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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On biking to work, and other financial considerations

Gas in Montana is currently $3.59/ gallon. I'm sure that seems "cheap" to many of you already paying $4.00+ a gallon, but for me, it's incredibly galling to pay $50 to fill up the tank of my sedan. Or to see DJ spend $70 filling up his truck.

My Nissan Altima gets decent gas mileage. 20 miles per gallon or so in the city, 28+ mpg on the highway (depending on how fast I'm driving). We only live 4.2 miles from work, and if I don't go anywhere else, I usually buy three tanks of gas every two months, or 1.5 tanks a month. 

I ran the numbers a week or so ago because I was curious to see how much money it costs me to drive to work each day. 

Known factors:
  • Distance: 4.2 miles one way, 8.4 total
  • Gas tank capacity: 17 gallons
  • Gas price: $4.00/ gallon
  • Fuel efficiency: 20 mpg
So... trying to remember a little math problem solving here... 

17 gallons of gas X $4.00/ gallon='s $68.00 to fill an empty tank (!!!)
17 gallons of gas X 20 mpg='s 340 miles on one tank
340 miles / 8.4 miles per trip='s 40 trips
8.4 miles per round trip/ 20 mpg='s .42 gallons per trip
.42 gallons X $4.00='s $1.68 per round trip
$1.68 per round trip X 5 times/ week='s $8.40
$8.40 x 4 weeks a month='s $33.6 dollars a month in gas.

... huh. Even with gas at $4 a gallon, $33.60 a month in gas to drive back and forth to work might just be worth the convenience. 

Riding my bike is a good alternative, if I don't have a late night meeting or obligation. For example, I rode my bike to work in the 35 degree weather yesterday. The ride took me 20 minutes (which seems slow; I'm out of biking shape) and was pretty easy, although I did arrive both chilled and sweating a bit. 

I planned to bike from work to an AOII obligation at 6pm, then home before dark at 8:30pm. And then it started snowing. And then there was a winter storm advisory which rapidly progressed into a winter storm warning. Instead of completing my loop, I put my bike in the back of DJ's truck and rode home with him. Had a quick dinner, and drove back into town for my AOII meeting. Drove home at 9pm in a blizzard. 

So yeah, that didn't really work out well. I like getting in an extra 20 minutes of cardio, and the 15-20 minute ride is comparable to driving. The real hassle with biking to work is the uncertainty of it. What if it snows? What if it rains? I usually have 2 night meetings a week; it'd be a fruitless endeavor to ride into work, then make DJ come get me because of weather. I'm also the bag lady, with a lunch bag, purse, briefcase, and sometimes gym bag. How do I schlepp all of that, not to mention coffee, to and fro?

Hopefully the weather will stabilize shortly. I do plan to ride my bike to work frequently this summer, but not because I'll save money. The environmental impact is nice, but I don't have a huge footprint of oil consumption already. I'll bike to work because it's a fun way to add more exercise to my day, to enjoy the weather and to change up my routine. But biking to work 3 times a week probably won't really start until May June.


  1. When I moved here, some of my west coast friends were appalled that I drove to work. But it's exactly what you're saying here.. the weather is really unpredictable. And I usually have a pile of bags and stuff too, including coffee. Also, it's usually very windy here, and I arrive to work dirty, sweaty and covered with sand (when I have ridden in the past). There are about 2 months in the year where I could ride my bike to work. Like you, the cardio would be nice. But also like you, my small, gas-efficient car isn't exactly hogging up all the oil.

    Attitudes toward bikers aren't great all the time either-- during one bike ride home from work in 2006, some guy threw a beer can at me and yelled "hippie!!" out the window! hah. Additionally, bicyclists get hit occasionally here and it's because 1) there are no bike lanes or designated places for bikers to ride, aside from trails that don't go near businesses or workplaces and 2) people are not familiar with sharing the road, and many are aggressively against it. Do you find that attitude/miseducation where you live? I'm curious.

  2. Bozeman has a fairly decent attitude towards bikers, although even I get pissy with cyclists sometimes. The City works really hard to make sure bike lanes are installed with new development, and refits existing roadways to put in bike lanes as possible. But then bikers still ride in the road when there is a 5 foot bike lane to their right; that's when I get really angry. Those bikers make it harder on themselves than it needs to be.

    But overall, the community attitude is hippie with money, so it's pretty "cool" to not have to drive to work. Especially since the houses downtown, great bungalows and Queen Anne's with 1200 square feet, currently sell for $350,000. Yeah. It's "rough" to "get" to walk/ ride to work. *eye roll*