The 2015 Edinburgh bike experiment – January edition

I am a self-confessed data geek. With this mild obsession in mind, I decided to embark on a wee 2015 project. I want to record my bike movements so I can see how much physical activity I do, how many miles I cover and the spondoolacks I have potentially saved in comparison to running a car or using public transport full time.

Maybe this little project will encourage more people to cycle. It could help to show the bike as a perfectly viable alternative to cars for getting around Edinburgh for folk with similar lifestyles to me. Hopefully it will be interesting. Who knows?

I am sure plenty of people have done things like this, but they are not me 😉 I am an adequately fit, young-ish woman (but by no means above average fitness-wise), with a very Edinburgh-centric lifestyle. I work, go to lots of places and do lots of things in the city. My average cycle speed is about 10-12 mph. It’s all very relaxed and accessible. So let’s see how we get on!

How it’s going to work

The cycling bit

Recording my activity on the bike is straightforward. I use Strava. You can follow me on it if you like. It is a geolocation service that tracks my miles, elevation, estimated calories and various other bits and pieces. Every time I use the bike, I just turn Strava on and it does all the work for me.

Comparing and contrasting for public transport

Because I record all my cycling activity, I can easily tell by the route if I would have used the bus instead. At the end of the month I tot up how many cycle journeys substituted a bus fare. Easy. If this is higher than the cost of a Lothian Buses Ridacard, I will substitute the Ridacard costs instead of individual fares.

  • A four-weekly Ridacard costs £51. It’s how I used to buy my Ridacard, rather than DD or annual pass. So that’s what I’ll be comparing.

Comparing and contrasting for the car

This is a wee bit more tricky. I’ve averaged out the cost of running a small car for VED, MOT and insurance. I’ve gone for a 2008 1.2l Ford Fiesta – it’s the kind of car I’d have if I decided to buy one. I’ve then used a petrol price checking website to figure out an estimation of the petrol I would have used instead of the cycling miles.

Broom broom, I'm in my imaginary car

Broom broom, I’m in my imaginary car

With my imaginary 2008 Ford Fiesta 1.25 Zetec Blue 3d car, I’ve come up with this monthly breakdown:

  • MOT – £4.58, based on an annual cost of £55
  • VED – £12.08, based on an annual cost of £145
  • Insurance – £22.50 based on an annual cost of £270

That’s a monthly running cost of of £39.16. Petrol goes on top.

For the sake of simplicity, my car will run perfectly for the entire year.

I’ve not factored in the initial £5,000 cost of the car – let’s just say I’ve owned my imaginary motor for a while. As I’ve paid off my £350 bike I will give the car and the bike an even playing field. Just for info, if I was paying the car off with a loan over three years it would be an additional £150 a month. My mind boggles when I think that I’d be paying £189.19 per month before starting the ignition.

All that fitness stuff

I use the bike to keep fit. Sans cycling, I’d have a monthly gym membership at Edinburgh Leisure. So let’s factor that cost into the equation also. A monthly card for classes only comes in at £30.50.

What about expenditure?

I will record any outgoing costs over the month that relate to the bike and any other public transport journeys if cycling is not an option (usually due to extreme weather).

Holes in the argument

I appreciate that this is not scientific. It’s more just for my own curiosity. Some of this will be estimation, but it should give a flavour of what happens when you ride a bike as transport for an entire year. I’m excited! So, let’s get the ball rolling for January…

The January Numbers

I would like to point out that January 2015 has had some really crappy weather. I still did 204 miles on the bike and burnt an estimated 7,300 kcal, the equivalent of 3 1/2 days’ eating or 5 MacSween haggis’ (haggi?).

I cycled away five of these bad boys this month. Via Zoonabar.

I cycled away five of these bad boys this month. Via Zoonabar.

Here is the month’s numbers crunched and presented:

Bike expenditure 

  • £6 – Brake pads
  • £15.50 – Bus fares, due to horrific weather affecting my commute
  • Total = £21.50

Public transport equivalent

  • Bus journeys substituted – 42 (this is the equivalent ticket cost of £63, so the Ridacard is more economical)
  • Ridacard cost = £51

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – £39.16
  • Petrol cost for 204 miles – £18.20. Now, the journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to £20 to account for congestion.
  • Total running cost = £59.16

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – £30.50

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (£51) + gym (£30.50) – expenditure (£21.50) = £60 savings
  • Car (£59.16) + gym (£30.50) – expenditure (£21.50) = £68.16 savings

So January, the crappest month of the year has come out with a £60 margin. That’s better than a slap in the face.

Oh, there is one other thing…

I just bought a road bike. That cost doesn’t factor into this project. I didn’t need to buy it. It was an extravagance. I am only looking at the like for like expenditure of my trusty hybrid, which is the bike I do all my Edinburgh utility and commute riding on 🙂

Stay tuned for February

In which I promise the post will be a much shorter (and hopefully clearer) now that the ground rules have been laid!

If you spot any inconsistencies or I’ve missed anything out, forgotten or otherwise ballsed anything up, PLEASE let me know in the comments.