Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation


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 people you would like to attract, 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://ohiobike.org/images/pdfs/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.

  • TriMama June 17, 2013, 1:20 pm

    Thank you to all the Commenters who posted about Cyclingsavy and CommuteOrlando. Thanks to these sites I’ve figured out the safest way to navigate across the highway between our house and the downtown area of my suburb, while towing my two kids on our tandem trail-a-bike. We rode to the public library yesterday and it was the easiest, smoothest, safest-feeling ride we’ve ever had. At 4 and 6 years old, my daughters are learning to safely ride in traffic. I see a bright future ahead for them.

  • Orngkat June 17, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Old person here too. I ride my bike for pleasure or for short errands but not to work. I wonder about the long-range implications of riding your bike in big cities dense with vehicle exhaust. Wouldn’t that factor into the health equation?

  • Heath June 17, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Extremely relevant post! I biked to work for the first time today! It wasn’t very hard (only 3.5 miles), and I took the time beforehand to pick a low-traffic route that didn’t go too far out of my way. It only took me 25 minutes too! I know that’s slow as balls for many people, but I’m not a fast rider and I don’t have a road bike (just my new foldable Citizen Miami). The reason that today was my first time? I just moved much closer to my work :-)

    Now let’s see how the ride home goes. I live in Phoenix (aka: hell on earth, temperature wise), and 4pm is the hottest time of day. I figure I’ll just drink a bunch of water before I leave (and take a water bottle with me), and then not care how freaking sweaty I know I’ll get!

    As a side note: I’m glad Bakari is commenting like mad once again. He’s such a fucking badass, and always has something super relevant and constructive to say.


    • Bakari June 17, 2013, 5:27 pm

      Thank you!

      and congrats on your first ride to work

      • Tanner June 17, 2013, 8:50 pm


    • Heath June 17, 2013, 11:51 pm

      OK, slightly embarrassed that I misspelled Bakari’s name before I could edit the post. But anyway…

      The ride home wasn’t too bad. I just kept modifying my gears so that I never pushed my body into a really hot place. The sun was a motherfucking hammer though. I’m going to need to apply some sunscreen to the back of my neck (riding away from the sun, thankfully) tomorrow to avoid sunburn.

      All in all, an extremely successful experiment. I’m going to do it again tomorrow! …as if I had a choice, with no car… even better!

  • NJ Joe June 17, 2013, 6:28 pm

    There are lots of good reasons to bike, and you list many. I own a bike and commute every day with it, and I think more people should, and easily could do the same. But I think you go too far using actuarial numbers applied to individuals.

    It doesn’t sit right in my mind to say that driving/biking takes XX/YY minutes off an individual’s life. This works for insurance companies who need to price their policies, but for an individual this incremental decrease in lifespan doesn’t happen; you die, or you live (life altering injuries notwithstanding)

    As I began reading, I was wondering if you would use a per-mile basis, or a per-hour basis for a fatality comparison. Before I continued, I figured a per-hour basis might be more appropriate, and was happy to see you included it. I think the fact that driving and biking have roughly equivalent fatality rates on a per-hour basis is good enough, along with health benefits, etc.

  • Ellen June 18, 2013, 2:44 am

    I am happy to live in the Netherlands, with a wide network of bikelanes. The numbers of the Netherlands are quite interesting. These are from 2012.

    Casualties in traffic
    Cars: 232
    Cyclists: 200 (128 of those are 65+)
    Pedestrians: 68
    Motorbikes: 54
    Mopeds and scooters: 44
    Vans: 12
    Motorized vehicles for handicapped: 29
    Trucks: 7
    Bus: 1
    Other: 3

    Total: 650

    The total number of casualties amongst cyclists is quite high: 30% of all traffic casualties concern cyclists. But the majority of casualties amongst cyclists concern elderly people, some even 80+ years old. That still leaves 72 casualties per year amongst cyclists up to 65 years of age, or 11% of all traffic deaths. There are hardly any children dying in traffic, but there are 26 juveniles (12-17) killed in traffic each year. We can safely assume most of them are cyclists as well, as you can’t drive a car in the Netherlands until 18. Let’s assume 24 of those 26 are killed on bikes. That leaves 48 casualties per year amongst adults, or 7,3% of all traffic deaths.

    I’m no engineer and I’m not very good with numbers, you’d have to match these numbers against the number of miles travelled (and that number is very high in the Netherlands where bikes are the default means of transportation for many people) but I’m under the impression that the numbers for large groups of cyclists are less optimistic than you might think/hope.

    Oh, and by the way, I ride my bike every day, I never worry about safety. And in the Netherlands no-one wears a helmet, except for those competitive road racers. And maybe a handful of 5 year olds.

  • Chris Green June 18, 2013, 8:36 am

    Thanks MMM for the encouragement! I began cycling to and from work in Louisville, KY last year as an obese! (yikes) individual. The pounds began melting off and I saw other aspects of my life, as you described, benefit from my new found commuting lifestyle.

    Now that I am in the Boulder, CO area, which as you know, perpetuates a cycling lifestyle, I am now just a slightly overweight individual still continuing on my bike commuter journey and loving it! I can’t remember the last time I took my car to work.

    The bus is a great alternative means of transportation for those really wet days. Plus I get to spend an hour reading books!

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 18, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Right on, Chris! Welcome and very glad to hear of another biker on the scene.

  • October MacBain June 18, 2013, 10:43 am

    You said: 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. ”

    Can you put that into ratios for number of cyclist deaths out of total number of cyclists compared to number of car deaths for number of car riders?

    And then can you also figure in amount of time traveled by each, bikes and cars?

    I’m not disparaging cycling, but I think you’re leaving some numbers out of the equation.

  • Marisa June 18, 2013, 1:31 pm

    I want to believe this so bad, but I’m still too afraid to ride my bike on a busy street. I think if they measured only the people in cars that drive on busy streets and only the people on bikes that drive on busy streets, all of the accidents would be dead bikers and barley injured drivers. I need to see a more controlled study.

  • woodnclay June 18, 2013, 2:51 pm

    Some of you may find this recent article in the London Evening Standard interesting and/or useful:


    I’m not convinced by some of the arguments in the article but perhaps testosterone does play a role!

    I cycled a lot in my younger days in central London, before we had bike lanes. I didn’t wear a helmet but i did ride wisely. I’m still here and enjoying cycling in small town UK and in the countryside.

  • Anne June 18, 2013, 3:14 pm

    Hey MMM. Discovered your blog recently and have been really enjoying it. We have long been a 1 car family and I have frequently bike commuted to work but have still been using the Subaru for groceries/child errands, etc. Your comments have helped give me a kick in the pants to stop being so damn lazy!

    This weekend the family headed to Ikea via bike, something I never would have considered before. And…it was great! We had nice quiet roads 90% of the trip and got to stop at a sneaky pond on the way to watch frogs. The kids loved it and we got a nice easy 12 mile ride in without battling the parking lot crowds.

    Thanks to my super generous in-laws we will soon be getting a cargo bike as an early Christmas present and I’m stoked to be able to take both kids on the bike and drag home a week of groceries too!

  • Ron June 18, 2013, 4:40 pm

    You can’t tell Totoro she/he can’t disagree with the math based on anecdotal evidence because that’s exactly how most people make decisions. You succinctly summarize your worldview with your last sentence in that reply, “calculations and spreadsheets for everything”. Do you only hang with other engineers? People with phobias are rarely helped by calculations and spreadsheets. The math back and forth in this thread is missing the point. People’s fears aren’t rational, they’re based on emotions, as a result, they can’t be argued away by even the most airtight mathematical arguments.
    Related to this, I have a suggestion for your documentary. Familiarize yourself with “exposure therapy” and consider riding the chosen routes with especially reluctant new cyclists in each community. “I’ll ride to your destination with you” will prove far more effective than “just look at this amazing spreadsheet”. One last thought on safety. Payton’s fourth point is money. What I’ve learned is that, “out of sight, out of mind.” The other day, I was descending a hill in the middle of our city, probably doing 30mph. A car passed me and I feathered the brakes to create Payton’s cushion. Not enough though. The car abruptly turned right into a driveway, right in front of me. I locked up the brakes, fishtailed, but stayed upright.

  • Janice June 19, 2013, 3:27 am

    I love this blog and am totally on board with the Mustachian philosophy. It has played a large part (along with 6 year old cycling-obsessed son) in getting me back on the bike after a nearly 20 year hiatus. I’m a 35 year old mother of 3, and we are Americans living in NW London. My husband and I work in central London and he’s started commuting to work by bike. I’m working towards it. Cycling in central London scares me, but I’ve signed up for cycle training to build up my confidence. I’ve also started cycling in the evenings around our area when the streets are quieter and the kids are in bed. It’s also increasing my confidence.

    We now cycle much more on the weekends with our kids (6, 4, and 2). There are so many things I love about living in the UK, but the love affair with cycling is certainly close to the top of the list!

    Thanks for all of the sensible advice! It’s changing our lives for the better.

  • JP June 19, 2013, 5:40 am

    Has anyone noticed that this “biking isn’t safe” argument is just a red herring? We’re not talking about bicyclist vs. bicyclist crashes and the subsequent fatalities. How many studies and statistics are there on fatal bike crashes from bikers falling down, or crashing off bridges into deep, dark ravines?

    Well… None, right?

    But everybody says, “Biking isn’t safe” anyway. Biking is perfectly safe, save for the occasional spill, so biking fatalities outside of extreme sports are statistically non-existent.

    However, getting hit by a car while riding your bike seems pretty deadly and dangerous. Isn’t that the real issue here?

    Riding your bike is safe. Getting hit by cars isn’t safe. So let’s call it what it is: Cars aren’t safe. The stats show if 35,000 drivers die every year, they’re sure as heck not safe to be in! They’re obviously not amazingly safe to be around either.

    If everybody biked and nobody drove, we would reduce traffic related fatalities by nearly %100 if you’re talking solely about crashes.

    As for me, I took a big step tonight and rode my bike to work for the first time EVER. And I feel great!!! It was 3.7 miles up hill, and darn near kicked my butt. I almost didn’t make it on time. I guess the up side (pardon the pun?) is that the ride home will be all down hill.

    I really didn’t expect showing up to work drop dead exhausted and sweaty (brought a change of clothes, deodorant, etc) would be in any way beneficial, but since I work nights where I’m usually dragging… I actually feel great and have tons of energy, even if my legs are sore. I actually can’t overstate how GOOD I feel.

    Maybe I won’t have to quit Office Space style after all…

  • Kevin Akey June 19, 2013, 7:48 am

    First, I really enjoyed the article, I always enjoy the statistics and probability The number of deaths related to the total population is missing a key assumption I believe.

    The number of deaths per population base needs to be adjusted for the actual users of the given transportation method.

    IE far more people drive cars than those that move under manual power (bikes, skate boards, roller blades/skates). So a proper analysis needs to take into account the population of users rather than the total population.

    I would be interested in seeing the stats relation to actual user base rather than total country population.


  • Hilda June 19, 2013, 11:58 am

    • Heath June 19, 2013, 12:08 pm

      That’s so excellent! I was living in Brazil for the past 3 years, and I started to spread the word about MMM about a year and a half ago. Looks like it’s really taking off!

      And thanks for those links! It’s fun to read in Portuguese again because I’ve been back in The States for 6 months.


  • Doug June 19, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Wow, this topic is an interesting and different take on biking and lifespan, and a good example of thinking outside the box. Yes, there is the inherent risk of getting killed or injured in a bike accident, but you can reduce the likelihood of that happening by biking defensively. Examples, as many of you have stated above, are riding on less busy streets or bike paths, keeping the bike in good mechanical condition, being highly visible, and paying attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t even think of riding with earphones on. As for the positive side, all that exercise is beneficial and probably outweighs the risks. So, if you bike defensively, then statistically speaking Mr. Money Mustache’s idea that biking can lead to a longer life is sound. I’ll post this comment, sign off, and do some biking now.

  • jostreet June 19, 2013, 1:12 pm

    I was rather upset today when I biked to the public library for the first time to get a library card and check out some MMM recommended readings, and realized that I forgot proof of address for my new home (which is across town). Needless-to-say, I rode back home and decided that I would wait until tomorrow to reattempt the adventure. I happened to log on to view the latest MMM post and I was pleased with myself that I rode my bike home frustrated rather than drove my big, metal can frustrated. Plus, after reading this I figure I didn’t lose anything financially since I pedaled home at a rather high and aggressive, yet safe, speed, which allowed me to get a nice 20 minute workout. Thanks for the encouragement sir.

  • Erin Adventure June 19, 2013, 6:07 pm

    I caught up on these comments last night (very late) and planned to ride my bike into work today. The time got away from me this morning and so I drove (silly me), parked, worked, and got ready to leave for the day. On my way out of the lot SOMEONE BACKED INTO MY CAR BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T LOOK BEFORE SHE WENT. GAH! Lesson learned – go to bed earlier, and next time bike. The bike rack is past the parking lot so I would have avoided this situation all together, on multiple levels.

    Any thoughts on whether it’s worth it to keep/maintain just one bike – my nice mountain bike – or if its worth it to get a cheap commuter? I’ll be locking it up on a university campus in a town that has some great trails in the local parks. I am hesitant to risk my mountain bike getting stolen due to the cost to replace it, but I don’t want to unnecessarily purchase, maintain and store two bikes (a cheap commuter would actually make three, we both have older but really nice mountain bikes and we have a small apartment and no outside storage space). Tips, thoughts? Thanks!

    • lemonstache June 20, 2013, 4:56 pm

      Hi Erin

      I would get a commuter. Buy one cheap off the college kids when they’re moving out. Skinny tires are more efficient on the roads, and you won’t have to stress about what happens to your nice bike.

      • Erin Adventure June 25, 2013, 9:03 pm

        I did it! In hot-hot-hot west TX I’m biking to work on the mountain bike and I love it. I just got a u lock and cable for my other tire for peace of mind.

        It’s more fun biking around town now, than back home when I was a kid with my training wheels freshly removed, ha!

        • CTstash June 26, 2013, 5:57 am

          After your legs get strong on that moutain bike go get yourself a road bike with clipless pedals. You’ll be biking at speeds of +20mph. (Effort is required over 20mph. Under 20 will be easy. Results may vary.). It might cost a bit more for the bike, the shoes and pedals, but it’s an investment. Get the bike properly fit too or you might end up with an overuse injury like me if you don’t. Keep your cadences up above 80 and you’ll be amazed by the difference. A 10 mile ride will feel like nothing and take less than 30 minutes! The fit is pretty important if you start biking in this sort of fashion. At 80-90rpm of the pedals you could mess up your knees after a few hours if the handel bars, seat or pedals are off by a centimeter or two. I made the switch a few months ago to this sort of riding. My in town commutes are faster on bike than by car. My long commutes to work are faster by bike when there’s heavy traffic on the roads. You’ll love it! Sure beats a moutain bike. MMM could probably write an advanced commuter article to help those already into the moutain bike grove who want to be more efficient.

          Also, those padded bike shorts make a difference when riding the type of bike I’m talking about. Get one cheep pair and wash it like I do. Wear bright colors and use flashing lights. I’ve been hit once already. There are apparently people on here with repeat accidents.

  • lemonstache June 20, 2013, 4:52 pm

    When I got a new job two years ago, I said goodbye to a 45-minute highway commute and bought a commuter bike with plenty of accessories for about $500. The money I saved by not buying a parking pass has more than made up for that investment (not to mention gas, insurance, no need for a second vehicle).

    I work at a college and my neighborhood is near student housing so there is a free bus I can take if the weather sucks or I feel lazy. Usually I ride the bike because I get a kick out of making it home faster than the bus.

    There are at least 5 people in my neighborhood who also work at the college; they all drive to work in their own vehicles, paying at least $200 a year for the parking pass. I even know 2 women who were roommates and worked in the same building but they each drove separately. Ridiculous!

    Aside from the financial aspect, I am much healthier and relaxed thanks to my bike commute. Granted, it took a few months of feeling nervous before I really felt comfortable on the bigger roads. Even though it’s only about 3 miles away, there are some good hills in both directions so I get an good interval workout along the way. No more wasting hours in the gym (another free perk of working for the college – but I mostly just use it for the pool and hot tub).

    To put this in context, I am a young female with a professional job, business-casual attire required. I take a change of clothes with me (rolled to avoid wrinkles), have face wash and makeup in the office, and keep a couple pairs of shoes under my desk so I can get ready for work after I arrive. Before I started riding, I was about 20 pounds overweight with a weak knee. Now, I’m probably still a few pounds above ideal but my entire body compositon has changed – my thighs are probably the same size, but they’re muscle now, not fat.

    So that’s my testimonial. Seriously, people: get on the bike! Start small, stick with it and, before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to your commute!

  • Rachel June 21, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Anyone who wants an in-depth, yet very reader friendly view on the real cost of car ownership and how to practically live without one should read a book by Chris Balish: How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.


    Using this book and some local bike handling/riding courses I have moved to bike commuting almost full time. It is a real time and money saver and makes each day a lot of fun!

  • The Phroogal Jason June 21, 2013, 9:10 pm

    I actually ditched my car about 2 years ago and use public transportation, bikes and my feet to get to where I need to get. OK so on occasion I do need a car but I realized I don’t need to own one. I can just borrow or use a car sharing company to do just that for the hours I actually need it.

  • CTstash June 22, 2013, 5:21 am

    I was hit by a car on my bike yesterday. It was the first day I decided to ride it to work (~20 miles one way). I was inspired by reading every MMM post to date.

    This lady pulled a quick sharp right into a bank with no blinker. She hit me with her car. Bike and I got scratched up. Glad it wasn’t worse. I was wearing a bright neon jersey and had lights flashing on my bike in the day time.

    This makes me question this whole biking to work thing when you’re the only biker on the road. I’ve been to Boulder, CO. I’d bike there. It’s lovely and safe. I feel like it’s a death trap to ride where I live and have put off biking to work for months. First day out and I get hit by a car. Go figure. Am I thinking of moving? Probably won’t anytime soon. Family is here.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 22, 2013, 6:27 am

      Sorry to hear it, CT. This is bound to happen – many times – in a sample size like this blog’s readership, but you can completely be forgiven if this scares you off of cycling, as that is a bad start. (20 miles!? I’ve never done such a big commute to work even myself!).

      If you do ride on dangerous streets in the future, a cycling safety course might help out. For example, when riding and passing a curb cut like a bank entrance, you need to be aware of any cars that happen to be passing or in front of you at that moment.. and Expect them to cut in front of you. It happens to me occasionally too, but I am always ready – stopping and then leaning in to the car so I can knock on the driver’s window and shake a threatening fist at them :-)

      Bottom line for others is: as a beginner cyclist, take it easy and stick to safer roads and shorter non-rush-hour roads initially. Being safe on a busy road is a skill (just as it is with car driving), and we don’t all automatically have it without experience (just as several of my teenage friends were able to kill themselves driving cars on perfectly straight Highway 6 in Ontario).

      • CTstash June 22, 2013, 7:11 am

        Scared? Nope. I’ll keep riding. Going to get some mirrors and more lights today and continue to hope that statistics (http://bicyclesafe.com) and reading keep me safe.

        20 miles was suppose to be the safer route. The dangerous route is 12 miles. I might switch to that to reduce the time I’m exposed to heavy metal objects directed by people who are texting instead of driving.

        Keep up the good work! I’ll shoot you an email next time I’m in the Boulder/Longmont area.

        • CTstash October 10, 2013, 7:22 pm

          Update: Bright flashing lights seem to help a lot. Cars appear to notice me more at intersections. I run the lights during the day.

          Intersections and driveways are where danger is. I’ll take a route with no shoulder, high speed limits and less intersections over a route on a slow road with bike lanes and more intersections.

          I think this can be a safe sport if you really keep in mind that everyone is texting. Assume nobody can see you. It’ll make you bike more defensively. That’s an important practice.

  • Alan June 23, 2013, 3:31 pm

    With all this discussion on relative risk I’m surprised no-one has mentioned micromorts:


  • EngGirl June 24, 2013, 10:35 am

    I got into cycling a year and a half ago because of MMM, and even though I was hit by some moron at an intersection last year, I can say it has been one of the biggest positive changes from my exposure to MMM.

    I live in Brampton, ON, which I hear has the highest collision rate in Canada and where I am the only cyclist I ever see during my commute. If I can do it, anyone else can!

    Glad the comments touched on the “problem” of professional women biking to work. I feel like screaming every time I hear someone say, “oh, I can’t bike to work, I work in a professional workplace”. Yes, you are going to show up sweaty. It’s called a change of clothes people! I get major cred in my professional workplace for biking to work. People see me as a badass, which helps my professional reputation. Even with helmet head! So suck it up princesses, and get on a bike!

  • Liz July 2, 2013, 8:36 am

    I’m blind in one eye. I walk everywhere, or take public transport – paid for by my employer. I love the idea of cycling, mainly for the feeling of independence I imagine it gives. But would it be safe, considering my issues with depth perception?

    • plam July 2, 2013, 12:28 pm

      I see a lot of Mustachianism and Outrageous Optimism in this blind cyclist’s attitude:


      There are also a number of Google results for blind cyclist. A useful forum article from mountain bikers:


    • Bakari July 2, 2013, 12:42 pm

      This is speculative, since I have never been blind in one eye, but I suspect the lack of field of vision would be more a danger than lack of depth perception.

      Either way, if you currently walk or take (free for you) transit, there aren’t necessarily any benefits to cycling.

      All the talk of bikes is directed at the general public, the overwhelming majority of which drive a car for everything, even short trips, everyday.

  • keyur sheth July 8, 2013, 5:24 am

    Hi MMM,

    Really enjoying your posts and blog, very very helpful and motivating. I myself want to bring about as much changes as possible in me to become a mustachian. My query is for cycling in my city, I stay in Mumbai, India. The city is full of pot hole roads there is less road more pot holes. I drive my car to work, I leave about 10KM from my workplace and it takes me about an hour to reach office so u can understand the road conditions here. Now would you advise me should I ride a bike to my office given the above conditions and If i should ride one then what type of bike, protective gear etc will make my commute easy. I am assuming riding my car and riding a bicycle will take same time to reach my office.

    Please reply and help me with any other suggestions. Yes moving more closer to where I work is not possible as of now.

  • krazzer July 22, 2013, 5:29 am

    Well that is one big advantage of living in the Netherlands, bicycling is completely normal and special bicycle roads are EVERYWHERE :)

  • Clemencedane July 22, 2013, 7:46 pm

    Interesting article and well researched.

    I am not a big cyclist or biking proponent, but I have also never owned a car. That hasn’t been a problem for most of my life, living in university towns then San Francisco and New York. Now I’ve been in Scottsdale, Arizona for two years and I love riding my bike recreationally for around half the year. However, when it reaches 100 degrees I’m just not up for it anymore. In the summer it often gets up to 110 and stays there. So while I am not very concerned about a bicycle accident, I am concerned about heatstroke. I don’t handle heat well and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll live here, but for now I am getting a bit tired of taking the bus and/or walking short distances in the hot season. The lucky thing is I get to work from home so that leaves a commute out of the equation.

  • Greg July 25, 2013, 6:22 pm

    I’m with you on all this but my gal isn’t. She has a bike but she grew up in New York City and is used to public transit. We live in Seattle now and she’s afraid of getting hit by fast riders (or careless people who swerve) on the many bike trails we have here. The one time I got her out in the past three years, it was a group ride on a backwoods trail and she nearly got knocked over several times by reckless spandex types. There’s still a major image problem for serious cyclists, that they play fast and loose with traffic rules and use passing tactics that would make Chicago drivers blush (the most unsafe driving I’ve ever experienced in my life). All the data in the world won’t convince someone who’s had bad experiences with serious cyclists.

  • Brian Smith August 3, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Awesome, reposted to Carfree USA blog.

    Here’s another one folks might like.

  • brighteye August 9, 2013, 1:37 am

    Biking is not only the safest form of transportation and makes you totally badass, it also makes you happy, according to this study: http://streetsblog.net/2013/01/31/study-people-who-bike-or-walk-to-work-enjoy-their-commutes-the-most/

  • propertymom August 13, 2013, 11:49 am

    I dusted off my old bike, that had been sitting unused in my garage for over 7 years, and started riding to work on June 24th. My commute is 6 miles each way. So far, I have logged over 300 miles!!! I love being able to get in some good exercise both before work and after, and my legs look awesome! Thank you MMM for inspiring me to ride.

  • Mikhaela August 22, 2013, 10:10 pm

    Thanks for this! I’ve always been a subway commuter and have been very happy to never own or need a car (live in NYC), but I’d always been TERRIFIED of bike commuting and didn’t know what to do with the logistics of parking a bike once I got to work.

    But when NYC started the Citibike bike share program, I figured I was out of excuses. My office has a shower, the number of bike paths has really exploded (including many protected ones out of traffic entirely) and I don’t have to worry about parking the bike — I can just dock it and go.

    AND relatively cheap as the subway is, the bike is much cheaper – $95/year for a Citibike membership vs. $112/month for an unlimited subway pass per person. And it’s only about 10-15 minutes longer each way for me to commute by bike than subway.

    So now I am commuting 3-5 days per week by bike and hope to increase that as I build up some strength and stamina (I was ill for a long time and very sedentary). My route is about 6 miles from mid-town Manhattan down over the Manhattan bridge and into Brooklyn. Coasting down the far side of the Manhattan bridge is my favorite part!

    I LOVE IT except… I’m still terrified. I plan my routes really carefully and ride in protected bike lines as much as possible, but there are still some stretches where I have to ride in just painted on bike lanes.

    I’ve been honked at and nearly swiped by cars (especially taxis) who somehow think they have more right to the bike lane than I do. And I take the lane when I need to for safety and they REALLY hate that.

    Honestly, I wish they would just ban cars from the center of NYC… !

  • Aaron November 8, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I don’t own my own vehicle (never have), so the debate has been between public transportation and riding a bicycle.
    I did the calculations, and back in 2008 I figured out that I would save $900/year by biking. I used that money (plus a little more) to buy a really excellent bicycle that I continued to use every day for work for a little over 3 years.
    I saved roughly $2000 overall.
    The gains are even greater now, as the cost of public transportation has risen by a noticeable amount.

  • TSR Capital November 18, 2013, 4:24 pm

    Looking at the 2010 data, I think MMM’s analysis is off, when looking at the fatality risk per unit of time.


    16,864 vehicle (not motorcycle) drivers were killed, out of about 3T VMT.

    623 cyclists were killed out of 9B BMT.

    Let’s say the BMT were done at 12 mph, and the VMT were done at 32* mph (those 3T miles aren’t just on high speed roads, like interstate highways, those are ALL miles traveled on ALL public roads**).

    If you use those numbers and do the calculations, you will produce a fatality rate per unit of time for bicyclists which is about 4.62 times higher than that of motor vehicle drivers.

    *The average United States driver travels 29 miles per day and is driving a total of 55 minutes per day. (This is an average vehicle speed of 32 mph.) US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics

    **Three trillion VMT were traveled on all public roads in 2009

  • Brett May 8, 2014, 9:34 am

    I’ve been walking to work the past week. Sure, getting up an hour and a half early is a bit inconvient, but as the weather warms up in North Seattle, there is nothing finer than a four mile walk at 5 AM. My next investment is a bicycle and I wanted to let you know that I was motivated by your article.

  • Victoria May 21, 2014, 5:07 pm

    I dream about biking around my urban area. It’s a good one to bike in, nice and flat, good weather, everything within a few miles. Just a little too far for walking on a normal basis. But pediatricians around here say a baby’s gotta be at least a year old before you strap them into one of those bike seats for kids, or into a trailer, because of the damage the jostling of a normal ride does to those tiny brains. And even when the baby gets older I’d worry about it, since our bike lanes are just one foot spaces on the right hand of the road and I’m not the most graceful person in good circumstances… I’m pretty sure the husband would put his foot down about that. And I’m pretty sure those nice, safe cargo bikes cost about the same as we owe on our little car (our only debt) so I don’t see that being practical. Any alternative ideas?

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2014, 5:28 pm

      For the first year, we just stuck to long walks with the front or back pack or a stroller, until baby turned into boy and moved on to bike trailer and eventually bike.

  • Señor Stubble May 23, 2014, 9:20 am

    For me, this post and the ensuing discussion highlighted how dangerous cycling can be compared with other methods. I’m not looking to prolong the discussion here; I don’t know if there is much more to be said. My intent is to weigh in on the side of the naysayers on this issue, without considering the very good merits that cycling does have. I’m all for promoting cycling, but based on what I’ve just read here, I cannot agree with the title argument.

  • Virginia Bicycling Federation June 4, 2014, 9:56 am

    Capital Bikeshare reports just 95 crashes in 7 million trips, and only 31 of those resulting in a known trip to the hospital. Keep in mind this includes tourists and inexperienced riders — anyone and everyone — riding in heavy traffic in Washington DC, and its car-choked Virginia and Maryland suburbs. So even where it’s “dangerous” it’s still pretty safe, now with data to prove it.

    • Tim June 4, 2014, 4:33 pm

      To make a comparison, you need to have two numbers. What are the crashes per million trips for other modes of transport?

      It turns out that there’s actual comprehensive data available for this. And across the country, the number of injuries per person-trip on bicycles is 14.5 injuries per million passenger trips, nearly twice the 8.0 injuries per million person trips for passenger vehicles. Data: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/166/2/212/T1.expansion.html

      Conclusion: using actual data, there are more injuries per mile and per trip when bicycling compared to using motor vehicles.

  • Ash G June 19, 2014, 4:08 am

    Just wanted to post that I rode to work today, 11 miles, and it was fun. Would never have considered it if I hadn’t read about all the cycling on this website. Cheers MMM.

  • Ted Leber July 15, 2014, 11:23 pm

    I like to see folks on their bikes. I thank Arlington County, VA for providing bike lanes.
    What I am against is bikes taking up sidewalks at fast speeds when there bike lanes on both sides of the street–lanes designated just for bikes. There ought to be a law. Oh, there is one in DC.

    But in Arlington County, anything goes. Perhaps someday those who bike will be more tolerant of old folks trying to navigate their golden years on a sidewalk. I’m in a dream world, but perhaps the law will be changed, especially where bike lanes are provided.

  • Jww July 17, 2014, 11:45 am

    So, I’ve been reading your blog for a little while and generally agree with you. I’ve been biking to work on and off for the last 2 years and have been doing so regularly for over a year. I rode in rain and below freezing temperatures. In that time, I have been in two relatively bad bike accidents. Both occurred near my home and both were partially caused by bad road conditions. One caused road rash and a bad scar, and if it were not for my helmet, much more serious injury would have occurred. The second one caused three broken bones, a concussion, and several weeks off work. I agree that cycling is probably safer based on nationwide averages and only considering deaths. I’m wondering if you’ve looked at large cities with bad road (lots of potholes),. congested streets, and bad drivers. And then looked at the amount of total injuries occur. Based on some quick google searches and discussions with other riders, non-death accidents occur far too often around here and I’m not willing to take the risk any longer.

    If I drove, I would probably reach a max speed of 40mph, and risk of death would very low.

    Maybe I’m a horrible biker or a klutz, but based on my two accidents in the last year, I’m done. Fortunately, I can still use public transportation and run. I”m 4 miles from my office. It takes about 25 minutes by bike, 40 minutes by public transpo, and 20 minutes by car (if I leave the house by 8 am). The MMM in me is making me run (which I can’t do both ways 5 days/week, but maybe one way 3-5 days) and take public transpo. Biking probably cost about $200/year for maintenance and clothing for weather. Public transpo will cost about $1000/year and driving will probably cost $8000/year. My wife and I only have one car so i’m counting the cost of owning a second car and parking in the city (at least $250/month). I work long days so the 50% reduction in commute time is attractive but I’m not willing to spend an additional 7K/year. I will, however, continue to own one car and drive it to the grocery store around the corner (unless I walk).

    Maybe if I move to Ft. Collins or another more bike-friendly community I’ll start biking again, but for now I am done.

  • Jww July 17, 2014, 11:45 am

    So, I’ve been reading your blog for a little while and generally agree with you. I’ve been biking to work on and off for the last 2 years and have been doing so regularly for over a year. I rode in rain and below freezing temperatures. In that time, I have been in two relatively bad bike accidents. Both occurred near my home and both were partially caused by bad road conditions. One caused road rash and a bad scar, and if it were not for my helmet, much more serious injury would have occurred. The second one caused three broken bones, a concussion, and several weeks off work. I agree that cycling is probably safer based on nationwide averages and only considering deaths. I’m wondering if you’ve looked at large cities with bad road (lots of potholes),. congested streets, and bad drivers. And then looked at the amount of total injuries occur. Based on some quick google searches and discussions with other riders, non-death accidents occur far too often around here and I’m not willing to take the risk any longer.

    If I drove, I would probably reach a max speed of 40mph, and risk of death would very low.

    Maybe I’m a horrible biker or a klutz, but based on my two accidents in the last year, I’m done. Fortunately, I can still use public transportation and run. I”m 4 miles from my office. It takes about 25 minutes by bike, 40 minutes by public transpo, and 20 minutes by car (if I leave the house by 8 am). The MMM in me is making me run (which I can’t do both ways 5 days/week, but maybe one way 3-5 days) and take public transpo. Biking probably cost about $200/year for maintenance and clothing for weather. Public transpo will cost about $1000/year and driving will probably cost $8000/year. My wife and I only have one car so i’m counting the cost of owning a second car and parking in the city (at least $250/month). I work long days so the 50% reduction in commute time is attractive but I’m not willing to spend an additional 7K/year. I will, however, continue to own one car and drive it to the grocery store around the corner (unless I walk).

    Maybe if I move to Ft. Collins or another more bike-friendly community I’ll start biking again, but for now I am done.

  • Mike Collins July 30, 2014, 2:32 pm

    Was just about to head out the door for yoga before reading this. Three options for getting there were take the train, drive, or ride my bike. Ride my bike hardly registered in my awareness as an option. Tonight I pedal.

  • Adam Long September 21, 2014, 2:56 pm

    New study out about the psychological benefits of cycling/walking to work: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282497.php#.VBcgp7uoGsc.twitter

    Interestingly, public transport (because you can chill out and don’t have to drive yourself) was also of great benefit!

  • Cheryl December 5, 2014, 2:31 pm

    I’m obviously late to the party here, but I want to point out a related issue that, linguistically, tends to get confused. People say bikes are dangerous. They are not. The correct word here is RISKY.

    This isn’t nit-picking, it’s a crucial point. The arguement can be made that bikes are RISKY (though MMM pretty much puts an end to that here), and cars are safe. If a car hits a bike, the driver is fine and the biker probably isn’t. But that’s the point. The actual DANGER here is the 2 tons of rolling metal! The bike – liftable by one hand and going maybe 15 mph downhill – is not dangerous.

    Every time a biker gets on their bike, they’re risking themselves (minutely and with awesome payoff, but they are still the one at risk). Every time a driver gets in their car, they’re risking everyone else on the road.

  • szofter December 22, 2014, 10:47 am

    There is yet another health risk related to car commuting: 125 million people in the EU (every fourth person) are seriously affected by noise pollution. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/19/us-environment-europe-idUSKBN0JX15B20141219

    Every fourth person, not in the US – in the EU, where both public transport and biking are way more widespread than in America. Now imagine what this figure might look like in the US.

  • Vik January 18, 2015, 7:55 pm

    Hey MMM,

    I’m a lifelong cyclist who has given some thought to the issue of cycling and safety vs. fear.

    Enjoy quite a few of your posts so I thought I would give something back to this topic.




  • Nick D November 22, 2015, 6:14 am

    I comment your efforts. The reduction in cycling deaths in The Netherlands is because of improved road design and complete segregation of cyclists from traffic – you often have 2 lanes of trams in the centre – then cars, then parked cars then bikes, then sidewalk / pavement.

    In fact it does make crossing the road in Holland somewhat scary.

  • Wyn Robertson February 17, 2016, 11:23 am


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