About a week ago I posted about a study in the USA which looked at how much cyclists in America save every year. They concluded that cyclists in America are saving $4.6 billion per year.
Essentially, they just looked at how far cyclists in America ride every year and, also, how much it costs to cycle a kilometer. They then worked out how much it would cost to drive the equivalent number of kilometers and subtracted the one number (the cost of cycling) from the other.
Some commenters on this blog criticized that approach because they thought it was simplistic and overlooked the massive benefits to the wider economy of cycling.
They’re probably right but I still thought it would be kind of interesting to try and work out how much NZ cyclists save.
Now, according to the Ministry of TransportÂ (PDF) New Zealanders cycle 350 million kilometers per year.
But it would be somewhat deceptive to count all of those kilometers cycled as money saved because lots of cycling in New Zealand is for recreational or fitness purposes.
It’s probably a bit unlikely that somebody who currently cycles 200 kilometres a week to keep fit would choose to drive for 200 kilometers if they weren’t cycling – instead they would probably run or whatever.
Because the Household Travel Survey mainly looks at the end destination of each trip it gets a little confusing and difficult to work out exactly what proportion of those 350 million kilometers are being made to travel somewhere, rather than for fitness. This is the table that Ministry of Transport provides.
So, if you exclude all the trips home (on the basis that they are probably not relevant in trying to work out what purpose people are traveling for) and then you add together all the trips that were made by both children and adults for recreational purposes and divide by the total number of trips you conclude that about 54% of all kilometers cycled in New Zealand are for recreation. That leaves 46% cycled to actually get somewhere.
That’s a pretty rough calculation, but it sounds about right to me (feel free to contribute if you know of a study which actually worked this out more accurately).
So, New Zealand cyclists ride about 161 million kilometers for transport purposes each year.
How much would it cost them to drive those kilometers instead?
For the cost of driving, the IRD estimates a cost per kilometer of $0.74.
So to drive 161 million kilometers would cost $122.3 million.
For the cost of cycling, well that is a little more difficult to estimate because I have not seen such a figure for New Zealand (again, feel free to comment if you have seen one anywhere).
The closest you might get would be the Household Expenditure Survey and that does not break down the cost of bike versus car repairs.
Although, you may be interested (or not) to know that the average New Zealander spends $0.70 on bike purchase per week.
The study from America estimated the cost of cycling at 10 cents a mile. If you convert that to New Zealand dollars and miles to kilometers, that gives a total cost of cycling of $13.08 million.
So, overall New Zealand cyclists are probably saving about $109 million per year.
Obviously, of course, this conclusion is based on so many assumptions that it’s pretty likely to be inaccurate. All we can really say with confidence is that New Zealand cyclists are saving a lot of money which, let’s face it, we pretty much knew already. Alas! An hour of my life wasted, again.
It would be nice if there was a more accurate study somewhere which had worked this out – let me know if you have heard of one.
Of course, the next question is how much money do New Zealand cyclists save the economy overall?
Just thinking about trying to work this out and/or trudging through hundreds of pages of NZTA reports makes me weary. So if anybody would like to do a guest post on this (hint, hint) they are very welcome.