A Quantitative Analysis of Motorbike Riding in Israel

A bit over a year ago I had a revelation: I am almost 34-years old and I can buy a motorbike even if my mom doesn’t want me to.

Being a startup guy, I strongly believe in beta-testing. So I bought an old 50cc scooter from a poker friend for 3,000 NIS (~ $800). The logic was:

1) I’ll use it only inside the city and not risk my life on highways,
2) If I don’t like it I can get rid of it pretty fast (actually a mistake, there is barely a market for 50cc bikes in Israel) and
3) I can tell a good story of how I won this scooter in a poker game (of course, realizing later there is no market for 50cc bikes, I figured I was bluffed, which is pretty much in par with my poker performance in the past year).

Soon I realized I hate even the notion of stepping into my car so I upgraded to a new 125cc San-Yang scooter. Cost (after trade-in): ~$3,700.

My Scooter

So, here are the stats for 1-year of motorbike riding in Tel-Aviv and its vicinity:

  • Monthly fuel costs: $37.  85% savings compared to my car fuel costs  (~ $320 / month)
  • Minutes saved in traffic: Approx. 20 minutes per day. I value my leisure time at $60/hour. Monthly savings: ~$450. Quality of life impact: much higher. I hate being stuck in traffic.
  • Minutes saved looking for parking: at least 10 minutes a day. Parking in central Tel-Aviv is hell. Luckily I live next to the river, otherwise I’d be at 30-minute a day. Taking into account an average of 6 parking tickets a year and parking fees, monthly savings: $225 in quality time + $30 fees.
  • Insurance costs: Using some strange Middle-Eastern logic, you pay higher government insurance costs for motorbikes than cars. The logic: Motorbike riders are 5X more likely to get killed or injured in accidents. By whom are they getting killed? In most cases by car drivers. The authorities choice? let’s tax the ones who are getting killed, not the ones killing them. Makes lots of sense. Additional insurance cost: $50/month.
  • Depreciation: ~$500 / year. New car depreciation in Israel: ~$4,500 / year. Savings: $4,000 / year.
  • Other fees (taxes, maintenance, etg.) – saving of ~$250/year.

Total yearly value vs. using a car: ~$15,500 Net. That’s a lot of money!

Non-quantitative advantages:

  • It’s fun to ride.
  • I park exactly in front of where I am destined: my office / bar / restaurant / home. No long walks due to lack of parking.
  • I can meet people any time of the day, anywhere they want. Traffic and rush hours are no longer a consideration.
  • My girlfriend hugs me more, especially when riding in the winter.

The only downside really is that it is so freaking dangerous to ride a motorbike with all the crazy Israeli drivers on the road.

What are my chances of surviving the next 10 years? The stats are 20 deaths per 1 billion kilometer (plus about 200 serious injuries). I ride approx. 1,000km / month. In 10 years I’ll ride 120,000km. My chances of making it alive and healthy are: 1-(120k/1B)*220 = 99.76%. (merely 0.1% lower than the chances of car drivers of surviving 10 years on the road).

So, an additional 0.1% survival risk for accumulated 10-years value of over $150,000 puts my life’s value at $150,000/0.1% = $150M. Wow, that’s exciting! I never though of myself as a multi-millionaire!

Recommendation: Get a bike 🙂

6 thoughts on “A Quantitative Analysis of Motorbike Riding in Israel

  1. Very interesting perspective. I liked it. 🙂

    Didn't really understand the last piece in your calculation –
    the 150K divided by 0.1%. What's that?

    Actually two more points:

    – The yearly depreciation value for a new car is not really an average $4K, unless you're driving an Audi maybe. Plus you need to either spread it over 10 years, or take into
    consideration the purchase of a new vehicle after say every 3 years, since over 10 years the depreciation value gets much lower then $4K.

    – 2nd point is regarding winter times. Not that frequent in Israel, but still account for 10%-20% percent of the year, making it almost impossible to ride a bike, hence adding to yearly cost, once you switch to other means of transportation.

    Guess bottom line would remain the same though. Bikes are more cost efficient over time. Unless you get married, start having kids and then nothing is really efficient over time. 🙂 Nothing probably at all. 🙂

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  2. I have been riding several bikes for a good few years in Israel and indeed it was a scary thing.
    The 50cc point of being "safe" and not risking your life is not valid. Actually the smaller ones (with their tiny 10" wheels or less) are not very stable to say the least. Scary to get anywhere around wind and >60km/h with them.
    most of the 125cc are not better. the JoyRide is a relatively stable and good one, however it was designed for a much stronger 175cc engine (the thing that was called JoyRide 200) and the 125cc lack power for its size, making overpassing somewhat scary too.
    My last ride was a Suzuki Burgman, 400cc. It is amazingly stable (even in crazy-shit rain), easy to ride and control (despite its size) and comfortable even for very long rides. You can get stronger ones (like the 650, T-max etc.) but not anything as comfy.

    Bottom line – do get a bike, but prefer a larger one. A slightly higher price, perhaps higher insurance (yeah the israeli bike insurace story is ridiculous), but much more fun.

    btw the thing that was annoying for me on a bike was to get geared for rain. You do not have much rain in Israel, but when it comes, it is pouring from the skies like a bunch of crazy shoppers on Black Friday so to avoid walking in wet jeans all day, you'd want a nylon suit. This is much worse than accidents actually as the chance to get a wet-jeans scenario once a year is 100%.

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    1. Good points.

      1. There is so little rain in Israel – I simply take my car when forecast says 'rain'.
      2. I agree that 50cc bikes are not safer per-se, but statistics show a strong bias towards injuries and death of riders of heavy bikes, mainly due to speed-related accidents. Take a look at the tables here (direct link to a Doc file in Hebrew: http://goo.gl/jKLMB).

      The Suzuki Burgman looks good. I'll make sure I call you for advice before I purchase my next bike.

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  3. When I decided to get a bike in Australia, the alternative was using public transportation. I wanted to move to a place with worse public transport (and hence cheaper) and get a bike to take me to the nearest train station.

    I discovered however that bikes are cheaper and superior to public transport. Instead of gearing up for a short trip to the train station and then spending time and money for the train (it’s expensive) – just riding to my destination makes more sense.

    In Sydney, bikes have access to high occupancy lanes (called T2/T3 in Australia or Car Pool Lanes in the US) and access to bus lanes – which are a plenty in and around Sydney. I spend most of my daily ride to work on one or another.

    Parking in North Sydney is free in designated areas, one of which is adjacent to the our office. In Sydney, it is free everywhere a car can park (although time limited) and free with no time limit in designated areas which are quite plentiful.

    So here is my quantitative analysis:

    Cost of registration and insurance: about $500/year
    Cost of the bike: $5000
    Depreciation: About $700/yr
    Alternative cost: $1240/yr (annual train ticket)
    Difference in rent: $1300/yr (yes I live with house mates)
    Cost of safety+weather gear: $1000
    Cost of maintenance: $500/yr
    Cost of petrol: $700/yr
    Cost of a top box: $500

    So, the total cost of the bike comes out to $700+$500+$700+$500=$2400/yr. It saves me $1240+$1300=$2540/yr. All in all doesn’t seem like a smart investment.

    However this doesn’t take into account the ability to go anywhere I damn well please at any time and fast. I ride the thing a lot, for my commute obviously but also practically anywhere else. The top box is big enough for most shopping expeditions and the free parking is a definite saving. Sydney domestic airport parking is also free – and I park in the shortest term parking available, 20 metres from the check-in gates. All things considered I have ridden 20K KM since I got it, in September 2009 (2 years and 3 months).

    Weather is a problem here as it rains year-round. I take weather gear with me and I can get completely drenched on the outside while staying dry on the inside. Changing clothes can be annoying but not overly so.

    One thing I would like to recommend is that you wear a full helmet and use an armoured gear. I know it’s a pain, especially in the heat. I did get myself splattered across the road one time and examining the damage to the gear and knowing it could have been my skin turned me into a believer. Death isn’t the only risk when riding a motorbike – you can lose a portion of your skin and flesh and still be in the “surviving” statistics although somewhat disfigured, crippled and in a lot of pain. At least get Kevlar-lined jeans and an armoured jacket.

    — Arik

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  4. Ehila Liad, lascia perdere il burgman… E’ grosso e poco stabile…
    Ascolta un parere “italiano”:

    Yamaha tmax per prestaxioni
    Yamaha xmax per qualita’
    Piaggio Beverly 500 per agilita’ nel traffico
    E last but not least piaggio Mp3 to be cool

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