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Good timing on the article -- I actually ran the numbers early this evening to see if (financially) ZipCar + public transit was cheaper than TCO for the car I sold 6 months ago. I looked at 6 month of each, living in Nob Hill. Owning a car ended up being $2700 and ZipCar about $1600. The cost savings, while validating, is not the biggest gain. Not worrying about parking tickets (or towing!), finding a parking spot (always the worst part of my day), getting broken into (happened once already), mechanical problems -- it's hard to put a price on that burden being lifted.

Outside of that, since I moved to SF a little over a year ago (to a smaller place) it made me realize how much junk I have that I don't need and have been actively trying to minimize my possessions. So far, I've shed a lot of extra weight and my entire life feels a little less cluttered. It's very re-assuring that articles like this keep coming up on HN.




Moving from car ownership to Zipcar does introduce other burdens, though, especially around scheduling. You have to make a reservation in advance -- in my neighborhood, a couple days in advance for peak times -- and you can't cancel beyond a certain time. You have to know exactly how long you'll be and your plans can't really change, and if you get stuck in traffic, you get to pay an extra $50 for being 5 minutes late. It's a great service for what it is, but it's not for everybody.


While Zipcar is nice, that $1600 will realistically buy you 10 trips, in NYC anyway. Due to the high price of Zipcar I usually find myself avoiding any trips that would require one.

Fortunately in NYC there aren't much of those, thus making Zipcar or similar a good option.


Motorcycle is an under-considered car alternative. Fuel is peanuts and total annual costs only a few hundred; a small fraction of car ownership. Only a few grand of capital is tied up in the bike.

It's great if you only need to drive a couple times a week and can resort to other means if necessary.


I love the idea of motorbikes, but find the risk of death off-putting. E.g. http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm


While motorcycles are clearly not quite as safe as cars, every study I've seen found that the vast, vast majority of motorcycle accidents involved at least one of the following:

- untrained rider - failure to use safety equipment - drunk

My conclusion is that a properly trained and equipped motorcyclist who stays 100% sober while riding is pretty safe. My 15 years of riding on the streets has borne that out -- I've had a few close calls due to insane drivers, but keeping up with safety training has given me the skills to deal. Without having taken the safety classes, no question I would have had multiple crashes.


In driver's ed they also told me that since they're smaller and drivers are used to looking for cars, drivers often don't see/notice motorcycles. There's nothing you can do about the fact that other drivers suck.

The real issue is that even if you only get in as many accidents on your motorcycle as you would have in your car (which is probably nonzero, even if you're a great driver--other drivers suck, remember), each one is way more likely to kill you or cause serious injury when you're not surrounded by a ton of steel.


The visibility problem is one of the first things they mention in any safety training. You definitely don't belong on a motorcycle if you don't understand that & don't have the skills to deal -- it's not for everyone.


Disagree. I rode one for 10 years. I fit your criteria perfectly. It's only a matter of time before some driver does something that you can't anticipate. I had 3-4 very close calls in the time I rode. I stopped because people I knew had had accidents of varying seriousness. My driver's ed teacher in high school walked with a pronounced limp due to a motorcycle accident.


My father, stepfather and uncle were all motorcyclists and they all told me that long time motorcyclists, almost without exception, are eventually in some kind of serious accident.

My stepfather (rode for 50 yrs) drove off a cliff and landed in a tree. My uncle was hit by a cyclist going through a red light and broke many bones in his hand (the cyclist's arm was severed!) My mother, a scooter driver, got her front tire trapped in streetcar tracks in the middle of traffic.


I wouldn't ride a motorbike for just this reason. I wonder what the corresponding stats are for mopeds. It's a truism that some [young] reckless motorcyclists ride machines that are too powerful for them to control. Mopeds, not so much I'd guess.

This is the best source I could find with comparative accident rates for motorbikes/mopeds: http://www.motorcycle-accidents.com/pages/stats.html


Is this because riding a motorcycle is more dangerous or because people who like driving fast and taking risks are more likely to have a motorcycle than people who aren't?

Ie, if you ride a motorcycle sensibly, is it really that much more dangerous than driving a car sensibly? I suspect it is always going to be higher because you've got less protection when you do crash, but still, it can't be that much higher...


Given equal sensibility, a car is safer than a motorcycle. A car can take getting hit by a drunk driver or wildlife (they fucking jump out of nowhere), a motorcycle can't. I follow the writings of one particular rock drummer who travels extensively by motorcycle, especially on tour, and he wrote--referencing another prominent motorcyclist, who wrote for motorcycling magazines and was at the time recently killed by a deer collision--that the one danger a skilled motorcyclist can never fully mitigate is wildlife. Deer kill plenty of people in cars, too, but you have a better chance surviving having a deer jump on top of your car as opposed to your motorcycle.

(I read once that deer kill more people in North America than any other animal.)


Yeah, I wasn't arguing that motorbikes are just as safe as cars. I just don't think the difference is as large as those figures suggest.


I'd be interested to see the motorcycle accident/fatality rate controlled for rider demographics, using car accidents as the control. I bet the difference is much less than commonly indicated.

I think the risk is very controllable. It's also a "dose is the poison" kind of thing. I only average about one fairly local ride a week. I am quite sure I am safer than people who drive on highways every day.

The danger depends heavily on the driving environment. Suburbia and semi-rural areas are rather dangerous because you get a mix of fairly high speeds and many space cadet drivers (grandma, 16 year olds): the kind of people who back out of driveways without looking. In this particular urban area those risks aren't present. It's pretty safe 50mph free-way sprints and then stop & go in a grid system.


I'd be interested to see the motorcycle accident/fatality rate controlled for rider demographics, using car accidents as the control. I bet the difference is much less than commonly indicated.

You should review the findings of the Hurt Report, the most comprehensive study of motorcycle safety to date (even though it's from the 70's):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_findings_in_the_Hurt_Re...

If you want to live: ride dirt bikes as a kid, attend a training course, stay sober, wear all the gear all the time (ATGATT!)

If you want to die: have a friend teach you how to ride in a parking lot, skip the helmet on short trips, drink one for the road, do not assume that everyone is trying to kill you all the time


Just read on facebook this morning that a friend hit a 6ft Gator in FL. Can't imagine what THAT would feel like on a motorcycle!


I did a few days' worth of online research on motorcycles when I was in my "hey, let's get a scooter" phase.

The results:

Statistics show that you are dramatically safer on a motorcycle if you take a safety course before you ride at all. Start with a safety course. It teaches you all the nonintuitive things that you need to know.

You are also safer if you dress properly.

Once you've done that, the primary danger is other people. You will motorcycle happily until the day that a driver who is making a left turn fails to notice you approaching (you are small relative to a car, and more difficult to see) and pulls out in front of you, too close for you to stop. Then you are going to dump the bike and/or go flying, because you have no airbags or crumpling metal to help stop you. This will happen sooner or later. There is very little you can do about this, except to do everything you can to enhance your visibility, and to ride very slowly, which can be difficult -- according to many cyclists, once you're on the thing and feeling comfortable you will speed up, perhaps even unconsciously. ;)

Obviously, deer are even worse at noticing you than humans. I hit a deer in my car once. It was traumatic enough in a four-wheeled vehicle.

No motorcycles for me, I'm afraid. The risk/benefit ratio is too high for my personality.


Since you mentioned scooters, I tend to rent those regularly on vacations, for those considering one make sure you get one with large diameter wheels ( ex. http://vtwincyclemotorcyclescooter.com/wp-content/uploads/20... ) rather than something like a vespa. You only sacrifice a little bit of agility for a big boost in safety.


There's plenty of things you can do.

- Make sure you see the car in the left lane

- Realize he may be about to do something stupid

- Lower your speed a bit

- Watch his front left tire (that's his tell)

- Meet his eyes

- Wiggle your bike

- Flip your high beam on/off

If you're too far away to see his face or his tire, and you're still at risk, you're going too fast period.

(From what I gather, left turns into oncoming motorcyclist is one of the most common accidents outside rider error and riding drunk, so I'm always thinking about it)


I am guessing it's because motorcycles are capable of going faster, accelerating quicker, so people go faster on them and tend to drive more aggressively. I'd say, at the same speeds, a motorcyclist is much more likely to be injured than a driver. In one case, the car is the crumple zone, in the other the motorcyclist's body is the crumple zone.


A sage once told me, "On a motorcycle, you are the bumper."


In my experience owning a motorcycle in Canada or the US is more expensive than owning a small car.

Even medium sized sport or sport touring motorcycles (e.g., Honda VFR) aren't cheap to run. The engines are tuned for performance not fuel efficiency and usually need premium fuel, so small cars are about as cheap to re-fuel per mile. Also the maintenance cost that killed me was tires: You have to pay around $500 dollars for (two) good tires on a motorcycle every 10k miles (if you're lucky) whereas I spent only $200 at Costco for (four) tires for my car that should last more than 50k miles.

Also consider than motorcycles depreciate faster than cars and the resale market is less liquid so you lose more money when you sell.

Summary: Buy motorcycles because they're fun, not because they're cheap!

Granted a 50cc scooter would certainly be cheaper to run than a car but then you're restricted to city streets (i.e., no highways).


I have no idea what arithmetic you're using. I get over 50 mpg. Annual insurance is about $100. Averaged out I spend maybe $200 on maintenance, taxes, and registration.

Motorcycles are very much cheaper than cars.

Japanese motorcycles are totally liquid and don't depreciate quickly. You can sell a Ninja in a day.


It will depend on the bike. In Vancouver BC my Ducati Monster 696 costs more to insure ~$1800 then my Infiniti G35 Coupe ~$1600. That is with a 42% discount safe driver discount. If you are concerned just about cost you will need to get a small displacement city only bike.


Indeed. I get about 50mpg, and could re-tune to get 60mpg if it was worth it to me (bike becomes an anemic heap though).

Insurance is cheap, bike cost $1,500, oil is cheap (6,000 factory change interval, and truck oil which works well in my bike costs $13/gallon)

Your parent is right, tires can be expensive. It depends on the bike you ride and the tires you buy. I can get ~10,000 miles out of $80 of tire, and I install them myself.

I'd say it really comes down to the bike you have. Some bikes are way more expensive to own than a commuter car, but that doesn't mean all bikes are.


annual insurance about $100 for a bike ? I'm assuming this is a typo.


Mine is actually cheaper... $75 annual for full coverage. And I think it's $75 because that's the minimum Progressive can charge for an annual policy.


I'd love to explore this option at one point (Vespa drooling time). In the meantime there is the ebike and ordinary bike options too. Until you need to grocery shop for a week or two ahead that is.


eh, you can get pretty big bags for a motorcycle. with a topcase and two sidecases, you could carry a weeks worth of food, at least a weeks worth for one person, on a small motorcycle.


I don't know what the heck the point of these scooters and vespas are. They're the same price as 250cc proper motorcycles. Seems like a tax on hipsterdom.


> Seems like a tax on hipsterdom.

you say that like it's a bad thing.

The objective issue is that scooters have automatic transmissions, which make them quite a lot easier for many people to handle. Subjectively, they are in general much less intimidating, which seems to be a positive for the scooter crowd and a negative for the motorcycle crowd.

But I think the automatic transmission is the big thing. Honda tried to sell auto transmission motorcycles a while back, but nobody wanted them.


Honda's selling new CVT-based automatics now, the spacey DN-01 and overkill-redesigned VFR1200. Very expensive and aimed at no discernable market (unlike the old Hondamatics you mentioned). I haven't seen a single one on the road yet.


At least on a car, a stick shift is a lot more fun than an automatic. Since people ride motorcycles largely for fun, I'm not surprised they're uninterested in automatic transmissions.


I had a motorcycle. I drove my car for any kind of a long trip, and my bicycle for everything else. Needless to say, I sold my motorcycle.




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