Bicycling Costs and Reimbursement

Siegel & Strain, an Emeryville California architecture firm, reimburses bicycling employees at the automobile rate for work related travel. That is currently some 58.5 cents a mile to ride. The company is focused on sustainable design. Their policy is a measure to walk the talk.

California sets a reimbursement rate of 4 cents per mile for state workers who bike on government business. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition suggests a reimbursement rate of 10 cents per mile. Siegel & Strain are doing well by their 18 employees.

Last summer at the Milwaukie Farmer’s Market I visited the Drive Less, Save More booth. They had a prize wheel (think Wheel of Fortune wheel, what are those things called?) that they’d spin to bring up discussion points about the costs of driving and what one could do to save money. It included “Ride Bus + $3″ and “Ride Bike + $2″. It costs more to ride a bike than the bus? The woman running the booth said she and her boss didn’t agree on the matter. He felt the cost of buying and maintaining a bike to outweigh the typical TriMet monthly cost of $75.

$75 a month is $900 a year. Even if you bought a better than average bike, and spent $1,100 on your commuting steed it wouldn’t take long for the monthly ding of bus fares would pay for the bike. On a bike the items that wear out include tires, brake pads, chains and cables. Checking with some bike shop pros on the costs yielded no consensus. On most of those items there is a wide spead in prices from low to high. The rider gets to choose how expensive or frugal to make the ride. All but the rider buying the most expensive replacements will save money over the bus fare.

1 comment to Bicycling Costs and Reimbursement

  • Paul

    I don’t think bike riding and TriMet cost the same, but the cost of the latter is static while the cost of the former can vary depending on miles ridden and weather preparedness.

    My round-trip bike commute is 25 miles, and I put in about 4800 bike-commute miles in 2008. (Vacation, working at home, and the December snows ate into my totals…)

    I probably end up doing much more maintenance than normal. Chains, cassettes, tires, tubes, batteries, riding clothes, brake pads, occasional big problems (wheels, bottom bracket), and periodic professional maintenance do amount to a consistent, albeit low-level, budget item. $75 per month over the course of an entire year sounds a bit high, but certainly within spitting distance of my actual costs.

    Folks with shorter commutes, of course, would see correspondingly lower costs due to wear and tear. Still, it’s helpful to think of biking in terms of cost per mile — and at some point the economics of TriMet are competitive.

    Not that I’d give up the other benefits of biking — health, de-stressing, enjoyment of the outdoors — but I’ve found that it’s not as inexpensive as I’d hoped.

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