Have you seen those fuel prices?

My bike doesn't need gas.

Yowzers!  I don’t generally pay attention to these kinds of things so I had to do a double take (and then some quick conversions for my silly American mind to comprehend it) when I saw the price of gas is now at $2.17 per liter.  And people are still driving?!

As I imagine anyone with a car would do, I started wondering what kind of savings the average Kiwi driver could accrue by ditching the car, even for just a few days a week.  Well, thanks to the NZ Transport Agency, I didn’t have to do the math.  Their site, Fuel$aver, provides a nice little resource for folks looking to 1) cut back on their fuel costs;  2) find a more efficient vehicle; or 3) convince drivers that maybe they might want to pull their dusty bikes out of the shed.

According to the site, the “typical New Zealand driver” who covers about 14,000 km per year, driving briskly with windows down, in a car with average efficiency will spend approximately $3,460 per year on fuel.  Add in daily trips to take the kids to school and trips around town to do chores and the cost goes up to $3,700.  But, what about cutting out a daily trip or two?  A driver who makes only trips around town 2-3 times per week can cut her costs to $1,230 per year.  That’s a really impressive savings.

After checking out the fuel costs of the average taxi driver, I started fantasizing a bit about undercutting that entire (swamped) market here in Wellington with a little pedicab action.  Now, to find customers who don’t mind missing their flights due to my leisurely pace around Evans Bay.  A girl can dream.

I know a lot of us cyclists out there may wish for the day when everyone leaves their cars at home ALL the time.  But, well, baby steps.  Cars are convenient, even if occasionally scary to us as we hug the curb and say our prayers, and they continue to occupy a place in our current reality.  As more of us opt to self-propel around town, I think we’ll start to find new and welcome company as others make the same choice.  And, in time, as fuel prices continue to rise, maybe it will be the cars that collect the dust in the shed while the bikes are out cruising the town.  Until then, doesn’t it just seem like a really good idea to sock away the $2,000 you could save in fuel costs for something way cooler (and better smelling) than gas?

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4 thoughts on “Have you seen those fuel prices?

  1. atom

    wow! and that’s just fuel costs! it doesn’t include registration, inspection, maintenance, insurance, parking or purchase price (or payments).

    when i first started cycling for transportation as an adult, i’d already been car-free in wellington for about a year, and getting around with a $100/month bus pass (that price has gone up). after getting a bike, pannier bags, blinky lights, etc and not having a bus pass, my “investment” of a bike and accessories was paid for well within a year. it also lowered my resting pulse by almost 10%, lowered how much sleep i need by more than 10%, and kept me away from the chiropractor (further cost savings and a sign of improved muscular-skeletal health).

    this guy’s story is a bit more impressive than mine – http://www.bikehacks.com/bikehacks/2010/11/riding-a-bike-can-save-your-life.html

    as another yank… when i graduated high school in NJ, fuel was $0.87/gallon. (not accounting for inflation or exchange) that’s about 1/10 the current fuel prices here in NZ.

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  2. Don

    There are frequently segments on the news and Campbell live 60 min etc giving motorists tips about howto save fuel. I am always mystified why they never give the obvious advice and suggest walking or cycling instead of driving. The advice given is always howto optimize your driving behavior to save fuel but never the obvious “if you want to save money don’t drive at all”.

    Its also interesting to note who the major sponsors of these programs are. I think most New Zealanders are conditioned to thinking you can’t possibly live a normal life without driving, this type of advice is part of that mindset. It is inconceivable replace driving with another mode of transport so all the advice focuses on howto optimize driving rather than replace it.

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  3. Megan

    Great points, Don. It’s true that even the NZTA Fuel$aver site also fails to suggest the non-car alternatives as a means of saving fuel. It would be wonderful if the self-powered options could be offered a more prominent place in the dialogue.

    As I said to a motorist who screamed at me yesterday, “Okay, I’m on my bike!” Just introducing the idea is a start, I suppose.

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  4. atom

    @Don – contrary to popular belief, TV stations aren’t in the entertainment business, nor are they in the news business. they’re in the advertising business. you answered your own question; as long as there are plenty of advertisements for cars and fuel, and little or no advertisements encouraging bicycles or public transport, commercial media will support the paradigm of driving your car half a kilometer and back to pick get a coffee and a paper. it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s just business.

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