Cycle and save

By Alexander Quayle,
Woman with bike

Scots can save £2,000 a year by choosing a bike for their shortest journeys

New study reveals Scots can save £2,000 a year by choosing cycling for their shortest journeys.

Economic benefits of cycling

Debate on the advantages of cycling over other forms of transport often centres on the health benefits of cycling both for the individual and society.

Cycling keeps our bodies and minds active, burns calories, helps us relax and keeps our air clean.

New research from Sustrans’ Scotland is now focusing on the economic benefits of cycling for individuals and shows that cycling can also be good for our finances.

The study found that if short journeys (less than five miles) currently taken by car were switched to bike, the average Scots could save £1,959.16 a year, based on the running costs of a car and a bike.

This is equivalent to a nearly 9% pay rise in take-home pay based on the average salary in Scotland [1].

That’s even if you keep your car or don’t have a bike yet

What makes this study so special is that the savings don’t rely on people giving up their car which isn’t realistic for many households. These savings are made even when you keep your car, as they take into account the standing costs of having both a car and a bike.

The savings are calculated on the cost per mile of running a car versus a bike. And by leaving the car at home and cycling for journeys which typically take no more than 30 minutes [2], people can make large savings.

Our modelling shows that even those who don’t currently own a bike can still benefit: taking into account the upfront cost of purchasing a bike the average savings are still £1,874.

You can work out for yourself how much you could save with an online tool. This uses an alternative calculation, but it will give an individual an idea of the savings possible, whether they own a bike or not.

Short journeys matter the most

What's important to note though, is that it’s the short journeys where the savings are made.

The research analysed the savings made when switching from car to bike all journeys under 5 miles, all journeys under 10 miles, and even all car journeys in a year.

We found that 54.57% of the regular journeys people make are a short distance, less than 5 miles. We calculate that by switching these regular, short journeys, significant savings can be made. 

Short journeys are an example of how Scots can build cycling into their daily routine and save money by doing so.

Cycling and savings made available to everyone

Our research adds to the extensive evidence which demonstrates that, if we are serious about increasing the number of people cycling in Scotland, then journeys taken by car need to be on the agenda for change.

However, despite the obvious benefits of cycling, only one in three Scots have access to a bike.

And the majority of people who don’t cycle state safety fears as the main barrier to participation.  

Offering affordable bike ownership schemes and providing safe cycle routes are obvious areas for action, if we want to enable everyone to cycle.

For more people to capitalise on these potential savings, in addition to benefits to our health and the environment, we need to consider what the broader barriers to cycling are, and overcome them.

Tackling these will unlock that money for as many people as possible, and give Scotland a pay rise.


[1] Calculated as an average take home salary of £22,115.68 based on a gross salary of £27,700 using  £1,959.16 / £22,115.68 X 100 = 8.85%, salary calculator.

[2] Average cycling speed in an urban area is 9.6mph