This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 77.
Reflecting on the cost of cars and children cycling to school
Many children are not allowed to cycle to school and are chauffeured by their parents instead. My two (11 and 14 years old) would prefer the comfort of a people carrier, too. However, for every approx. 10 km (6 miles) of car use they help to avoid they get one point (£1) credit, which is used to buy special things (like a PC or a hamster) to show how saving on car use or petrol can translate into tangible assets. For example a round trip to the two schools is 13.1 km, each child gets £1 for avoiding the car use (cycling or car share) on a trip (two children and two school trips can be £4 a day for avoiding 26.2 km and almost two hours of inner-city car travel). About once a week I add the ‘new miles’ to a spread sheet, which also helps to keep track of the money spent. In less than two years the total balance reached £1000.
In February I was proud to write to my children:
“Congratulations – you have accumulated £1000 in bicycle points. This translated into a desktop PC, a 19″ flat screen, a top of the range graphics card, a hamster, extra memory (1 GB SDRAM), a Cherub Shirt and your current balance of £232.90. At £1 per 10 km (inner-city) traffic (avoiding about 6000 car-miles), the bottom line saving for the family will well exceed £1000. Saving involves making choices everyday – well done!”
In actual terms, the cost of a 50 minute 13.1 km inner-city car journey passing 42 traffic lights will well exceed the £2 credit to our children. The aim of the exercise is not accurate accounting but reconnecting the individual little and avoidable car journey to the about £45 it takes to fill the tank with petrol and over time the bigger things like computers we often find dear. The same principles apply to saving in general or other issues like switching off the lights, the tap, a coffee to go, avoiding plastic bags, etc…
Hopefully our teenagers learn that the gadgets they are playing on could have literally gone up in smoke.