Guest post by Duncan Hurd, managing editor of Momentum Mag
Some days, I like to do the impossible. Or, that is, I like to do something that many people believe is impossible.
I prefer to shop by bike.
My partner and I picked up this habit after we first started biking together. On the way home from a ride, we’d stop in at the butcher’s shop or pick up some take-out for dinner. At first, we’d hang bags from our handlebars, but we knew this was putting our purchases at risk as they swayed or bounced off our front wheels. Sometimes my partner’s purse was large enough for a few items, but we soon had the urge to carry more with us, without having to take transit or resort to borrowing a car.
When it comes to shopping by bike, we are not alone. Studies in Toronto, ON and Portland, OR have shown that people who shop by bike often spend more money per month than those who drive. It may be because we don’t have to worry about car payments, insurance, parking or gas shrinking our monthly budgets. We may also spend more simply because while on a bicycle it’s easy to drop into a new shop or restaurant because we’re traveling around at a pace that allows us see in store windows or read daily specials posted on sandwich boards.
Ready to run your next errand by bike? Tips to help you haul home purchases big and small:
When it comes to shopping by bicycle, you’ll have greater success with the right accessories. At minimum, install a front basket, a rear rack or both. While you can use a large backpack for many purchases, letting your bike do the carrying is less tiring and cumbersome. Front baskets vary in size and are often large and sturdy enough for one or two bags of groceries or a medium-sized box. Rear racks provide a flat surface for strapping down larger items with a rope or bungee cords. To really increase the carrying capacity of a rack, get one or two panniers (bags specifically designed to mount to a rack). If you need to pick up larger items, the increased hauling capacity of a detachable bike trailer may be right for you. Many trailers can fold down for storage and can also be used for carrying kids, pets and more.
Another important item: a secure bike lock. You get what you pay for so don’t be afraid to pay $100 or more for a lock with added security features.
Cut the Waste
Once you have a basket or rack (or both) on your bicycle then it’s time to consider what kind of purchases you’re making. At the grocery store, I rarely pick up something individually packaged in a box or container as these take up too much space and end up in the trash anyway. Buying from the bulk aisle allows me to bag items that typically come boxed, taking up significantly less space on my bike. Often, I’ll decide not to buy a specific item if there is too much packaging waste. If you’re buying delicate items like fresh fruit and vegetables, ask if the shop has any medium-sized cardboard boxes. By placing my purchases inside one box I can strap it to my rack securely while preventing my purchases from being squished.
Buy Less, Shop More Often
Shopping more often may sound time consuming, but once you get used to it you’ll find that you can actually save time. Grocery runs are often much quicker when you’re purchasing items for just two or three meals in advance. You get to use the express check-out lane and don’t have to push a loaded cart around. When you’re purchasing less per time, it’s also easier to incorporate a shopping trip with other trips. You can stop by the library on the way home from work or pick up a few items while heading across town for an event.
Look for Businesses That Encourage Shopping by Bike
It’s hard to shop by bike if a store lacks bike parking. While many business owners still value car parking over bicycle parking, there are communities starting to better accommodate shopping by bike. Of note are the bike-friendly business districts in Long Beach and San Diego, CA that ensure adequate parking for bicycles and may offer discounts to people who shop by bike.
Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.
Photo: Ben Johnson