Is bike sharing the best way to commute?

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Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®


Hanna Horvath is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and managing editor for growth at Policygenius. She helps produce the Easy Money newsletter, and owns all growth initiatives for Easy Money. She recently passed her exam to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in November 2020.

Hanna's work has appeared in NBC News, Business Insider and Inc. Magazine. She is regularly quoted in top media outlets, including CNBC, Best Company and HerMoney. She has also appeared on the Money Moolala podcast and All's Fair podcast.

Prior to Policygenius, Hanna wrote for KNBC in Los Angeles and WNBC in New York. When she isn't writing, she's (often) running, (usually) cooking and (sometimes) doing photography.

Published January 9, 2019|3 min read

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The situation is familiar: You get caught in traffic, or your bus shows up 20 minutes late. Commuting can be a nightmare for many Americans — especially in big cities like New York, where the average commute time is 36 minutes each way, according to the Census Bureau.

In the past decade, bike sharing has become a popular way to get around. It's an eco-friendly, cost-effective way to commute. You can get a workout while going from point A to B and it can be more convenient to hop on a bike instead of walking or waiting for the subway or bus. Since 2010, more than 123 million trips have been taken on a bike-share service, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

How do you get to work?

So how much does a bike sharing membership cost?

Here’s the breakdown of the cost for the top four bike sharing companies in the country.

Citi Bike (New York City)

Single ride: $3 (one ride up to 30 minutes) Day pass: $12 (unlimited 30-minute rides for 24 hours) Annual membership: $169/year or $14.95/month (unlimited 45-minute rides) Additional options: Citi Bike provides discounts for New York City Housing Authority residents, food stamp recipients, members of certain credit unions and veterans.

Divvy (Chicago)

Single ride: $3 (one ride up to 30 minutes) Day pass: $15 (unlimited 3-hour rides for 24 hours) Annual membership: $99/year or $9.95/month (unlimited 45-minute rides) Additional options: Divvy provides discounts for income-eligible residents or university students

Bluebikes (Boston)

Single ride: $2.50 (one ride up to 30 minutes) Day pass: $10 (unlimited 2-hour rides for 24 hours) Annual membership: $99/year or $10/month (unlimited 45-minute rides) Additional options: Bluebikes provides discounts for income-eligible residents

Capital Bikeshare (Washington, D.C.)

Single ride: $2 (one ride up to 30 minutes) Day pass: $8 (unlimited 2-hour rides for 24 hours) Annual membership: $85/year or $8/month (unlimited 30-minute rides) Additional options: Capital Bikeshare provides discounts for income-eligible residents

Is bike sharing worth it?

It depends.

“Generally, the costs of bike sharing at its full price is cheaper than taking public transportation or driving if you are using it every day,” said Zoe Kircos, director of grants and partnerships for People for Bikes, an advocacy group.

If you use bike sharing as your sole mode of transportation, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. Here’s a breakdown of how much it would cost to use various transportation systems in New York City:

The average driver in an urban area pays $7,321 to own and operate a new vehicle according to analysis from AAA. This figure accounts for factors like gas prices and auto insurance. (Hint: If you own a car, an easy way to keep costs down is to shop around for insurance. Policygenius can help you compare insurance companies for the best rate.)

Public transportation can also be costlier than bike sharing. The cost of a single ride on the bus or subway in New York is $2.75, and 30-day transit passes cost $121 a month or $1,452 a year.

Only a portion of riders use bike sharing as their only way to get around, said Kircos. Many commuters use the service for occasional short trips or to get to public transportation stops.

“Using a bike-share can get you mostly where you need to go,” said Kircos. “But, it’s really meant for shorter trips that are under three miles."

When bike sharing isn’t worth it

Using a bike sharing service as your way to and from work can be a commitment. If you seldom bike, jumping into an annual membership may not be for you. Depending on where you live, biking during the winter months may not be the best option, said Kircos.

If you are an advanced biker, it may make more sense to purchase your own bike, which will save you money in the long run. Consider purchasing bicycle insurance before you ride. It could cover medical bills and bike replacement if you get into an accident. In some cases, your renters insurance or homeowners insurance may already cover your bike if it gets damaged or stolen. Here’s a guide to how renters insurance personal property protection works with bikes.

How do you save on your commute? Tell us in the comments.

Image: andresr