Bike Sharing- The Gig Worker’s Commute

Gearing up for the future

It is almost impossible to visit a major city in the United States and not see a bike sharing company present.  Bike sharing is the new way of renting bikes that allows riders to reserve the bike from their phone, locate the bike, and rent it on an hourly basis. Bike sharing allows people to explore new cities, engage in a healthy exercise, conveniently get to a destination, and all at an affordable price. The convenience bike sharing offers plays into the on demand world consumers are now used to.  

Not only is bike sharing revolutionizing how people can travel to cities and get around, it’s also changing the way gig-economy workers can go from one gig to the next.  According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, since 2010 over 88 million bike rides have been taken with bike sharing companies across the United States.  In almost every major city in the United States, bike sharing is accessible.  Many companies have made it even easier to access their bikes by allowing riders to leave their bike at their destination rather than requiring them to return the bike to a docking station. This rise in accessibility to mobility is yet another way the gig economy is thriving.  Gig workers can access a gig from their phone, rent a bike from their mobile device, and be at their next gig in minutes.

Program manager at Madison BCycle, Brett Jones, believes that bike sharing platforms will be an important part of the future of work. “We believe there’s an enormous opportunity for bicycle sharing programs, like Madison BCycle, to play an important and proactive role in the evolving economy, and improve urban mobility,” he writes. “Access to shared bikes adds an important and flexible option for commuters, removes cars from the road, and lowers the costs of commuting – all while providing a fun and healthy mode of transportation.”

From food delivery, to bartenders, to event staff, there are countless flexible jobs creating a new type of economy that contradicts the traditional 9-5 job.  Bike sharing allows people to be on the move and fuels the gig economy to keep moving toward the future of work.

 

The Cost of Commuting

Most people don’t think of their morning commute to work as a big expenditure. However, whether you own a car, a bus card, or take a taxi or rideshare vehicle, the aggregate cost of those two daily trips can be higher than you’d think. In the average, eight-mile commute, even driving to work can cost upwards of $11 per day for gas and regular maintenance, with an additional $10 for parking in most cities. For a standard 21 day work month, the average car owner will spend over $230 on gas and maintenance, with an average monthly cost of $400 for city parking. On the surface, owning your own means of transportation seems like it would allow for the cheapest long-term commute. But when you really break down the costs, it’s a more drastic daily expense than many realize.

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In larger cities, several factors, including exorbitantly high parking costs, lead many to rely on public transportation or taxi-like vehicles to get to work. While city bussing is often a reliable and affordable option, the costs can still add up overtime, with the average city bus pass running around $80 per month. The real hidden cost of public transportation is the time it takes out of the work day. In Chicago, the average wait time for a city bus is upwards of 40 minutes, and that’s not even counting the time it takes weave through rush hour traffic one stop at a time. The speedier rideshare services like Uber can often seem like the most efficient option, especially in cities with high parking rates. But with a minimum rate of almost $5 and surge pricing (which often makes rides twice as expensive during rush hour), the ride to and from work could easily cost you $50 every day.


Bike sharing has emerged as a promising new player in the game, with platforms popping up in most major cities. Their popularity owes to the convenience, cost efficiency, and environmental sustainability of the bikes. In some cities, rental rates are  as low as 50 cents per 30 minutes. A typical 8 mile commute would take the average American around 45 minutes, costing about $1 each way. That’s less than a quarter of the cost of simply stepping into an Uber in most cities, and half of a rush hour bus fare. It’s tempting to believe that relying on your own body rather than a vehicle would be the slowest way to get from point A to point B. However, with rush-hour traffic and painfully long wait times for public transportation, hopping in the bike lane can often be the fastest route.  

 

Keep your mind sharp, your body strong, and your work sustainable

The benefits of biking go far beyond convenience and affordability. Studies show that exercise improves brain activity, meaning you’ll show up to every meeting ready to present your best and brightest self.

Your body will thank you too. The average person burns between 45 and 75 calories per mile biking. That means the average commute (8 miles) could burn up to 600 calories. The cardiovascular benefits of biking regularly can also make you over 30% less likely to develop high blood pressure over the years. By the time you get home from work you could already have burned over 1,000 calories. That’s the equivalent of about two hours of monotonous treadmill jogging, without the knee pain and expensive gym membership!

Pedaling away the Pollution

An average car produces over 7 pounds of carbon dioxide over the course of a 24-minute commute. With a standard 5-day workweek that can add up to over 3,500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year. This number increases for gig-workers, who often move around to different locations throughout the day rather than spending 8 hours in an office. While shared transportation like busses and carpools helps to reduce commuter pollution, hopping on a bike eliminates it almost entirely!

Use this Commute Costs and Carbon Emissions Calculator to see how much your commute is costing the planet (and your wallet!)