Note: Today's installment of the Frugal Upside is brought to you by a guest columnist, Elizabeth Wheeler. Among many things, she is a bike commuter. Even though snow has fallen in the upper Midwest, it does not mean that you have to put your bike away for the winter. Her piece reminds us all of the benefits of biking. For the first 5 years of our marriage we were a 1 car family; I had brought the car into the relationship. My husband owned two bikes, and that was all. In 2009 he bought a used car because of a change in his work duties, which required a car. Those work duties recently changed again, and he is now working as many bike commutes into his routine as he can.
Photo Credit: This one runs on fat & saves you money by Peter Drew of Adelaide, licensed under Creative Commons.
Bicycle commuting is a great solution for a frugal society
Guest column by Elizabeth Wheeler
Last week's Huffington Post article highlights one way that using a bicycle as transportation can bring economic and public health benefits to our society. We all know that bicycle commuting is good for your health and the environment. Most of us are also aware that it can save money, but there are a lot of hidden ways that biking is even better for the pocket book - and the economy - than most of us realize. Here are just a few:
1. No gas! Not only do you not have to buy gas to ride your bike, the money you would otherwise spend on gas can stay in our local economy.
2. No car payment, insurance, registration, AAA, maintenance, and wear and tear on your vehicle: If you can avoid having a second car, or even a first car, these costs can add up! According to the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, these costs average to over $450/month per vehicle. If you can replace your second car with a bicycle - even a fancy bicycle with all the gear - you could easily recover these costs in 3-4 months.
3. Free parking! There is almost always free and ample bicycle parking. And when was the last time you got a parking ticket on a bicycle? Car parking infrastructure also comes at a high cost to our society. (See “Free Parking Comes at a Price,” NYT article from August, 2010.)
4. Bicycle Benefits! Bicycle Benefits is a program that local retailers participate in in 20 U.S. states plus British Columbia. I paid $5 for a sticker on my helmet which saves me 5%-15% off at 119 different local restaurants and retailers in Madison. I use this regularly grabbing a few groceries at the co-op on my way home from work. I save 5% when I bike. Bonus: more money into our local economy.
5. No need for a gym membership! Your workout is built into your day when you bike to work or for short errands. We all know that going to the gym is expensive and time-consuming. Added benefit: No room full of mirrors or judgy looks from hardcore weightlifters!
If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out Grist Magazine’s series, “How bicycling will save the economy (if we let it)” found here: http://www.grist.org/biking/2011-02-28-how-bicycling-will-save-the-economy
 An alternative to AAA exists for bicycles - the Better World Club offers roadside assistance, discounts, and other benefits for cyclists.