to NYC bike messenger over night.
          It makes sense that a novice cyclist would would be scared to death of cycling in the “chaos” that they observe in their daily car commute. However, with a little experience and practice to develop your bike handling skills, you can learn to navigate adverse road conditions just as that 15 year with a learner’s permit will eventually learn to drive their car at high speeds on a crowded freeway.
          I think it is a mental hurdle for car clowns. Again, it probably is unrealistic to think that after being car dependent for years you could wake up on Monday and bike to work for 5 straight days. You have to easy into as MMM advises. Research some safe routes. Test them out in the mornings over the course of a couple of weekends. Then try it out one day during the work week. Leave a little early or late to avoid rush hour. Then maybe commit to bike commuting once week for a month. In the meantime ride some trails/bike paths or local parks and be deliberate about practicing some bike handling skills.

          Reply
    • Tom Armstrong June 14, 2013, 7:26 am

      Google Maps also has a bike function in its directions. It’s not perfect, but it may help.

      Reply
    • Atlantalee June 14, 2013, 8:05 am

      I’m curious what your commute is. I’ve been bike commuting 7 miles 1-2 days/week from Kirkwood to Midtown. Luckily about half of that is on dedicated bike paths (Freedom Trail/Beltline). What I like about Atlanta is that there are a lot of residential back roads that feel much safer.

      Reply
    • Dan June 14, 2013, 9:34 am

      Emily, when I don’t have a safe bike lane, I ride on the sidewalks. In America, no one uses the sidewalks to walk on busy streets. I highly recommend this, even in ATL. I live near Nashville, not very friendly to bikes either unless you are in the very core of the City.

      Reply
      • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:42 am

        Dan, sidewalks can be more dangerous than traffic. When you’re picking your route (by sidewalk), imagine yourself in a car waiting to turn onto your route from a driveway/side street.

        Are you (the driver) looking for someone going at least 10 mph, probably faster, on the sidewalk? Do you (the driver) stop behind the sidewalk or fly past it and either slam on your brakes at the street or blow the stop sign? Can you (the driver) see around bushes, light poles, tall fences, etc. to notice what is on the sidewalk? Do you (the driver) look for wrong-way traffic on the sidewalk? What about folks driving past on the road and then turning right in front of you to get their french fries? Are they judging your speed correctly or even seeing you? I would guess the answer to most of these is “no.”

        I was hit in high school on the sidewalk and almost hit (and then assaulted in a road rage incident) on the sidewalk shortly thereafter. Ain’t doing that mess any. more.

        On the other hand, if there are no curb cuts and just great visibility on the sidewalk and it makes you feel better, go for it.

        Reply
        • Dan June 14, 2013, 3:39 pm

          Ben, sidewalks you speak of don’t exist where I ride on them. My sidewalks are near busy streets in the suburbs next to empty fields with no parking lots and rarely anyone on them. This is a suburban area that needs a lot of infill. I agree if you are in an area with lots of parking lots and even walkers this isn’t safe, but I think for part of my commute they are an absolute necessity and are much safer than sharing the road where there are no bike lanes.

          Reply
          • Ben Alexander June 15, 2013, 6:23 am

            Sounds like your city inadvertently built you a bike path. Nice!

            Reply
    • stepthrough June 17, 2013, 11:01 am

      Emily, I’ve been bicycling in Atlanta for years. It really is safe and enjoyable (yes, even in the summer). I’m even taking my 1 year old son on the bike now.

      However, you’ll be a lot happier if you start out with a little help.

      First, take a Confident City Cycling class from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (atlantabike.org). I think there’s one downtown this saturday. The class will not only help you feel more comfortable, it will also help you be safer – for instance, you will learn that things that “seem” safer like riding on the sidewalk or close to the curb actually increase your risk of a crash.

      Second, start riding around on lower traffic routes and at quieter times. If possible, ride with a friend or two – but not a hyper, macho friend who will encourage you to take risks. You can find some group rides from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition as well, including the Heels on Wheels group for women.

      By the way, Atlanta has the fastest-growing percentage of bicycle commuters in the country, so you won’t be alone.

      Reply
  • Brandon June 14, 2013, 6:17 am

    Agree 1000% I started bike commuting 20 miles round trip to work over a month ago (the Clown Car post was the tipping point), as well as exclusively biking for errands within 5 miles of my house, using the trailer as directed by MMM. I would say that at least 90% of friends, family and co-workers, when they find out about this, get a look on their face like I’ve just disclosed that I’ve taken up sword swallowing, and say “oh, that’s dangerous…I know X and he/she had Y happen on a bike…drivers around here aren’t used to cyclists.” I politely nod and move on.

    But seriously, what horse shit! Everyone raise your hand if you know someone who has been in a car accident. Looks like it’s unanimous! I have suspected this for a long time, and MMM confirms it- auto transportation is *at least as dangerous as biking* and probably more so given the speeds and hazards involved (drunks, etc.) So, without even doing the math, if one accepts that there is at least *some* inherent risk in any form of transportation, and if one accepts that the danger of biking is less than or equal to the danger of driving, then it makes sense to go with biking, given all of the other relative ancillary benefits that our friend MMM has so eloquently laid out in all the biking posts.

    We have GOT to change that mindset in this country that biking is somehow weird and undesirable, and it’s going to happen in each of these interactions that we have with the “it’s too dangerous” crowd, and by serving as examples ourselves.

    Reply
    • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:29 am

      Every time I leave somewhere on a bike, everyone present feels like they need to tell me to “be safe”. I will be! I can see (and hear) 360 degrees with ease, I’m maneuverable as shit, I’ve got obnoxious blinky lights at night, AND I’m going sane speeds.

      Seems to me I should be telling people who are climbing in their two-ton death traps to hurtle around at 40 mph+, all the while with limited visibility and control, to be safe!

      Reply
  • George June 14, 2013, 6:29 am

    If people cannot spot the great number of confounding variables in this analysis they’re drinking too much cool-aid.

    MMM – love the blog and respect your passion for the bike; however, I will never give up my large vehicle that has protected me, and my family, in a car wreck. Just look around the road and see the peril that bikers put themselves in on US roadways… it’s like going to war without armor.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 7:17 am

      Sure, I could look at the road and try to make myself scared. Or I could look at the actual statistics and be massively reassured instead.

      It is also reassuring to look at the healthy body that these 32 years of death-free-cycling has provided for me. And at my schedule for the day, which involves no trip to the office, because biking allowed me to retire so much earlier.

      There are confounding variables on both sides of the equations, so for this article I tried to navigate through the middle of them to present a reasonable picture. I’m not making this shit up – cycling does provide you with a far better chance of living a better, longer, healthier life than driving does.

      Reply
  • sherr June 14, 2013, 6:32 am

    Let me start out by saying that I have started bicycle commuting because of this blog and have been loving it. I plan on continuing to bike even if it were more dangerous because of the improved quality-of-life that comes with it.

    However I don’t think that the conversion to risk-per-hour instead of risk-per-mile, which drastically improves the statistics in the article because cars are so much faster than bikes, is legitimate. When you are riding / driving it’s almost never a “Well I’ll ride around for an hour and then go home” proposition. Rather you have a destination that is a set distance away that you are going to, whether it is work, a store, a friend’s house, whatever. The only valid way to compare the safety of bicycles and cars for the trip is on a risk-per-mile basis.

    I would much rather see the article extol the virtues of bicycle riding using legitimate methods than have it make outlandish claims supported by trick math.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 6:50 am

      Aha Sherr.. but you’re missing the least tricky math possible: the bike is safer than the car over ALL possible intervals – one mile, one hour, one lifetime. Because the bike has a net POSITIVE effect on your lifespan and health, the car negative. It’s as simple as that.

      You can’t reasonably ignore the health benefits in the calculations, otherwise it would be like saying “sitting in an underground concrete bunker taking heroin is safer than walking outside eating broccoli – because outside as a pedestrian, you could get struck by lightning or hit by a car”

      Reply
      • Done by Forty June 14, 2013, 9:33 am

        But that conflates the issues of health and safety. Jogging the wrong way through traffic may be terrific for my health while still being terrible for my safety.

        Yes, biking adds years to your life but as you noted in an earlier post, so does walking for 30 min. If exercise is the goal, there are a lot of ways to skin that cat. I’m not sure I agree with the premise that adding years to your life = more safety. They’re different things.

        Reply
        • Sister X June 17, 2013, 11:57 am

          But you’re not taking into account the fact that sitting in a car takes away years of life as well. Sure, you can still drive to the gym but the negative effects of sitting in the car for your drive to that gym will still be with you, and will mitigate some of the good effects of the gym exercise.
          Also, there are distances to consider. I love walking. I walk an hour to/from work every day, and usually take my dog for an evening walk as well. BUT, when I want to get across town the time is a serious factor. I could drive 10-15 minutes, bike about 25-30 minutes, or walk for several hours. In those circumstances, unless I’m really crunched for time, I’m going to bike. It’s healthier than driving, and frankly more fun than walking such a distance would be.
          None of this even takes into account the pollution that I’m NOT spewing into the air every time I avoid driving. The public and private money to be saved by lowering the amount of pollution in the air is incredible, and you should look up the statistics sometime. Less pollution means less death and illness, meaning more safety for everyone, not just the bicyclist/walker.

          Reply
          • Done by Forty June 18, 2013, 9:12 am

            Good points, but I actually didn’t mention a car, or a gym.

            I simply pointed out that health and safety are different concepts. Adding years to your life via exercise is one thing, its risk of injury (or death via injury) is something else. Conflating those concepts by calculating one’s risk of death (safety) and then adding in the likely years gained by exercise (health) doesn’t seem like sound reasoning to me. That is, an activity that is healthier is not necessarily safer…it’s just healthier.

            Reply
      • George June 20, 2013, 2:52 am

        MMM:

        I don’t ride a bike but I have a great BMI, no chronic disease, run a 3 miles in 18 min, bench 250lbs, and deadlift 300. What are your stats?

        I bet you have poor posture, overly developed hip flexer muscles, and low back pain. Am I right?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache June 20, 2013, 10:20 am

          Haha! You bring up a good point, George. This article has become so popular that it doesn’t stand up all the scrutiny, so I will make some improvements. First of all, there are obviously limits to the benefits of exercise (1-2 hours per day seems to be the sweet spot), otherwise we could all live forever. Second, cycling (or walking, gardening, etc.) is not a complete form of exercise. We’ll all do better if we incorporate strength training as part of the program.

          In fact, although we shouldn’t turn this into a Man Contest, I am probably even more into weight training than you are http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/03/26/goal-mostlyreached-sorta/ – but it sounds like you would leave me in the dust on the 5k run!

          Reply
    • Christof June 14, 2013, 3:37 pm

      If you compare risk per mile you would need to compare car traffic for distances that are bikeable. Most car accidents happen in congested cities on relatively short trips. Between cities on a highway there are hardly any serious accidents. But those routes are long and drive the average fatality rate for cars way down.

      Reply
      • Jim June 15, 2013, 5:55 am

        Great point.

        Reply
  • Soben June 14, 2013, 6:54 am

    I think you read my mind, I have been struggling with the safety of my 13 yo son riding around town.

    He refuses to wear a helmet (I’m assuming everyone in your stats was protected), so my choices are let him bike or demand he wears one and he won’t bike.

    I battled this years ago and gave up since it was just in our little tiny neighborhood. But now he’s expanded his range and is going to the video store and wants to bike to high school in the fall. He would be going on/crossing main roads. And that makes me nervous.

    So it’s hard to make a rational decision here because the cons are so dramatic and the pros are less visible.

    What would the equation be for a non-helmet-wearer? Would it change dramatically? Thanks for any advice.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 7:20 am

      Strangely enough, bike helmets don’t seem to have a statistically significant effect on bike safety. I think it’s great that most people wear them in the US, but I only use mine for the longer inter-city rides or on the mountain bike. Otherwise I wear an old fishing hat with a brim that keeps the sun off.

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque June 14, 2013, 7:48 am

        The most frightening part of the official “Bicycle Safety” crowd is their insistence that a bicycle helmet is the Most Important Part of bicycle safety.
        No, it isn’t.
        As you say, the stats don’t back this up.
        By all means, wear a helmet. I wear one to keep the top of my head from getting sunburnt. :-)
        But the most important thing you can teach your kids about bicycle safety is following the rules, staying aware and visible and signalling your intentions. The helmet is pretty weak armour against the grill of the SUV you wandered into.

        Reply
        • Mrs PoP @ Planting our Pennies June 14, 2013, 10:47 am

          I don’t look at my helmet as a life saving device – if an SUV grill is coming my way, you’re right it’s not likely to help. But I look at it as a pretty cheap insurance policy covering the amount of time, effort, and money that it took to stuff my brain full of knowledge that makes me highly employable. A TBI might not kill me, but it could make me a lot less effective at my job and $40 for a helmet is pretty cheap.

          Reply
      • JZ June 14, 2013, 3:15 pm

        Helmets don’t seem to help. They are only made to deql with impacts of about 15 mph. The wrecks that people worry about are much faster than that. They can potentially increase the risk of certain types of brain injuries caused by the helmet twisting the head rapidly. Also, the figures on bike helmet safety that advocates use also show just as conclusively that wearing a helmet is very effective at preventing broken legs, drunken-ness, wrong-way riding on roads, and poverty.

        Reply
        • KruidigMeisje June 17, 2013, 1:44 pm

          I would also like to add: in NL almost nobody wears a helmet, and the stats (both dead and injured) are far healthier than US. In NL most people who die because of biking are over 50 and/or in a one sided crash (against a kerb or bollard).
          But most people DON’t die in NL because they cycle (health statistics like MMM quoted might be very well derived from NL or DK).
          “Not cycling is far more dangerous than cycling, even in the US” is a favourite quote of a (biking) friend of mine, which nicely sums up MMM’s article. I hope the helmet issue will not confuse or keep anybody from getting a bike (any bike) start doing their commute and/or groceries with it. Biking makes you hapyy, honest! (and healthy and rich possibly)

          Reply
      • Everard June 14, 2013, 4:46 pm

        I really appreciate that you aren’t a helmet fascist. I am right there with you on all of these points, but the first thing people always want to talk about when I mention my bicycle is helmets. I try to explain that there is more to safety than helmets–there’s also riding responsibly and taking one’s time. The question shouldn’t be, “do you wear a helmet?” If they are truly concerned with your safety, it should be, “do you ride carefully?”

        As you point out so eloquently, riding a bike extends my life, keeps me thin, and leaves me with much more money to enjoy that life. Most importantly, it gives me control over my mobility, which the NYC subway never has and never will.

        Reply
      • Ian June 18, 2013, 2:26 pm

        While there is some debate among researchers, there is by now quite convincing statistical evidence that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of serious injury. E.g. in this meta-analysis of a large number of studies:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11235796
        it was reported that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of fatal injury by 73% (odds ratio 0.27).

        The methodology of that paper was challenged in this paper:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21376924
        however their re-analysis actually resulted in a reduced risk of fatal injury (odds ratio 0.23).

        This post is discussing a statistical analysis of the safety of bike riding vs cars. Why are you so willing to throw away the opportunity to reduce your risk of death by nearly 80%???

        Certainly, following the rules of the road is more important than wearing a helmet. But wearing a helmet is still much better than not.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache June 18, 2013, 3:45 pm

          Wow! If it really makes such a big difference, I should indeed wear a helmet more. If it’s any consolation, I DO always wear it for longer rides, and all mountain bike trail rides. Just haven’t been busting it out for the park-like jaunts to the grocery/library/elementary school.

          Reply
          • stepthrough June 18, 2013, 7:08 pm

            Well no, the debate in the research community is much more extensive than that. All of the studies in that meta-analysis are a couple decades old, from a time when bike helmets were hard shell, more like motorcycle helmets. Also, it used case-control studies, not population studies. What we can learn from it is that if you go to the hospital following a bike crash, an older-style helmet is likely to reduce head injur, although you may get a neck injury. What it does not tell us is whether youyou are more or less likely to sustain an injury if you leave the house with or without a helmet. But there are enough other studies about what happens as a result of helmet laws and such to realize that this is a serious concern. Risk compensation, scaring away rational, risk-averse riders,etc. The bottom line for me is, there are likely a certain few bicycle crash scenarios where a helmet could make the difference, but the same is true about wearing a bicycle helmet during some car crashes, trips and falls, slips in the shower… I shouldn’t arbitrarily wear a helmet in one situation if I’m not prepared to wear it all the time!

            Reply
            • stepthrough June 18, 2013, 8:39 pm

              I write this not to change anyone’s decision about wearing a helmet, but to make the point that we could probably have much larger gains in in bike safety if there was less conversation devoted to helmet usage, and more conversations like the ones on here that mostly focus on preventing crashes in the first place. Everyone has heard bike helmet promotions (and the grisly anecdotes that accompany them), but far too few people have heard messages about lights, lane position, or cycling classes.

              Reply
        • JZ July 11, 2013, 9:28 am

          The problem with those analyses was that both methodologies also prove that bicycle helmets are very effective at preventing broken legs and drunkenness. There is a huge self selection bias involved.

          Reply
    • Mother Frugal June 14, 2013, 8:06 am

      I recently called 911 and administered first aid to a woman who had fallen on her bike near my home. She was unconscious when I arrived, and her head was bleeding badly where she wasn’t covered by the helmet. I shudder to think what would have happened to her if that helmet hadn’t been on her head.

      Btw, she was an experienced, avid cyclist who wasn’t hit by another car. She just wiped out in the middle of a roundabout… total fluke.

      Reply
      • betsy22 June 17, 2013, 11:11 am

        I’m a very experienced cyclist, but I’ve taken a nasty tumble on my bike just by taking a turn wrong. My father has flipped off multiple times – breaking his collar bone and having to get stitches in his head. I figure that if you ride enough, you’re eventually going to come off, even without ever getting hit by a car. Maybe it’s only one flip every 5-10k miles, but even that is enough for me to wear a helmet.

        Reply
    • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:24 am

      @soben, I’m with you. Helmets are for risky and extreme behavior on a bike. Being 13 is a risky and extreme behavior.

      Reply
    • Val June 14, 2013, 1:15 pm

      I would also add that, a bike helmet may be a detriment to safety, in that it gives drivers the feeling that you are protected and so they don’t have to be as careful around you.

      Somebody did a study that shows cars pass within 1 meter of a rider 23% more often if he is wearing a helmet.

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-helmets-attract-cars-to-cyclists

      Couple this with the finding that biking becomes more popular as fewer people wear helmets, and that biking becomes safer as it becomes more popular, maybe it’s not a bad thing that your son doesn’t want to wear a helmet.

      But I agree that it’s hard to let your son be that pioneer. I encourage you to keep the dialogue open and help him find routes that would keep him safer. It might make you feel more comfortable with his decision too!

      Reply
  • I.P. Daley June 14, 2013, 6:57 am

    MMM, you know I respect you, and you should know that I agree with you on the topic of bicycling being better for you than driving and a superior mode of transit within urban/suburban areas, but someone should point out that your math is more than a little specious.

    Comparing the average health impact of driving at 70MPH versus riding a bicycle at 12MPH? Apples and oranges. There are very few places people can go to both by bike and by car at those average speeds unless you live next to an interstate on-ramp and your destination is right off an exit ramp, or you’re factoring travel distances that are unrealistic time-wise to reach by bicycle (say, distances above 10-15 miles one way). Respect your readers enough to use more reasonable top speed calculations, like 45MPH for the car within urban driving (though more realistically about 35-40MPH average when you factor stops and traffic).

    I’ll handwave the other problems with your math regarding time, money and extension of lifetime, as they wouldn’t *greatly* impact the final numbers, but it should also be pointed out that when you consider two different modes of transit, one going at least three times faster than the other (by my proposed calculations above), it does impact both the available time left to live to do other things and the overall cost of transit itself in ways you didn’t calculate. Those numbers do make cars slightly less horrible.

    Sensationalism may sell, but so does integrity.

    Reply
    • Jimbo June 14, 2013, 7:31 am

      I kinda agree here, however, it does not impact the conclusion at all.

      Also, average speed of cars in my city has got to be less than 10 mph once you average it over all the stops.

      Biking wins yet again, as it is way faster.

      Reply
      • I.P. Daley June 14, 2013, 7:54 am

        Yes, the *real* math doesn’t impact the conclusion one iota, but if you’re going to utilize math either as the foundation to or as defense of an idea, it’s pretty important to get that math right for the sake of credibility and integrity. That way, you don’t give your critics valid arguments to build their rebuttal off of.

        Reply
        • Luck Greater than Skill June 18, 2013, 7:08 am

          I agree with IP Daley that MMM should have used a lower speed, 35 – 40 MPH for cars to compare with biking.

          I will add to that. The Stats used by MMM were for the nation as a whole, not a single city or smaller area. Readers should not extrapolate that accidents are equal everywhere in the nation. Many places are very safe for biking. I would encourage people to investigate their neighborhoods to find out the local safety/risk factor. You may be surprised how safe biking can be.

          Reply
    • George June 14, 2013, 8:34 am

      Yeah you make good points; Another thing is that you have to be careful when reading the stats;

      True there were 9 billion miles rode on bike with only 623 deaths; however would you not also agree that areas that have bike lanes or better trails to handle this mode of transportation would have a greater portion of their population biking that the US average; In other words, the safer the city has structured itself to handle biking the more popular it is there;

      In turn, this means a greater proportion of those 9 billion miles are being biked in the safest areas; Thus, it seems safer on paper when compared to car miles; In places where its hard to bike safely people just stop biking; To get a true measure of bike verse car, you would have to probably measure it city by city because it will vary

      Thus, even though I do a decent amount of biking myself, in my area it is definitely dangerous at times; I go on Google maps to plot out the safest route, however usually somewhere along that route I will be forced to take at least 1 stretch of road that is somewhat dangerous (i.e. high speed, high volume traffic or a road that has no berm or shoulder).

      So it kinda of bothers me when MMM says that he specifically brought his house and lives where he does; he just cruzes down his trails and bike paths get his groceries so easily; then he talks about how easy it is to bike to everything yet he tells the rest of the world oh its just so easy for me to bike why are you not doing it as well; I would love to have some sweet bike lanes that would be awesome but in my town, I don’t recall ever even seeing one of them; so yeah I really get pissed off sometimes

      So in summary, I would say 75% of my local trips are safe; but it definitely can be very very dangerous at times, i.e. I biked to lowes last week (to pick some supplies that the local hardware store did not have) and remember that semi-tracker trailer passing me alongside that if I fell off my bike at that moment, it was pretty much instant death right then and there

      Reply
      • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:22 am

        Wow, those are some HUGE assumptions. I can tell you right now that the bike safety stats are skewed like crazy because here in the US and A, kids ride much, much more than adults. Sure, riding a bike is dangerous if you’re 6 years old, riding the wrong way with no lights or jumping on and off the sidewalk, but as MMM points out, we are intelligent, responsible, capable adults. Our odds are better.

        (I have no idea if the math gets skewed because of roadies and downhillers, but I like the idea and implied jab at how we ride!)

        As to your point (trails=safety), you are hung up not on actual safety, but on the perception of safety. It feels dangerous to be in traffic, but bike lanes/trails/whatever don’t always increase safety in the way we think, largely because they create more intersections with motorized traffic. (See huge study in British Columbia I am too lazy to link) I know it’s been said before, but take the lane. You should always be in a position where folks aren’t tempted to squeeze past. That means AWAY from the gutter!

        Reply
        • George June 14, 2013, 11:57 am

          Well first of all I do not bike in the middle of a roadway traffic lane because I could never match the speed and acceleration of the cars; if you insist of driving right down the middle of the lane you are just going to piss off the drivers behind you; a huge number of cars are going to be stacked up behind you going slower than they are used to; in fact, I think this is the reason a lot of drivers hate bikers is because of bikers who are pretending to be cars when they are not; The polite thing to do on straight away is to get to the right side of the lane and let them go around you;

          Second I am not talking about feeling safe, truth is if you are biking right alongside next to a semi tractor trailer is it dangerous period; I definitely love biking and try to bike as much as possible for all my local trips out;

          However we have to be carefully not be delusional either. Some people want to believe so hard that biking is safe and they the everyone should be doing it right now, they ignore all common sense. Its good to be optimist however do it realistically don’t just overlook common dangers and just brush them off like its nothing. You can talk numbers all you want but if fall off your bike when a vehicle passing alongside you, and your body rolls under there tires are going to be messed up, period. Its called physics;

          If you fall off your bike, the tires on the vehicle aren’t going to stop and say “oh you are a MMM reader therefore we are not going to crush you in the next 10 milliseconds like we would other people, we will make an exception just for you, here let us magically float your body back onto the roadway so you stay safe ok?”

          Reply
          • Bakari June 14, 2013, 7:11 pm

            ” You can talk numbers all you want but if fall off your bike when a vehicle passing alongside you, and your body rolls under there tires are going to be messed up, period. Its called physics; ”

            That isn’t how bike accidents happen.
            Find any data that says this happens more than once every ten billion miles, or a couple times a decade – otherwise you are are talking about “feeling” safe.

            If you are driving your car next to a semi, and you suddenly for no reason turn into it, that is likely to kill you too. Do you know how to avoid that? DON’T TURN INTO IT. Not that hard.
            If you just randomly fall off your bike for no reason on a regular basis, then you should not be riding in the street (yet). For those of us without training wheels, it is not unsafe to ride along side a truck.

            Reply
          • ben alexander June 14, 2013, 7:41 pm

            I don’t consider it the least bit rude for me to use the roadway. Is it rude for tractor trailer drivers to accelerate slowly? What about tractors or construction equipment? Amish buggies? No, they are just using the public roadway. What’s rude is the assumption that convenience for drivers (not having to make that turn of the wheel to change lanes) trumps the safety of another human being. Luckily, I haven’t met anyone yet who really believes it does.

            As for falling under the wheels of a truck or whatever grisly scenario, I am with Bakari and others. If you don’t know how to ride your bike, practice. I remember destroying the transmission in my Mom’s manual minivan, but now I can drive a manual anywhere I want without stalling it. Practice your bike handling and you will find that accidents don’t just happen. Crashes have causes, and when you minimize them, you are perfectly safe on a bike.

            Reply
            • George June 17, 2013, 11:41 am

              ben and bakari; First of all when I refer to the dangers of falling off your bike, I am referring to when a semi-tracker trailer is coming along side on a single lane in each direction road;

              Some of the roads in my area have no shoulder, thus you are riding on dirt, on a hillside with bushes and trees; (a truck takes up the whole lane, there is no room left for you)

              Even the roads that have a shoulder there is often debris, fallen tree limbs along it, trash, i.e. beer cans, or the occasional storm drainer where the grating has its opening that is in parallel with your bike tire; thus, you bike trailer can get snagged into one of these openings.

              Also, bakari, it appears that you bike in an urban area; this is completely different from trying to bike out in rural America; I currently bike in suburban and rural areas of central PA; As you get more out in the countryside, in my area, there are a lot more sharp curves, no shoulder roads, thick bushes and trees, and steep hills which result in very little visibility. It can be dangerous to make a left turn or even cross a road as a pedestrian where it looks clear initially, and then 2 seconds later a suddenly car appears around a curve or over a hill coming at your at 50mph that is only 35 yards away;

              I love to bike and have lived in 7 different addresses in the last 13 years, I have biked in urban and suburban and rural; also I take my bike with me when I am on vacation, thus I have tried biking in many different locales, and areas across the US;

              Safety greatly varies depending upon the area you are in; thus this is why you have to be carefully with the statistics they are often national where the majority of those miles are being biked in safer areas (i.e. you will notice in general that biking is much more popular in areas where it is easy to bike when you travel around).

              Thus, you are doing a real injustice to tell all the readers of this blog who scattered across the world that biking is safe for everyone; it may or may not be safe where they live; just because it is easy or safe where you live does not mean you can extrapolate these results to everyone and assume that if they don’t feel safe, there is something wrong with them;

              basically you are telling people not to trust their instincts (their basic survival mechanism) and trust some over-generalized stats instead; Thus, I do not want to discourage people from biking, I encourage it if your area has safe, decent routes you can find; it is a great form of exercise, I do all the time (in fact as soon I am done writing this post, I going out on the bike to get a couple errands done this afternoon); most of the close (less than 3-4 mile) in town trips are safe for me personally, but not all of them, I don’t kid myself by believing a dream so hard that I ignore reality; it is just that people need to be much more aware as to how dangerous it really is.

              Reply
              • stepthrough June 17, 2013, 11:59 am

                But rural car crash rates are also much higher than urban areas. That’s the comparison – rural driving vs. rural bicycling, not urban vs. rural. I’m not going to look up the studies or data right now, but a large portion of rural car crashes are single car (run off road/fixed object) due to traveling too fast for the conditions. We probably need some new research to figure out the actual risk of rural driving vs. rural bicycling.

                But travel in rural areas is unique in many ways. Unless you are getting the worst of both worlds by living in a rural fringe and commuting into a city job… Ideally rural residents only have to travel away from home occasionally, and only a small percentage of people work away from the home/ farm. In theory.

                (I’ve always wondered though, if you live up north, do the snowmobile trails beside roads make good summer bike routes? Or too bumpy?)

              • Bakari June 17, 2013, 1:53 pm

                I do ride mainly on urban roads, but for years I would do a ride on back country roads once a week, and I have gone on several long distance tours, including a 2500 mile trek to and through Mexico, which was almost all rural highway.

                When you are on a single-lane each way road and a car comes up behind you, they can do the exact same thing they do every time one vehicle wishes to go faster than another, whether its a truck or a tractor or a horse: wait until its safe, and then pass in the other lane.

                I acknowledge that people speeding makes it hard to make turns (it isn’t legal anywhere to go 50mph around a blind turn at an intersection, but of course that doesn’t stop people) which means you need to be extra cautious – but the same is true when driving a car in such an area, or even walking from the car to the destination.

              • Bakari June 17, 2013, 5:37 pm

                “basically you are telling people not to trust their instincts (their basic survival mechanism)”

                There were no bikes, no cars, no news reports or internet, (not to mention no currency or saving or investments, or electronic gadgets, or even agriculture, wheels, or fire) on the savanna that our instincts evolved to help us survive on.
                Which explains why are instincts and intuition are so extremely wrong so extremely often, in perceptions of safety (as well as finances)

                For a good book on the topic, Dan Ariel’s Predictably Irrational.
                For something shorter and more immediately accessible, Dan’s TED talks:
                http://www.ted.com/speakers/dan_ariely.html
                and Dan Gilbert:
                http://www.ted.com/speakers/dan_gilbert.html
                and every post here:
                http://youarenotsosmart.com/about/

                And if you have more time, the three part National Geographic series starting with:
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyeLF_a2iW0

                In short, yes, everyone should question their instincts and intuition, especially for something as important as your life and well being.

        • Jamesqf June 14, 2013, 1:11 pm

          “…take the lane. You should always be in a position where folks aren’t tempted to squeeze past.”

          Sorry, but quite apart from the rudeness (would you drive your car in the lane at 15 mph?), in these parts a significant portion of drivers won’t squeeze past, they’ll run over because they are talking on cell phones and aren’t aware of unexpected small objects* in the travel lane.

          *Or sometimes not so small. A friend of mine works on a highway maintenance crew, and tells of the time when they had one lane traffic & flaggers at a spot with at least two miles visibility in either direction. Guy in a pickup comes along at about 70 mph, smack into the back of a UPS truck that was the last stopped vehicle. When the emergency crews finally cut him out, he was still clutching a cell phone.

          Reply
          • Ben Alexander June 15, 2013, 6:27 am

            “A friend of mine tells of a time…”

            This is why it’s important to deal with statistics and probability. I’m sure between relatives and friends, I could make myself afraid of anything, but the chances of any of those things happening don’t change just because it happened to a friend of a friend.

            3% of bike/car crashes are rear end collisions. Pretty small odds. Don’t forget that a bicycle is moving in the same direction as traffic, not stationary, giving even an inattentive driver much more time to react.

            Reply
          • ben alexander June 15, 2013, 6:46 am

            The rudeness thing just gets under my skin. Its the same as saying that bikes don’t belong on the road, which is just not true. Bikes belong on the road, in the same legal sense that you are obligated to stop at red lights.

            Reply
          • stepthrough June 17, 2013, 10:50 am

            Our (Georgia) state law actually specifies that a bicycle should use the entire lane if the lane is not wide enough to share safely. And wide enough to share is pretty wide – 8 feet or more for the motor vehicle + 3 feet or more safe distance between car and bike + 3 feet or so for the width of the bike. And that means that the bike is on 3 feet of quality pavement, not in the gutter, skidding on gravel, or ducking tree branches. Very few lanes are wide enough to share.

            But that’s okay. Bicycles are vehicles. Bicycle riders pay the property and sales taxes that fund most local roads. There are no minimum speed limits except on expressways, the speed limit you see posted is a maximum.

            I’ve found that drivers are perfectly accommodating unless you are biking like a schmuck (weaving around, running lights, etc.) Looking professional and competent helps.

            Reply
        • RetiredAt63 June 15, 2013, 9:01 am

          Reply
    • higginst June 14, 2013, 10:26 am

      Yeah, I think the one thing missing from the analysis is that at the end of the hour of biking, you’ve only gone 12 miles, whereas if you’d taken the car, you’d have travelled 75 miles. That means, if your destination happened to be 75 miles away, you still have 5.25 hours to go on the bike. These hours need to be accounted for.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 12:02 pm

        Solution: use the car when you need to go 75 miles. For shorter trips, use the bike – it takes no time because you can subtract it out of the time you would otherwise have to spend exercising in the gym to stay in shape.

        Reply
        • Ken June 15, 2013, 5:37 am

          The point about time saved is excellent and often overlooked. Anything that you do that is both productive and involves physical effort is essentially multi-tasking. I’m pretty sure MMM points that out more than one place in past blog posts but bears repeating!

          Also, since all travel incurs risk, if you normally drive to a gym for exercise then eliminating the need for a few gym trips by biking for other errands can reduce overall risk. And of course save money too.

          Reply
          • higginst June 19, 2013, 10:04 am

            Yes, that is the obvious solution and I know from previous posts that is how you feel about it. Obviously, the 2-ton cage and the 2-wheeled-money-printer both have their benefits and drawbacks. As your math points out, the cons usually outweigh the pros for the car.

            Reply
  • KMB June 14, 2013, 7:05 am

    I biked to work for the second time today, thanks for the extra kick in the ass! 4.5 miles, it only took about 10 minutes longer than driving. Why do I not do this more often? I feel great!

    Reply
    • Val June 14, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Awesome!

      You may find that after doing it for a few weeks, that you get that extra time down to five minutes, by riding faster, or happening upon a faster route. My bike commute is 25 minutes, and 20 by car (more coming home). Would I trade 5 minutes of my life for the pleasure of being outside moving rather than stuck in traffic? Hell Yes!

      Reply
  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) June 14, 2013, 7:06 am

    “While already much safer than car-driving, cycling gets even safer as more people join in. Drivers become more aware of cyclists, and more bike lanes and dedicated paths get approved and built by the taxpayers. So you win, AND you change the world – every time you ride.”

    I live in Philly and next year we are going to have a bike share service available like they have in D.C. and most recently in New York. Philly is already a top 50 city for bicycling (#17 according to Bicycle Magazine) and I’m really looking forward to the extra bikes making it even better.

    Reply
  • Mr. 1500 June 14, 2013, 7:27 am

    The two very best things that you can instill in your children are a love of reading closely followed by a love of biking (thanks Dad).

    Reply
  • Will June 14, 2013, 7:28 am

    Of the many bicycling posts on MMM, this one got to me the most. The kicker for me is the health benefit emphasis, more than death statistics or monetary benefits. I hate going to the gym probably as much as MMM hates waiting in lines (I hate that, too). But if I can combine a task with excersize (splitting firewood by hand, taking the stairs, etc), that’s a huge win. I’ve put aside my wussypants excuses long enough to check into the hybrid bikes for sale on the old Craigslist. Will probably look into a shop’s used inventory, too.

    Reply
  • KzooMatt June 14, 2013, 7:29 am

    “…given the fact that being a cycling athlete makes you … more sexually capable…”

    This might be the best argument for 90% of the guys (and probably some ladies too) in the world. Never mind the math and logic, if you can convince guys it will make them better in bed you’ve got a home run on your hands :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque June 14, 2013, 7:52 am

      I believe that’s the argument that has worked for every cola, beer, skin cream, deodorant, clothing line and hair care product ever invented so … yes:
      Cycle for Greater Sexiness!
      Take off every Zig!

      Reply
    • Gus June 14, 2013, 2:32 pm

      Actually, abundant biking can lead to prostatisis in men. I don’t think this situation would qualify as being “augmented” , if you know what I mean.

      That being said, I do commute by bike 16 miles round trip each day for 8 months of the year.

      I am hoping that I won’t have to experience this first hand.

      Reply
  • Adam June 14, 2013, 7:32 am

    Always wanted to get into riding biked but am still not sure where to get a good one! I’m 21 and have only had bikes from Canadian Tire/ Walmart and they were always a pain.

    Also, how many drivers know the biking hand signals? I know I don’t, so what is the use? I would estimate less than 50% of drivers know these signals.

    Reply
    • Jimbo June 14, 2013, 12:04 pm

      That has never been a problem to me: The drivers are confused by the signals (the ones who don’t know them, I mean) and thus slow down and let you pass.

      Drivers, contrary to popular belief, do not want to kill people. Shocking, I know, but true.

      Reply
    • Bakari June 14, 2013, 7:15 pm

      They are exactly the same as the car hand signals, which they had to learn to get a driver’s license.
      And its really not too hard to figure out: stick your arm out and point left, means you are going left….

      Don’t buy department store bikes, they are rolling piles of crap (as you discovered)
      You can get a better bike just as cheap:
      http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/01/buying-bikes-from-craigslist.html

      Reply
  • Brooklyn Money June 14, 2013, 7:43 am

    I rarely ever am in a car — I don’t own one, living in Brooklyn and all. I take public transportation and walk everywhere. But it is very dangerous to ride a bike on the streets in my neighborhood. There are ghost bikes (aka memorials to fallen riders) scattered all over. I’d rather walk the 5 miles home from my office (which i do regularly in the spring and summer) than ride a bike.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 11:59 am

      Any citibikes in your area? Just wondering if they came to the same conclusion about the danger in that area.

      Reply
      • Mike June 15, 2013, 9:26 am

        They just started CitiBikes. Its a bike share program, you have 45 minutes to get to from Rent spot to Return spot. Its a 95 annual membership.

        I too live and work in Brooklyn, but I work in a dangerous section where bike delivery guys get mugged all the time.

        Reply
        • Patrick June 15, 2013, 10:18 pm

          Yep, I lived in Brooklyn for a few years, and I only rode my bike during specific times. It worked for me, but there were plenty of scary rides through there.

          Reply
  • mpbaker22 June 14, 2013, 8:38 am

    Too lazy/busy currently to think it all through, but I think your numbers cheat a little bit when they convert from time-basis to miles-basis.

    Also, assuming everyone reading this is already at a moderate level of mustachianism, our driving costs aren’t anywhere near $.50/mile. Mine are ~$.17.

    Still biking is worth it for the health benefits and the good, plain, fun. I haven’t had time to bike for exercise recently, so I think I might actually take up the commuting, now that I have access to a shower at work.

    Reply
  • plam June 14, 2013, 8:41 am

    Thanks for this awesome article MMM! I also like the Longmont Bike Fest picture. Now that it’s definitely summer, I’ve been noticing a lot more bikes out on the streets here, which is great.

    Me, I’ve been spending too much time in the car recently. At least they’re not Clown Car miles, I think: judo national championships are coming up and I need to get to places in other cities for extra training. It is still kind of ridiculous, but fortunately time-limited, unlike commuting.

    People keep on talking about per-mile stats and I always don’t buy that, because there are just more car miles that somehow just multiply when one isn’t looking.

    Reply
  • JasonR June 14, 2013, 9:01 am

    I’m excited to try biking around. If I ride just 6 hours a day I’ll live forever at 4.5 hours gained per hour spent. Did I do the math right? I’m assuming the gains taper off, yes? Otherwise we’d have Amish farmers from 1654 still farming due to the strenuous nature of the job.

    I’ve also read in the Longevity Project (the Terman Study from 1911) that exercise doesn’t buy any time. It makes your remaining years of a better quality, but it doesn’t add anything. Who knows…

    “If you can prove that your design holds up even in the worst possible case, it is guaranteed that it will work in all situations.” Has anyone read Antifragile? Using the past as a predictor of the future leads to levees failing, buildings and bridges collapsing and Fukushima reactors melting. The worst in the past has nothing on the worst in the future, especially as complexity increases, opening more doors to systemic, catastrophic and hilarious failure. If the worst case scenario was ever accurate we’d have solved all problems by now. We would know the absolute limits for drought, flood, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, epidemic, market collapse, etc. Unfortunately not true.

    Nitpicking aside, I’m still stoked to ride my bike and inwardly smirk as I get front row parking at the grocery store while SUVs circle the lot like vultures. All the links are great, thanks. Any tips for panniers/cargo/hauling bike set ups?

    Reply
    • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:14 am

      “any tips for hauling/cargo”?

      DIY panniers. As a certified bike freak, I have an assortment of expensive, silly bike luggage, but the best stuff, especially for heavy loads (like tools) is a bunch of cat litter buckets (rectangular) with S-hooks in the top lip. They are about $1/ea (for the hooks), waterproof, sturdy and detachable. Buy a decent rack for your bike, and then hang whatever you want on there.

      Reply
    • Jamesqf June 15, 2013, 10:58 am

      “Using the past as a predictor of the future leads to levees failing, buildings and bridges collapsing and Fukushima reactors melting.”

      Wrong. The problem there is not using ENOUGH of the past. As for instance, there are tsunami stones all around the Japanese coast, put in place after previous tsunamis, which basically say “Do not build below this point.” But that was a few centuries ago, and most people only think about last week or last year.

      Reply
  • Ben Alexander June 14, 2013, 9:10 am

    First, I notice a ton of complaining about the VMT-hours conversion. If anything, MMM’s conversion understates the benefits, because there is no good way to account for a change in total VMT from one mode to another.

    While it may be a little fuzzy to convert 75 mph averages to 12 mph averages (I find my clown car trips average at 35-40, tops), another thing that’s missing is that there is rarely a 1:1 replacement of car miles traveled with bike miles.

    For example, when I first moved to an urban neighborhood in Kansas City, I’d find myself driving to stores 20 miles away just because I could and I already knew where they were. As more and more car use has gone into bike use (and especially with a big ol’ bike trailer), trips have gotten shorter and shorter. Unless I’m visiting family in the ‘burbs (by bike, usually) or going on long, recreational rides in the country, I rarely find reasons to go more than 10 miles away.

    Second, I see ERRBODY complaining “my neighborhood has too many real streets and no bike trails, wah.” You know why those streets are busy? They GO somewhere! Every city in America has a vast and comprehensive bike transportation network, you just have to move out of the gutter and claim it! Just by learning to ride in traffic instead of sidewalks/gutters/shortcuts/whatever, you can get where you are going more quickly and safely.

    Contact your local bike nerds and take a TS101/Cycle Savvy/Confident Commuter/whatever class and learn to ride in traffic! It’s not scary, and it’s statistically safer than being a wussypants rider. Less than 3% of bike/car collisions are rear-end collisions, while the majority are related to visibility and cyclists who are afraid to assert themselves on the road (wrong-way riding, left-hooks, right-hooks and sidewalk riding). Your bike is a better way to drive, not a better way to walk, and you should be driving your bike as if it were a legitimate vehicle.

    Mustachianism is all about not being a wussypants and doing things that are difficult, but rewarding, but whenever bikes pop up, that attitude heads for the hills. I read comments by folks here doing all kinds of crazy and difficult shit to save a buck, biking should be easy!

    Reply
    • plam June 14, 2013, 9:15 am

      +1!!!

      Reply
    • Chris Turner June 14, 2013, 10:54 am

      A tip of the hat to you kind Sir.

      Reply
  • Done by Forty June 14, 2013, 9:14 am

    I’ll confess the complainy-pants reason I haven’t ridden my bike (or scooter) much the past month is the heat here in Phoenix. I see others riding so I know it’s possible, but on this front, I am a wuss.

    Reply
    • Jimbo June 14, 2013, 1:04 pm

      Soak your t-shirt in cold water before heading out. It’ll cool you as water evaporates. Can do with a bandana as well.

      I do that when it gets really hot. 20 minutes of coolness, easy.

      You can do this commute by bike, and you know it!

      Reply
      • durangostash94 June 14, 2013, 9:18 pm

        Done By Forty,

        You could also roll ice cubes (or crushed ice) into a bandana and then tie the bandana around your neck. Ahhh–so nice and cool.

        Reply
        • Done by Forty June 15, 2013, 3:21 pm

          Those are both good tips, durangostash & Jimbo. My next grocery run will be on the bike again…thanks for the motivation!

          Reply
    • JZ June 15, 2013, 4:50 pm

      The great thing about riding a bike is that it has not only a built in heater that kicks in after about half a mile, but also a built in fan to keep you cool.
      Plus, it’s cardio exercise, which helps you acclimate to weather.

      Reply
  • Dan June 14, 2013, 9:27 am

    I have been reading the comments and as a lifelong American who is 37, would like to add my thoughts. First off, America is at least 100% more bike friendly than when I was born in 1976. Having said that, it is decades behind Europe as far as bike friendliness. Before I had a driver’s license, I loved riding my bike. I grew up in one of the most sprawly hell zones on .75 acres, so long rides and no bike lanes were normal to me as a kid, yet I am still alive and thriving. My dad told me if I was bored, “go ride your bike.” I listened, and grew quickly to love it I would ride for hours for no reason. Thanks dad for not being a helicopter parent who protected me from experiencing life and growing.

    Second thought, I am 37 and live 3.5 miles from work. When I brought up the idea of commuting to bike my car addicted co workers, they were shocked. In my 6 story suburban building, I am the only one who parks at any of the four bike racks. So those complaining about “no place” to park, surely you jest. Any pole will do, any nearby lot with a bike rack, etc, etc. Even with bike lanes my entire route to work, I still take a subdivision route which is more direct and is literally without cars, I mostly see mom’s and kids riding on my bike. There is one main road I am forced to ride on which, since it was built two years ago, has complete bike lanes on each side. Because it’s near a freeway on ramp, though, I take the unused sidewalk part of the way home to be safer. It seems on the way home from work, driver’s are much ruder and inconsiderate, so I skip from the bike lane at a light to the sidewalk until I pass the freeway, which I have found is actually quicker than staying on the road.

    When I drive, I actually use a totally different route as driving in low speed areas that I bike in would actually take longer than the safe areas I bike in. Bottom line, no excuses, test your routes on the weekends, and make small adjustments as your instincts will tell you what is safe and what is not safe. I am now happy everyday at work due to endorphins. It’s an incredible feeling, one mostly experienced only in Europe and by pioneers like myself and MMM.

    Reply
  • Nunayo June 14, 2013, 9:47 am

    I now work from home, and the only thing I miss about going to the office is the bicycle commute. I did choose my neighborhood with the awesome bike route in mind. Nothing like a ride along the river to start the day off right.

    Reply
  • Tim June 14, 2013, 10:04 am

    A point:
    The average age of bicyclists killed in accidents has steadily increased, from 35 in 200 to 41 in 2009 (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811386.pdf). In other words, the average fatality is not because of young, dumb teenage bicycle riders. The most common bicycle fatality is between the ages of 45 and 54, and occurs on their way home from work.

    Reply
    • TLV June 14, 2013, 11:03 am

      That report has some interesting statistics, Tim. Thanks for sharing.

      What stood out to me the most from that report was that the fatality rates from cycling are MUCH lower for women – .52 per million people compared with 3.62 for men. It doesn’t say why – possibilities that come to mind are it could be that drivers give female cyclists more space, or that women don’t bike nearly as much, or that males of all ages are more likely to take dumb risks.

      Also from that report, roughly 40% of cyclist fatalities had been drinking.

      Reply
      • Tim June 14, 2013, 12:13 pm

        No problem! I love data, both sharing and receiving it. It boggles my mind that people use anecdotes as data, even on this site! I think I figured out why drivers have more bad bicyclist stories and bicyclists have more bad driver stories: it’s based on how many vehicles you see on your normal routes. When I’m driving, I’m usually going roughly the average speed, which means I see a pocket of vehicles between my origin and destinations. I pass a lot of bicyclists, simply because I’m going much faster than they are. So I see total bicyclists than drivers on my commute. Similarly, if I were biking, I would be passed by a ton of drivers, but not that many bicyclists. So I would see a lot of cars, some proportion of which were doing bad/illegal driving. Your experience gets skewed by your method of transportation.

        Oh, and maybe it’s just me, but I think almost everyone out there is a bad driver. The route I take to work at one point goes from one lane to 3, the right lane only exists for about two miles with no turns before it merges back into the middle lane. About every other day someone passes me in the right lane going about 25 mph over the speed limit, which is incredibly stupid and illegal. The bicyclists around here, though, treat stop signs as green lights, and red lights as stop signs. I had a friend complain to me once that she received a ticket when a police officer saw her bike through three consecutive stop signs without slowing down. I was amazed a cop actually gave a bicyclist a ticket – something I had never seen before.

        Reply
    • Bakari June 14, 2013, 7:24 pm

      what is (very unfortunately) missing from that data is the circumstances of the crash. Was the cyclist on the street going with traffic, on the street going against traffic, or on the sidewalk? How many of the “non-intersection” involved driveways? In how many of the intersection crashes did either the cyclist or auto driver run a stop sign or red light?

      Previous studies have found a disproportionate amount of crashes among cyclists who ride on the sidewalk, ride facing traffic, and run stop signs and red lights.

      Reply
    • ben alexander June 15, 2013, 6:40 am

      Tim: that is really interesting. I wonder what is going on there. More adults riding for transportation than before? Clearly, the old line about kids being dangerous doesn’t hold water. Oops.

      Reply
  • Kyla June 14, 2013, 10:32 am

    Mr. Money Mustache,

    Love the blog. I currently try to ride my bike to work down here in humid NC and as you can imagine, I was much more successful during the cooler months. I won’t tell you the distance because it’s embarrassingly short and I should be riding.

    So, this brings me to my current issue: I am changing jobs to slightly farther away, but sill within easy biking distance on bike lanes and green ways. The problem is that I am a lawyer and this requires me to look and dress nice. And my office does not have a shower. And I sweat. A lot. And have curly hair that I like to wear straight and gets frizzy. And did I mention how hot and humid it is down here?

    My solution? The ELF bike: http://www.organictransit.com/index.html
    I want to use the electric motor to get to work without sweating and then cycle home. I can also use it during inclement weather. However, it’s expensive (about $4,000.00) and I’d have to work on some storage issues. I drive a Honda Fit (used! 2009! great gas mileage! Paid off!) and I have a nice cruiser bike and a road bike. SO, I don’t “need” it and as a mustachian by nature, I can’t decide if I should get it or not. (I am also one of the earth conscious upper middle class people you target and don’t want to get sucked into getting something “green” just because. There’s that pesky more stuff issue…)

    If you wanted to do some numbers, it’s a 4 mile drive to my new job vs. a 6 mile ride. I likely won’t be able to ride everyday as some days I’ll need to travel to far cities. And there is a public bus route right from my house to my office ($36 per 31 day pass, 5 day pass $8.50, day pass $2, or $1 per trip). Unfortunately the bus system is not that great and I have only been able to use it sporadically.

    What do you think? My mustachian boyfriend thinks it’s rather expensive, but will support my decision. (And it’s really cute/funky looking and can hopefully spark conversation about the environment, cycling, our clown car habit, etc.).

    Thanks again for the great blog!

    Reply
    • Lina June 14, 2013, 2:06 pm

      Do you have a gym near your work that you could use to shower etc? You would be able to pay many months of memberships fees for the 4000 dollar vehicle.

      I would not buy the bike as I think the bike is ridiculous and you would also have storage issues. I would ride your normal bike, take the bus or drive in that order.

      Reply
      • Melissa June 14, 2013, 6:55 pm

        I think if you have your heart set on it, look for used. Surely someone has bought one thinking it’d be great! then changed their mind. (Just like used cars that are a yr old, or even some very nice bikes that people sell.) I bet if you are patient, one will turn up for a fraction of the cost. If it were me, I would never buy new, and I wouldn’t buy it if I hadn’t tried it out first.

        Reply
    • JDB June 22, 2013, 8:20 am

      So the professional/sweating thing is super easy to overcome. I keep my suits in a filing closet at my work, hubby keeps his on the back of his door. Baby wipes, fresh makeup, and a nice synthetic shirt instantly transform me. In the morning it is “clean” non stinky sweat anyway. But curly hair? I have straight hair and just pull it up or flatiron it… not sure what you could do but I imagine the hair will be the same problem on an electric or manual bike anyway.I vote NO.

      Reply
  • scott June 14, 2013, 10:37 am

    I know MMM has said this all before but I really think designing your life around bicycle transportation is the most important step for the transition from normal American lifestyle to Mustachian lifestyle. It is an essential paradigm shift. Your top priority should being making sure that you are within cycling distance of the places you travel to on a daily basis (work, school, grocery store). It may mean that you have to move to a new city and find a new job, move within your city, find a new job within your city, move to a smaller home, put your kids in a different school, move to whole different region or climate. Whatever it takes. You have to think big picture and consider all your options.

    Reply
  • Ross June 14, 2013, 10:59 am

    One of the biggest benefits I get from biking is a consistent transit time. It is a massive time saver too. Before, I would commute (via public transit), up to 2 hours a day and go to the gym for an hour during lunch. Now, I simply bike about 30 minutes each way and don’t have to go to the gym. I have saved 2 hours a day! I arrive at work energized, refreshed, and alert so I save my employer time and money in that regard too.

    Find a safe route, try it out on a weekend, and get some lights, fenders and a good U-lock.

    Reply
  • Chris Turner June 14, 2013, 11:09 am

    “It is not an exaggeration to say that a bicycle is a money-printing fountain of youth, probably the single most important and highest-yielding investment a human can possibly own.”

    Statements like these have been a giant wake-up, face punch to me!

    Two years ago I radically changed my financial/retirement/happiness philosophy and started gravitating towards the way of the Mustache. We have saved, planned and done countless little things to organize our lives into a more efficient, low cost lifestyle. The last big step has been the looming housing/transportation issue. Starting July 1, we’ll be moving into a more modest house (2465$ per month to 570$ per month) and cutting my commute in half (24 miles to 12 miles). This will cut our living expenses down to about 2500$/month and will be a great practice run for our retirement budget. This will also allow me to start commuting by bike at least 1-2 days per week. I’m ecstatic about the biking part! With each day that passes I feel a little closer to freedom. 5.5 years until retirement and total freedom!

    Reply
    • jethro watkins June 18, 2013, 4:03 pm

      FREEDOM!!!

      When I started bike commuting I said to myself 1-2 days/week. Now I ride every single day that I am in the office.

      7 more years here for this young-stacian…

      I actually hit a cyclist the other day on the bike path and rubbed tires with someone else this morning on the way in. I just need to slow down! One advantage to riding on icy bike trails — you get them to yourself!

      RIDE ON

      Reply
  • Ree Klein June 14, 2013, 11:13 am

    Holy Bicycle, Mr. MM….I’M A CONVERT!

    This line alone would have done the trick: “…a bicycle is a money-printing fountain of youth”

    The rest is a blur!

    Reply
  • Redeyedtreefr0g June 14, 2013, 11:21 am

    My husband just came home yesterday with a bike story for me. He’d gone to Sprouts (in the Beetle). He is a car person, not a bike rider except by necessity. He saw a cyclist doing everything they were supposed to, turning left from a turn lane. A woman in a van, on the phone, turned left from the right lane and hooked the cyclist. My husband was sitting at the intersection in the Beetle waiting to turn right in the opposite direction from where they came.

    The cyclist was grazed by the van behind the driver’s door. He ended up, by Jamie’s description, somehow managing to use his arm to push himself away from the van while simultaneously falling off his bike by vaulting over the handlebars and landing in a run to safety while his bike hit the pavement. His efforts rewarded him with only a scrape to his leg. His bike also received a scrape,a nd I think needed a straightening of the bars. The lady van driver continued, oblivious, and made the right turn into the Sprouts lot and parked in a space facing a curb.

    My husband, knowing I cycle hundreds of miles all over the place and often not on the car-free Greenway, promptly abandoned the car at the intersection to see if the cyclist was alright, and help him get his bike out of the road. Then Jamie and the lady had a confrontation. My husband is quite an aggressive person by nature, and he refused to let the lady off the hook just because she said she never saw anything.

    She decided it would be a good idea to try and leave when Jamie called 911 to report the incident, since she obviously would not, and the cyclist was indecisive since he hadn’t gotten really hurt. Jamie would have none of that- his wife rides a bike and that’s bullshit.

    The van driver would have backed out of the parking space if not for Jamie, who refused to move from where he was standing just behind the van. He’d written down the tag number and such as soon as he’d hung up the phone, just in case.

    The police arrived and took over, and asked whose Beetle was out there in the roadway, if Jamie was the one that had called. They took a look at the cyclist and did their police thing while Jamie left, and promised to call him if they needed any other information. Jamie said the cyclist ended up being grateful that Jamie insisted on doing the right thing.

    The fact is- there are stupid people everywhere. I have never yet, even as a small female, ever felt unsafe on my bicycle. I learned quickly that sidewalks are unreliable tricky pathways to follow and using them invites incidents versus cars. They never stop where they should, but pull right up to the edge of the roadway in order to look for the gap in cars to make their turn. So I learned to ride in the roadway with traffic, and what a large reduction it made in the number of drivers who would have T-boned me!

    BUT, if you are alert, keep your bike maintained (good brakes!!) and pay attention, you are probably the safest user of the roads out there. Make yourself visible, and you can easily tell the people who can see you, and the ones that aren’t paying attention- good people will go out of their way to give you space and pass respectfully. (After all, you are a crazy person actually riding a bicycle, out on the roadway with cars, and they have no idea what you might do next. /rolleyes). They don’t want to hit you. Mirrors like the Take-a-Look one that attaches to helmet, eyeglasses, or hat brim make a great accessory to see what that car coming up behind you is doing, or to see that cyclist on the road bike coming up behind you on the Greenway. $13 at Bike ‘N Hike.

    It’s summertime, and you have places to go. Riding a bike gives you your own cooling breeze and you don’t have to deal with letting out the hot air pent up in the car until the cooling system system kicks in. You can ride right up to the front door of most places, instead of hunting for a parking spot. Have to haul home groceries? A bike with a rear rack can haul a surprisingly large amount of stuff if you hook the grocery bags to it. Even just one saddlebag (or pannier) can hold a LOT of stuff. If you need even more space there are trailers that families are often selling cheap that work perfectly fine as cargo haulers. Have to deal with hills? Route a teensy bit out of your way to go around them, or use a bike with a few gears to make pedaling up that slope easier. There is no excuse you can throw out that has no answer. People on this forum and others can help you out.

    Get out there and ride, folks!

    Reply
    • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow June 14, 2013, 2:32 pm

      On situations like that I prefer, even thought I’m allowed to, to get off and cross like a pedestrian. Simpler and safer.

      Reply
  • TravelerMSY June 14, 2013, 11:28 am

    Anecdotal evidence, but I’ve been hit by a car 3 times and am now out of the biking biz. YMMV.

    I’m assuming your stats are based on risk of death, not minor injury.

    Reply
  • Marcia June 14, 2013, 11:50 am

    I enjoy biking to work and recently started up again. Right now it’s one day/week (it’s a 10 mile ride/ 50 minutes). I plan on increasing that.

    I’m lucky that Santa Barbara is very bikeable (though people do drive too fast here and text and drive). Sadly, I see almost no 40-something women like me riding. I do see a lot of men riding though.

    In my home town (rural country), people generally cannot bike because nobody does it. The roads have no lanes or shoulders, have a lot of twists and turns, and the speed limit is 55 mph. You may be able to find a “back road” route but you’d have to get people used to seeing you there, because people drive fast on the back roads too.

    Reply
  • Noble Anarchist June 14, 2013, 11:59 am

    If you haven’t seen this Ted Talk, I love it, and strongly recommend everyone watch it. Man, Europeans are better than North Americans sometimes :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07o-TASvIxY

    Uploaded on Dec 16, 2010
    Copenhagen’s bicycle ambassador talks about how important the bicycle is for liveable cities and how bicycle helmets are threatening bicycle culture.

    Reply
    • Giddings Plaza FI June 15, 2013, 12:56 am

      Thanks for the link, this was an intriguing, and counterintuitive, TED talk. The speaker mentioned some stats on how UNsafe bike helmets are considered by some statisticians. I wish he would have shown the actual numbers, and named some researchers or studies we could look at. I’m all about numbers and scientific proof. I’m going to look into this (mostly cuz I hate wearing bike helmets).

      He also had the intriguing stat that the health benefits of biking outweigh its risk 20 times (not percent –times!). It would be great to see the research underlying that, as well. E.g. how long / far do you need to bike, and how often, to make this true? What benefits are weighed, and what risks?

      Reply
  • Nick @ ayoungpro.com June 14, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I agree! :P

    Reply
  • JaneMD June 14, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Remember Anti-Automobine April? I didn’t participate, but I started biking in my neighborhood in May. I will not be commuting via bike because with my long hours and calls. A six+ mile bike ride in rush hour traffic is a BAD idea. I also have to bring 30 hours worth of food and supplies with me. I won’t be sorry about that.

    On the other hand, I have completely stopped driving my car in the neighborhood. I go to the gym, the library, the doctor’s, and so forth running every errand via bike. I live in an urban gentrified zone so I have figured out a pretty quiet route off the main intersections that gets me to my main haunts. I’ve lost 8 lbs, I feel better, and do not have to deal with the stress of parking anymore. We’ll see in June how much we spent on gas.

    Reply
  • AA June 14, 2013, 12:47 pm

    I tried mapping out a route, and I physically cannot get to work without getting onto a state highway where people will be driving 60+ mph. (I live waaaay in the country, like I’ve seen people ride horses to the local watering hole.) And even though I am 4 miles from work there is literally one road that gets there and no bike trails.

    I could potentially use it to get to the grocery store (which is actually quite walkable), but work appears out for me unless I feel like being a lawbreaker. Considering the land I’d have to trespass on belongs to the state police academy, I think that would be a bad idea… :)

    Reply
  • StillWorking June 14, 2013, 12:55 pm

    In the first bullet point, MMM said, “When *you* and *I* ride our bikes, we [do it more safely than most people, therefore] our own crash rate can be much lower than the national average.” To be fair, if MMM readership are truly safer cyclists, then they ought to be safer car drivers as well.

    This analysis is presented in terms of life expectancy. What about non-fatal but really bad accidents? I’m curious how the numbers shake out when you don’t look at it purely in terms of premature *death*. Boil it down to this for me: if I drive to work (slowly, safely and conscientiously) versus bike to work (likewise conscientiously), what are the chances I make it without *any* harm to my person? Or if I do hurt myself, what is the statistical breakdown by degree of harm? Minor bruises, cuts and scrapes I don’t care about. Broken bones suck but they heal. But… injuries that require hospitalization? Or permanent conditions like dismemberment, neurological damage, loss of limbs? Frankly, that stuff scares me more than death.

    As other readers pointed out, the “bikeability” factor varies greatly in the USA depending on where one lives. Whereas I suspect that the “driveability” doesn’t vary nearly as much. So it’s not really a fair comparison to look at the national-level statistics.

    Now, what are the safety stats on *public transportation*? That’s what I take to work. I take a commuter train, and I can’t possibly imagine getting injured on it short of a terrorist attack. It may not have the exercise benefits that biking does, but I make up for that with my home gym. Not to mention, I can safely zone-out completely on the train.

    So public transportation for me for now. But when I FIRE (hopefully in the next five years or so), I want to move back to my hometown (wife and I have family there). It’s a smallish town in central Illinois, with a much less developed mass transit system. There biking is definitely not the norm: few people are on the lookout for bikers, and there is a non-trivial redneck population who seem to be outright adversarial towards cyclists. I would love to bike when we move back; I fully support the rationale for biking: economic, health, environmental. But despite MMM’s attempts at convincing me it’s safer, at a gut level, it just feels riskier than driving. What it comes down to is this:

    I can do everything right: bright clothing, lights, follow rules, optimal path, etc, and all it takes is that one careless/distracted/drunk clown that comes out of nowhere and hits me. I might not die, but I’ll probably have more than scrapes and bruises. Whereas in a car, in the same scenario, I’m more likely to sustain only minor injuries.

    I do agree that as cycling becomes more popular, it will only get safer. I just don’t have the courage to be part of the “biking revolution”. I want to see that revolution take place, and I’ll hop on my bike as soon as it happens. But until then, I’m cowardly waiting in the train (or car) for other people to take the lead.

    Reply
    • Jeff June 14, 2013, 1:10 pm

      Part of what MMM was saying is that the bicycle fatalities include children on bikes, but there are not many children driving cars. So the numbers may be skewed against bikes because it’s dominated by a younger population. But I agree with you. His use of these statistics isn’t right. If the populations aren’t the same, you can’t use the statistics for comparison.

      Reply
    • Thereis Nospoon June 14, 2013, 2:17 pm

      The National Safety Council annually publishes an awesome “odds of death by selected causes” infographic, the latest version (with data from 2009) is http://www.nsc.org/nsc_library/Documents/Odds%20of%20Dying%20From%20Graphic%202013%20ed.pdf I don’t know if that link will work here, but let’s just say you are less likely to die from cycling than lots of other things: cancer, stroke, suicide, walking (!), fires and the list goes on.

      Trains and buses are not accident free, and certainly not free of serious injury and death. I can think of two, huge, fatal commuter train wrecks in California in the past ten years. Dozens of people hurt in Connecticut last month. There was a bus fatality just this week. I’ve been in two trains that have hit cars on the tracks. I’ve also had a couple of wrecks on the bike. How many people do you know that have been hurt in car wrecks?

      You are, without a doubt, going to die. The question is, are you ever going to live?

      Reply
      • Tim June 14, 2013, 3:00 pm

        That’s a nice gigantic straw man you built on top of my car. All of those statistics need to be weighed by the number of people doing it. If I don’t scuba dive, the chance of me dying while scuba diving is 0. More people drive than ride bikes, and more people die in car accidents. But per mile, hour, or trip, you’re somewhat to far more likely to die while riding a bike than while in a car.

        Reply
        • Bakari June 14, 2013, 7:54 pm

          But that is false, which was the whole point of this article!

          Reply
          • Tim June 15, 2013, 10:58 am

            Did my earlier response to this get deleted, or are there errors in the comment system?

            Reply
            • Bakari June 15, 2013, 11:33 am

              I’m getting similar errors.
              But I saw it.

              As I have pointed out in numerous comments here (as well as my blog post on the subject, which sites sources, and you can access by clicking my name above this comment), 90% of bike accidents would not have happened if the cyclist was riding legally and safely.
              Which means if you or I make a conscious choice to ride safely (and learn what that means, instead of going by feeling) we have to adjust the overall population risk factor by an order of magnitude to find our own personal statistical risk.

              Ride on the street, with traffic, stop at stop signs and lights, and wear bright clothing and bright lights (even in the daytime) and that 6.9 per billion becomes 0.69 per billion

              Even without considering that, in comparing risk, MMM is suggesting you also factor in the higher risk of dieing of heart disease from driving everywhere instead of biking. That risk is real, even if you won’t do the dieing in the actual car itself.

              Reply
              • Tim June 15, 2013, 11:38 am

                Yes, I looked at your sources. They only deal with number of accidents, not fatalities, in a whopping 3 cities. And the number of accidents do not line up with age (again, see the source I’ve posted multiple times), so we know that reducing the number of accidents by 90% does not reduce the number of fatalities by 90%.

                And again, you apply this metric of driving safely only to one side. To have numbers that are anywhere near meaningful, you need to use the same criteria (driving safer) for driving cars as well.

          • Tim June 18, 2013, 9:13 am

            I’ll try again. I strongly disagree with Bakari’s interpretation of this article. The article very clearly shows the statistics for fatalities due to riding a bide from point A to point B are much higher than if you took a car. MMM argues that this effect is outweighed by the health benefits of riding a bike instead of driving in a car. But in terms of safety, as measured by fatalities, MMM’s numbers clearly show that you’re less likely to die traveling between point A and point B if you drive rather than bike.

            Reply
            • JZ June 20, 2013, 11:10 am

              But that is missing at least two things, even assuming that we accept the idea that we should ignore lifespan effects on safety. (You are very safe if you are sealed in a concrete block, but you might not live very long.)

              First, bicyclists include a lot of people riding the wrong way and/or on the sidewalk, as well as people doing stunt riding. How many cars do you see driving on the wrong side of the road into traffic in a day? Ten? Twenty? These behaviors drastically increase the risk.

              Second, cars drive silly long distances. They drive in circles looking for places to park, they drive past perfectly good stores to make vast journeys for miles looking to save pennies (at a net loss). Urry’s Mobility Theory (and to a lesser degree, Mokhtarian’s Travel Liking Theory) has demonstrated that having a car tends to make people plan things around making the huge trips as well, meaning that habitual use of a car gets people to think that increasingly non-Mustachian journeys are a good idea.

              If you use a bicycle or walk, your knowledge of the city is at a higher resolution and you will tend to have less need for a given trip since you will be likely to go to the three or four cool neighborhood shops that the people driving a car whiz past obliviously on their way to the Buy N Large.

              Reply
    • Patrick June 14, 2013, 7:58 pm

      I wonder if the perception of safety has anything to do with how many years you’ve been riding.

      I wonder because I notice that a lot of eastern US city dwellers perceive biking as dangerous but did not grow up on two wheels from the time they were 7 or so. I taught my wife how to ride a bike in Central Park when she was 30.

      I don’t think too much about the safety issue until I see some really crazy stuff go down out there. But, you have a lot of control on a bike that you don’t even have on a motorcycle — which also means a bit more responsibility. Just some heads up, and you’ll be fine.

      Sort of waiting for one Mr. Johnny Moneyseed to comment on this article given prior comments in these hallowed halls regarding bike safety.

      Awkward silence…. Alrighty then.

      Reply
    • Bakari June 14, 2013, 8:05 pm

      “Whereas in a car, in the same scenario, I’m more likely to sustain only minor injuries.”

      In 2011, 2,217,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in 2010 that the cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with motor vehicle crash injuries was over $99 billion, or nearly $500, for each licensed driver in the United States. In addition, every 10 seconds an American is treated in an emergency department for crash-related injuries, based on data from 2005.

      The most common cause of the worst non-death injury, paraplegia? Car accidents.

      Sure, on a gut level, it “feels safe” to be inside a steel box. But it isn’t.

      Reply
  • Jeff June 14, 2013, 1:04 pm

    “let’s compare a cyclist at a comfortable commuting pace of 12MPH, with a car driver on the interstate at 75MPH. Now, the risk per hour is equal, because the car is covering 6.2 times more miles than the cyclist. So the accident risk per hour of the two activities is roughly equal.”

    Alternatively, only select roads of 45MPH and under (the only place you’ll find bicycles), and biking will look much, much less safe. I love most articles on this site, but this one is some pretty wonky statistical gymnastics.

    The bottom line is that transportation in the US is pretty darn safe regardless of mode. Biking has a lot of extra benefits. Just don’t be a stupid biker, and you’ll be fine.

    Reply
    • John June 14, 2013, 2:37 pm

      I think I agree that the stats used here are a little bit convoluted, and although I agree with the overall conclusion, the scale of it just feels wrong.

      I ride a fair bit, and on the basis that 1 mile ridden gives an extra 1350 seconds of life (22 minutes?? Really?!?) my weekend’s riding just gave me an extra 5 days 20 hours of lifespan. Sure, I felt great (maybe a bit tired) afterwards, but that just feels too much. (I’m not convinced it’s given me over $3k of lifetime value either. Great rate if so.)

      That said, here in the UK they suggest that the risks of riding a bike regularly will cost you a year of expected lifespan, while the benefits will give you an extra 20, for a net gain of 19 years, so maybe it’s not so far out after all.

      As for risks in a car on an interstate at 75mph as opposed to a 45mph road, motorways here have a *much* lower death rate than other roads – per mile travelled, they’re by far the safest. I’m sure the numbers are on the web somewhere … fudging the differences in death rates against the greater time spent would provide yet another way to confuse MMM’s figures!

      Reply
  • mark June 14, 2013, 1:36 pm

    The other way to measure is safety is by trip. I do all my trips via biking, walking and transit– so my exposure is very low (short duration/ short mileage trips). Cars encourage us to take long trips, increasing our exposure.

    Reply
  • Katie June 14, 2013, 1:39 pm

    I found this post, and the comments, very interesting.

    Overall I’m not quite ready to go from clown car to fearless biker, but I’m starting to get inklings. Have to figure out moving closer to work first (since right now it’s a 25min speedy highway drive). The reason I moved so far away in the first place was because as a single person looking for a social life the super-suburbs are a wash. Maybe I can make my friends move too ;) I’m also stuck with my car since I sometimes unpredictably have to drive between work sites mid-day, and it’s far enough that the additional change-bike-clean up routine would be hard to justify on company time.

    As an engineer I try not to let my emotions overcome my logic, but after being hit by a car and gaining a fractured never-healed-right collarbone the fear is pretty intense. I’ve biked on the roads but every time a car passes I freeze a little and struggle not to panic. Has anyone had similar experience, and has it gotten better with practice? It’s extremely stressful right now.

    One question I have is how to protect my bike from theft? There aren’t bike racks everywhere (and my bike has no kickstand, being a pricey racing bike). I own a bike lock but I wouldn’t feel secure leaving it for hours or overnight. Is there anything more I could do?

    Also, I’d really like to see stats on injuries/distance as well as the death stats you provided.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking content.

    Reply
    • Bakari June 14, 2013, 8:07 pm

      too many questions for the comments. Come over to the forums, people will be happy to address them all!

      Reply
  • Dragline June 14, 2013, 2:06 pm

    “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4QKiYar9pI

    Reply
  • Dave June 14, 2013, 2:10 pm

    Disclosure: I’m a wussy-pants, in that I probably could bike the 10-miles to and from work each way, but I would fear for my safety along the available routes.

    That out of the way, I’m actually commenting about the life-extension benefits of exercise. In general, these are undeniable, but the actual numbers you’re using here are…well, let’s be generous and say “slightly deceptive”.

    The problem being that those multiplication values drop off as the quantity of exercise increases, until they actually become not just less than one, but less than zero (i.e. negative – *costing* you life expectancy). And the drop off comes quite quickly, after more than two hours daily (only 60 daily minutes for “vigorous” exercise). It’s because rather than simply “adding” life expectancy, exercise is largely “returning” life expectancy that you *lose* if you *don’t* exercise.

    Thus there’s a maximum you can “get back”, which makes sense – otherwise, if your numbers were accurate, one could simply exercise two or three hours per week and effectively become immortal (which is not to say an extra 4 years of life might not actually mean the difference between dying and effective immortality in terms of living long enough to take advantage of hypothetical radical life-extension therapy the future might offer us).

    Even then, those multipliers seem subject to some bad math. Let’s use me as an example, say I’m 30, and be generous and say my life expectancy as a non-exercising male is 66.1. What I’m “getting” from 2 hours per day of exercise (3.9 years, according to one study), gives me an end-age of 70, or 40 years from right now. Now the “multiplier”: if I start exercising 2 hours per day for the entire (enhanced) remainder of my life, that’s 2 hours/day * 40 years * 365.25 days/year = 29220 hours of exercise. Sweaty! The life I’m gaining in this example is that 3.9 figure, so 3.9 years * 365.25 days/year * 24 hours/day = 34187.4. 34187.4 divided by 29220 gives us a multiplier of…1.17. So for each hour of exercise (for these specific assumptions), I get a net gain of .17 hours, or 10.2 minutes. So I’m definitely not wasting time, but it’s also not quite the huge font of extra hours your numbers might suggest. And this doesn’t account that a large portion of the 40 years might be “better”, because you’d be healthier from the exercise (minus whatever time you’re unhappy due to injuries, bike theft, flat tires, etc). How much better, net, times 40 years? *shrug*

    Of course, if you think “sleep” doesn’t count as “enjoyable” extra life, that’d knock about 11000 off of the “life gained” total, leaving you with a net loss. And it also doesn’t account for the fact that all the extra hours come at the end, when you may be less healthy or happy (because of all of the crazy kids on your holo-lawn with their psych-blob-rock and hoverboards and whatnot – I personally plan on getting into hoverboarding in a big way when I turn 65, but YMMV). Also, if bike riding in general makes you scared or miserable, that 1.17 multiplier starts to look like an even worse trade-off (because the time isn’t an “even trade”). Whereas if bike-riding is intrinsically enjoyable (as much or moreso than other things you’d likely be doing instead), it looks slightly better.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 5:56 pm

      Nice counter-analysis. But I don’t think you have to do 2 hours per day to get the 3.9 years – the articles I linked show much bigger benefits from smaller amounts of exercising.

      It is not unreasonable to have physical activity make the difference between a person at 60 being barely able to walk up stairs (or already dead due to heart attack), and a person at 80 still powering up the stairs and biking every day. That’s more than a 20 year difference.. and you see it every day here in the Boulder area, with so many older active people.

      In general, I agree with one of your points: benefits of exercise flatten out and then become negative if you overdo it – especially vigorous exercise like running. But 2 hours a day is a lot, and one of my goals here is to get the many people who are under 15 minutes, up into the 1-2 hour category. You gotta write for the most probable case, rather than the exceptions.

      Reply
  • Tim June 14, 2013, 2:29 pm

    MMM,

    Do you have any concerns that the studies you mention only look at effects up to less than MET-hr/week? That corresponds to about 3, maybe 4 hours of bike riding. And figure 1B from the PLoS Medicine paper you cited clearly shows the effects leveling off, shows the maximum increase in life expectancy based on exercise is perhaps 5 years.

    There’s no question that a small level of physical activity has huge effects on health. But people who already have a good amount of exercise (like pretty much anyone who owns a bike) are going to see a much smaller effect on their health.

    Reply
  • Benjamin WIlson June 14, 2013, 2:41 pm

    I would still ride my bike even if it were more dangerous. Cant imagine being forced to use a car.

    Reply
  • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow June 14, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Been waiting forever for this article to finally come out so I could comment. The one fact everyone seems to forget that while it may take time we can all optimize our lives. For example we knew a year in advance we’d be moving so we both put a lot of thought and effort on how we can reduce our dependance on the car. So we moved to an area that is super bike and public transit friendly. Before we had to drive everywhere and typically filled two cars every week. Now my wife takes public transit to work (5 min walk and another 5 mins to the office) and she loves it, can relax for a full 30 mins both ways and pretty much everything we need is within biking distance.

    As a matter of fact just yesterday we went out and picked up a package from the post office, dropped off some pants to be hemmed, stopped in the store to pick up a few items and then went out for dinner, all on the bike, before that would have all have to been done by car.

    So yes I understand at the moment it might not be possible to bike everywhere but somewhere down the road when life brings changes as it always does you be able to do as we did, change your whole life for the better.

    Reply
  • Brian B. June 14, 2013, 3:09 pm

    I was clobbered last year while riding a bike. I nearly lost my leg in the accident. I was hit from behind on a rural road in good weather while wearing a bright yellow jersey. The guy never saw me until it was too late. I still don’t understand how he didn’t see me for a 1/4 mile stretch. I plan on riding again, but I will probably use flashers at all times. You can imagine the looks I get from friends and family when I talk about riding again…no amount of statistics will move me out of the insane column in their eyes.

    Reply
    • betsy22 June 17, 2013, 11:14 am

      I wear my yellow reflective safety vest while biking on city streets. I look like a dork, but I’m happy for a little bit of extra visibility. (though obviously that’s not always enough since you were hit while wearing bright yellow)

      Reply
    • JZ June 17, 2013, 7:37 pm

      Ask how many of them have been in or know someone who has been in a car wreck. Then once they think of one, ask them how on earth they can think of getting in a car again? Clearly they’re insane to be taking that much of a risk!

      Reply
  • Dan June 14, 2013, 3:30 pm

    Most of you are not seeing the forests for the trees. I know it’s fun to analyze the analysis, but this is missing the bigger point of the article. You will look and FEEL better biking to work each day, all the while saving time and money.

    I decided to bike to work to exercise as it only adds 20 minutes to my day and that takes far less than driving to a gym to work out and driving back. Even if I ran, I would have to cut back to 20 minutes vs. 40 minutes on the bike to get the same time efficiency. That is because my old car commute was already 10 minutes each way.

    The benefit I never really foresaw was how GOOD I feel each and everyday. If you keep saying you won’t do it, you will never know how good it feels, and it feels AWESOME. You will become addicted overnight, plodding how to do it everyday and plodding ever safer routes, like I have, and I have already lost a few pounds within weeks.

    Reply
  • Chris June 14, 2013, 3:59 pm

    This posting is pretty relevant to my life right now. We live in Phoenix and our family car broke down about 2 weeks ago- It was an older Honda Odyysey with 175K miles but honestly the family didn’t use it very much. I work from home, and my wife stays at home with our two kids. We’d mostly use it to be honest for clown purposes.

    Anyway- i was getting really bummed out about the replacement options. A newer car, even used, meant we’d need to take out a loan + registration fees + gas + more expensive car insurance. However- there didn’t seem to be another option. Until, my wife and I looked at each other and said- “well, what if we didn’t buy a car?”. And that was that. I went out and bought a bike, and for the first time in 20 years i’ve been riding a bike everyday Biking to the park, biking to the library, biking to the grocery store. Getting on buses and bringing my bike with me. I’m still getting used to it, and its really hot here, but i’ve already lost 5lbs and I love the challenge of not having to own a car. Once i feel more comfortable on it i plan to get a pretty cheap bike trailer and start hauling our kids along.

    Plus- once we looked at the money we’re saving every month it’s a no-brainer. Even though my wife and I were both working from home, we were spending at least $200-$250 a month on a car. We’ve brought that down to $0.

    However- the funniest most interesting response has been from our family and friends. No one is supporting this. Our friends think we’re crazy. Our parents think that we must have some sort of financial problem and are suddenly worried about us. People have thrown at least 50 excuses at us for days now as to why this can’t work. I’ve been really blown away by the lack of encouragement we’ve received. So i love coming into this community because I get to read like minded folks who actually don’t think we’re crazy!

    After a week though, i feel like a kids again, and so we’re going to keep doing this bikes thing as long as we can!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 5:15 pm

      Phoenix biking in June?! Extremely badass! Congratulations!

      There’s another guy around here named Tanner that rides year-round in Phoenix as well – people like that show us all what is possible. I thought I was moderately tough for biking to Home Depot in 90F heat just today, but now I see I am nothing. Ride on, Chris.

      Reply
    • Tanner June 24, 2013, 5:41 pm

      Chris, Awesome and I don’t think you’re crazy but I understand the feeling! I would love to hear about your families experience going carless in Phoenix. What part of the valley do you live in? My wife and I have discussed it but haven’t been able to come to a unified consensus on going carless.

      Reply
      • Chris June 24, 2013, 8:32 pm

        Hey Tanner-

        We live in Ahwatukee which is a pretty easy part of the valley to go carless in. Grocery stores, schools, a library, parks, pharmacies, and other community centers are all within walking or biking distance. My wife stays at home with the two kids and I work from home, so no commute definitely makes this endeavor a lot easier. I have meetings in downtown Phoenix around once a week, so I take a bus and transfer to the light rail. It takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes, but i just bring a good book. We lived in D.C. for a few years before we moved here, so we got used to alot of bus and train riding (as well as waiting for buses and trains). My daughter has a once a week art class in tempe so we take the bus to that as well. We get around, but you definitely have to do more planning.

        Then, for those times where a car is neccessary (like visiting family in New mexico) we just go ahead and rent-a-car. I never knew that our credit card actually covers car insurance, so without paying for that its actually quite affordable. We probably travel out of state about 2 times a year, and spend around $250 bucks for each trip. We also got an AMEX blue rewards card which has a rewards program with Enterprise. You get 5% off each rental, plus $20.00 once you spend $200.00. It was costing us around $2,000 a year at least to drive, insure and maintain our previous car so I think we’re coming out ahead. Plus- you can get a one day rental for like $25.00 bucks, or rent by the hour if you really have to.

        The negative: the days are scorching right now. With no car, its hard to go out in the middle of the day, especially since we have a 6-month old. So we try to get everything out of the way before 10:00 am whether its errands or fun time outside. I’ll head out early in the morning with a backpack and bike and go grocery shopping. (I was actually pretty shocked as to how much groceries i could fit in a backpack) Then we’ll hit up a park or community center for a couple of hours with the kids. But on the other hand from October to April our car free lifestyle will be perfect in terms of the weather.

        The other negative is that public transporation is pretty weak in the valley. In D.C you could catch a bus, on any route on a weekday and only wait for 5 minutes. Here- you could be waiting a half a hour. So timing it perfectly is pretty important. Know your routes and times. Plus, i know that multiple neighborhoods in the valley have community buses that are free so you can definitely look into that.

        But for us the positives are pretty awesome. Between no car insurance, no gas, and not having a car loan, we feel more free than ever, and are saving even more money. Plus- when you don’t have a car you don’t take those unneccessary trips to the restaurant, or some other money wasting venture. So the amount of money we’ve saved in the last month from not being able to make clown car trips is no doubt huge. Lastly, i’ve lost about 6lbs in the last month biking around and I already feel healthier.

        Anyway- sorry for the long post, but I hope its helpful. Take the leap! Even in Phoenix you can do it!.

        Reply
  • Melissa June 14, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Thankfully my commute is now down the hall, as I work from home. But I used to bike about 3 mi one way to work in my old town, population 125,000. There were no bike designated areas for riding or trails to my work. The town does not allow riding on sidewalks but the cops never said anything to me – I used them all the time when I felt a little unsafe for 20 yrs of riding. Plus at 7:30 a.m. sidewalks were basically deserted. Evening was a little different but since I could find side streets MOST of the way, it wasn’t a big issue. I used hand signals–always. I cleaned up in a remote bathroom at work (i.e. the basement restroom) carried my bike up 3 flights, and parked it in an empty cubicle. My biggest complaint was the stinky exhaust I had to endure in the downtown part of my ride. Other than that, I enjoyed it so much! And interestingly, it was almost the same amount of travel time. Now we ride around our small town (without helmets) for groceries and pleasure rides. We do wear our helmets mountain biking on the trails. We enjoy the health benefits and the gas savings. Also the small town we now reside in is a little more bicycle friendly. It’s all good!

    Reply
  • Naners June 14, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Lots of vigorous debate in the comments here! Let the record state that MMM does not arbitrarily delete comments of people who disagree with him.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 5:12 pm

      No.. but I’ve still been deleting a few today. When a comment is really off-topic, angry, or represents a true misunderstanding of the point of the article, I sometimes drop it in the hopes of making the remaining comments more useful. The people who made those comments often get mad at me.. but it’s worth the criticism for a better comment section. Use Reddit for free-for-all MMM bashing!

      Reply
      • Tim June 14, 2013, 5:14 pm

        Am I the only one who wants to see some of the deleted comments?

        Reply
        • Melissa June 14, 2013, 7:26 pm

          I want to see them, but just for fun and fodder! I get it though–if it were my blog, I’d be non-relevant and abuse deleting too. In keeping with the positive and cohesive nature of the general community… This blog is like Funville and MMM is our jolly mayor, keeping the town safe, happy, and on course for an excellent future.

          Reply
        • CincyCat June 16, 2013, 7:43 pm

          While I am sometimes curious about deleted comments (and, I’ve been on the chopping block myself at times), I personally trust MMM’s judgment on this. This is one of the few remaining personal finance blogs that I frequent because MMM is so diligent about removing off-topic, unproductive and gratuitously confrontational posts. I just want to learn about what I can be doing better, and maybe pass along a tidbit or two that others could benefit from reading. I don’t need to read all the negativity.

          Reply
  • Albert June 14, 2013, 4:28 pm

    I’m all for biking, but walking is even better if the distance to be covered is less than 2 miles. I live in a medium size city, but tend to walk a lot even though we have a good cycling culture and excellent public transport.

    Reply
  • totoro June 14, 2013, 4:56 pm

    I usually agree with the posts. I disagree with the math in this one.

    The net health effect comparison is pretty bogus imo when looking at safety. Driving takes less time to cover the same ground and maybe you are getting your exercise another way. My real concern is risk of death or injury while in transit. Driving is safer per mile travelled.

    In grade seven my favourite teacher was killed while training on his bike – not his fault. When I was nineteen my boyfriend was killed the same way – not his fault. My best friend was hit by a car (his fault really though) and survived but has shoulder trouble to this day. I personally know one person (high school classmate) who was killed or injured by a car despite the much greater rate of use of cars by those I know. Anecdotal as this may be, it matches with the stats.

    I did just get a bike though. I plan to use it on roads with bike paths or short commutes.

    I prefer walking most of the time and live centrally because of this.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 14, 2013, 5:07 pm

      You can’t disagree with the math by listing four pieces of anecdotal evidence!

      After all, in this article I didn’t mention the carload of 4 friends I lost to a car crash in 1992. Or another close friend who died in a motorcycle crash, while the bike was being driven by another friend who almost died as well, or the family directly across the street from me who lost their 19-year-old son to a car crash 4 years ago. Or the fact that nobody I know has ever died in a bike-related accident. Yet I still use cars, motorcycles and bikes regardless of what I have seen happening around me.

      Stories of this type are tragic, but the whole point of articles like this one is that to live effectively you have to plug your ears and say “lalala” and make your decisions based on science and math to the best of your ability.

      My math and estimates are far from perfect. But they are still far better than my gut intuition, which is exactly why I ended up retired at 30, plus most of the other good luck that has ever happened to me. Calculations and spreadsheets for everything.

      Reply
      • Rachel June 21, 2013, 3:19 pm

        One good source of stats is Katie Alvord’s Divorce your Car! There are others as well but that is a good start and very readable.

        Ride on people!

        Reply
        • Gracefully Frugal October 1, 2013, 1:10 pm

          I know this post is old but wanted to say that the book you recommend is amazing. I read Katie Alvord’s Divorce your Car! for a research project back when I was 23 years old and I have not owned a car since reading that book 8 years ago! I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in the car-free lifestyle.

          Reply
  • Jim June 14, 2013, 5:00 pm

    First time commenter, long time reader.

    MMM, I’m a huge fan of yours, but I wonder if there isn’t a problem with your analysis in that bike riders and car drivers often operate in different places — bike paths, bike lanes, side streets, sidewalks, etc. vs. busy streets and highways.

    I live in an inner suburb of Boston, drive five miles to work in another suburb, and would love to bike it. But the route is via narrow, curbed, two lane streets with frantic commuters racing along them as if they were highways. Your math doesn’t convince me that I’d be safer on a bike.

    A friend who lives near me and works in the same place bikes it but does so via a roundabout, 12 mile route which he deems safe. So he does an hour and 12 miles on his bike where I do 15 minutes and five miles in my car. That extra hour and a half per day in his commute probably negates whatever gains he makes in lifespan.

    Of course he enjoys his commute, but so do I since I make it a hobby to try to squeeze 60 or more MPG out of my Prius.

    Love the spirit of your post and its emphasis on exercise. But I fear that your math may be comparing apples and oranges, at least for some of us.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • PawPrint June 14, 2013, 5:48 pm

    I’m not the average age of your reader and, after taking my husband to the ER when he crashed his bike on black ice, breaking his hip, I’m not about to start biking in Seattle, land of many hills and wet streets. But I will put in a plug for walking or riding the bus or the combo of both if bikes aren’t for you. We use our car once a week to go to church (it’s a long way away and the bus schedule is meager on Sunday) and maybe to the grocery store, if we need heavy things that I can’t carry in my knapsack during the week. I end up walking about 90 minutes a day. My grandmother, who never learned how to drive, walked everywhere in her small town. I believe that’s the main reason she lived to 103 and didn’t take any Rx until she was over 100.

    Reply
  • Greg from adelaide June 14, 2013, 5:57 pm

    I have to agree. I am a cyclist and have been since I was a kid (and I am 55). I cycle to get places to get things, I don’t ride just to ride a bike, I want to ride for a reason, to commute, to go to the supermarket. Bicycle accident rates have slowly risen where I come from in Adelaide South Australia, and I have always thought it is because of the increase in road cyclists, or “sports” cyclists. I ride an old mountain bike with baskets each end for loads. I ride on side roads almost never on main roads, with a fluoro vest on and flashing lights day and night. I see road or “sports” cyclists riding on main roads, truck routes dicing with B-Doubles and Semi-trailer trucks wearing dark clothes. I think this explains the increase in accident rates here, and I agree that if you are cautious your death rate is much much lower.

    Reply
  • Bakari June 14, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I take it you have never in your life met anyone who was ever killed or injured on a motorcycle or in a car? Including not just friends and family, but all acquaintances, however brief or minor? How about just being stuck in a traffic jam, and when you get to the front, there are two severely smashed cars and about 10 emergency vehicles, and its one of those car fatality statistics right in front of your eyes?
    Why don’t those make us vow to never get into a car again?

    Reply
  • Payton MacDonald June 14, 2013, 7:56 pm

    Last year I put in over 1,000 miles commuting to work in North New Jersey, one of the most highly congested, bike Unfriendly environments in our country. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Here’s what you need to know.

    1.) Use a mountain bike. These allow you to get on the sidewalks, grass, dirt, whatever, and stay away from cars. They also have wider tires and better grip. Road bikes are very risky because you don’t have enough flexibility to get away from the cars.

    2.) Wear a helmet. I had two friends last year who crashed (at slow speeds) and their helmets cracked in half. Their heads were fine. No matter what the statistics say, if you don’t wear a helmet you are a fool.

    3.) Signal and obey traffic laws if you’re mingling with cars.

    4.) You MUST assume that every driver is drunk and texting (not far from the truth). You MUST ride defensively and proactively anticipate possible accidents. That “parked” car up ahead? Assume there’s a very short person behind the wheel who will pull out at the last minute and kill you. ALWAYS maintain a wide “cushion” of space between you and everything else.

    5.) If you ride at night or in the rain, light up like Times Square. I have a 200 lumen strobe on the back, plus a red blinker, plus a reflector vest, a 600 lumen light on the front plus a 200 lumen head lamp.

    6.) Invest in quality gear if you can. It makes cycling more fun and safer.

    7.) Scout your route carefully. You can dramatically minimize the risk of being hit by a car by finding the right route. Sometimes this means a few extra miles, but it’s worth it in the long run and makes for a more relaxing ride.

    Of course there’s some risk in cycling, but there’s a much greater risk in driving in so many ways. I see so many cyclists riding in the dark without lights, no helmet, and not obeying traffic laws. No wonder they get hurt . . .

    I have a much longer “dissertation” about cycling safety. Email me if you want it. I can send it in a pdf doc. payton.macdonald@gmail.com

    Reply
    • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) June 15, 2013, 6:11 am

      I would like to read the contents of your pdf. Can you post the contents in the forum and then add a link here?

      Reply
    • AJ June 15, 2013, 3:36 pm

      “2.) Wear a helmet” … “No matter what the statistics say, if you don’t wear a helmet you are a fool.”

      This single statement makes me ignore the rest of your points.

      Ignore the facts because you have two anecdotes, which don’t actually prove anything anyway?

      How about, DON’T ignore the statistics, Make your judgements based on solid facts rather than gut feelings and anecdotes.

      Reply
    • biliruben June 20, 2013, 4:47 pm

      Contrary to intuition, mountain bike tires have less traction on pavement than road tires, because the nubs actually provide less surface area. And weaving on and off of roads is a good way to get yourself killed. Be predictable.

      Also, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on gear. I’ve been putting in around 3000 miles a year for the last 20 years, and it sounds like you may have out-spent me in a single year.

      Also, check your local statutes, but anything except red on the back is confusing to drivers and may be illegal.

      Reply
  • Walt June 14, 2013, 8:57 pm

    I just got a free Trek bike from work for having worked there 10 years – it was the only thing in the gift catalog that didn’t have crappy reviews on Amazon or just obviously suck, like a ring with the company logo.

    I doubt I can make a 20 mile daily round trip at first, and it sounds like changing out mountain bike tires for street tires might be a good idea, but the trips when I’m not carrying someone else or something big, I’ll start trying to bike it.

    Honestly, I’ll start by going around the block and seeing if I want to die or not. (“Around the block” is about 3/4 of a mile.)

    Reply
    • Walt June 24, 2013, 7:48 am

      Just wanted to follow up – I got it put together yesterday and took it for a spin. My first time on a bike since 1992. Turns out you really do never forget how.

      Wow! I have apparently never ridden a halfway-decent bike. What a pleasure! And I had no idea that bikes even came with 15 speed combinations. (This is a Trek 820 mountain bike, which is apparently solid but not really fabulous by bike aficionado standards.)

      My last bike was a 5-speed Schwinn purchased for me in 6th grade. I doubt it was ever this nice, but if it was I sure don’t remember it.

      For anyone who hasn’t ridden a bike since they were a kid, beg, borrow or rent a halfway decent one and give it a try.

      Reply
  • bogart June 14, 2013, 9:33 pm

    There exist researchers trained in gathering and/or tracking down and in analyzing data relevant to this subject; not only do they undertake those tasks, but they then publish reports of their work in peer-reviewed journals. It’s an amazing system.

    An article entitled “Motor Vehicle Crash Injury Rates by Mode of Travel, United States: Using Exposure-Based Methods to Quantify Differences” that can be found online, full text, free, here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17449891 reports the following fatality rates per 100 million person-trips (not per mile) for 1999-2003 in the US:
    Passenger vehicle: 9.2
    Motorcycle: 536.6
    Walking: 13.7
    Bicycle: 21.0
    Bus: 0.4

    And the following nonfatal injury rates for the same time interval, same denominator —
    Passenger vehicle: 803.0
    Motorcycle: 10,336.6
    Walking: 215.5
    Bicycle: 1,461.2
    Bus: 160.8

    I don’t think it’s available full-text online free, but an interesting abstract from an article published this year looking at safety during short road trips in Holland — yes, Holland — finds cars safer than bikes:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=How+does+a+modal+shiftfrom+short+car+trips+to+cycling+affect+road+safety (to quote: “The results suggest that, under conditions such as in Dutch municipalities, transferring short trips made by cars to bicycles does not change the number of fatalities, but increases the number of serious road injuries.”).

    Those reading can draw their own conclusions about how if an all such studies should affect their decision-making.

    Those interested in the gender difference in accident rates noted elsewhere in these comments can find an abstract on that topic here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Exploring+the+male-female+discrepancy+in+death+rates+from+bicycling+injury .

    Anyone who has time available to them thanks to being retired, and/or who is in possession of disposable income, can easily access full content of (e.g.) the Accident Analysis & Prevention journal either by making the trek to an open-access academic library or by paying to download specific full-text articles online (and thereby avoiding any danger they might face on the roads).

    Reply
    • stepthrough June 18, 2013, 2:16 pm

      I think the most interesting thing about the Beck study that you cite is that there is no statistical difference between the fatality rates for women bicycling vs. driving. While men have a higher fatality rate in both modes, and male cycling fatalities were more than double the rate of male driving fatalities. Perhaps I’m stereotyping, but this makes me suspect that the cyclist’s behavior is a significant factor in their relative risk. I suspect that women ride more safely and lawfully than men (I’ll see if I can find a study to support that).

      The study is based on the 2001 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS); in the 2009 NHTS (the latest) bicycle trips had increased 25% (from 0.8% to 1%). Likewise, the Census Bureau shows a 47% increase in bicycling to work from 2000 to 2011 (only counting trips for which bicycling was the dominant or longest-distance mode). However fatalities have decreased slightly, so we can conclude that bicycling has become safer per trip.

      Hopefully the US will get better about collecting data on bike travel so we can have clearer answers to these questions, especially since we are one of the most dangerous developed countries in terms of traffic safety.

      Reply
      • RetiredAt63 June 19, 2013, 6:52 am

        “I suspect that women ride more safely and lawfully than men (I’ll see if I can find a study to support that).”

        Stepthrough, did you find a reference? Men are vastly more likely to win a Darwin Award (women are less than 1%); there are gender differences for risk taking.

        Reply
        • stepthrough June 19, 2013, 7:33 am

          At first glance, I find:

          Gender differences in risk taking: A meta-analysis. By Byrnes, James P.; Miller, David C.; Schafer, William D. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 125(3), May 1999, 367-383 They analyzed 150 studies and found that men nearly always take more risks than women; the factor is much greater in intellectual and physical risk (versus what, social? abstract doesn’t say…).

          Also Gender Differences in Risk Assessment: Why do Women Take Fewer Risks than Men? Christine R. Harris, Michael Jenkins, and Dale Glaser. Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 1, no. 1, July 2006, pp. 48-63. “Women’s greater perceived likelihood of negative outcomes and lesser expectation of enjoyment partially mediated their lower propensity toward risky choices in gambling, recreation, and health domains. Perceptions of severity of potential outcomes was a partial mediator in the gambling and health domains. The genders did not differ in their propensity towards taking social risks. “

          Reply
          • JDB June 22, 2013, 2:28 pm

            But you are implying it is the cyclists’ fault for being hit. In the 5 times my husband has been hit I’ve just been hit once. All 6 times we were side swiped by being turned into. I was actually thinking about this a lot recently as neither ofus break the law and we dress about the same. I am starting to think it is based on speed. Where I go 12 mph on a busy road by husband might do 20+mph. Cars dont think a bike will go that fast and will try to go around.

            Reply
  • DC Jr Mustachian June 14, 2013, 11:17 pm

    I’ve actually heard that elevators were the safest form of transportation. The odds that a person will die from an elevator accident in a year are 1 in 10,440,000. At one point my commute was two elevator rides plus crossing a street.

    Reply

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