To the uninitiated, grocery shopping by bike may sound daunting. But with a little planning, it can become an enjoyable part of the weekly routine. And it has its perks: namely easy parking, exercise, and the feeling of accomplishment that may just earn you that extra bite of dessert.
Santa Barbara resident Diana De La Riva does the majority of her commuting around town by bike. Her shopping trips are no exception. “I do have a shared car with my sister,” she said. “Maybe once a week we use it, if we have to.” De La Riva added that one of the major advantages of biking to the store is rolling right past overcrowded parking lots. The tradeoff is spending a little time and mental energy thinking about purchases and prospective routes. “I live on the Mesa at the tip-top, and it gets hard biking heavy things up there,” she admitted. “I don’t buy olive oil, wine, and cans of coconut milk all on the same day. I have to plan it out.”
As a single person, De La Riva is able to carry most of what she needs each week in the clip-on bags and basket mounted to her bike. But, with a little planning, even parents with growing children can bike for groceries. For example, Seattle resident and mother of two Genevieve Metzger shops almost exclusively by bike, including Costco runs. She invested in a cargo bike with a large box in the front, and an electric assist. “Seattle has big hills, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to do it if I needed to pedal 65 pounds of kids and 60-plus pounds of groceries up the hills without any assistance.”
Metzer said that shopping by bike allows her to visit many more shops without having to battle rush-hour traffic or negotiate small parking lots. Her children, who often complain about being in the car, enjoy traveling by bike. She calls it a “much more pleasant experience” for all of them.
High school teacher Jen Goldman said shopping by bike for the three young children and four adults who live in her home has become commonplace. She started out by using a baby trailer, she said, noting that storing the food and children in the same space had its drawbacks. “If your kids are hungry, you might get home and no longer have the broccoli you planned to cook for dinner.”
While Goldman’s family has upgraded to a cargo bike, she stressed that a large bike is not necessary. “We use a bigger bike, but we have that bigger bike because of so many little people in our family,” she said. “Just dipping your toe in — a little trip when you just need a few things — is a fabulous way to test the waters and get in a fun bike ride. I’ve found what systems and routes have worked for us through the years, but the first step is just giving it a go.”
• A front basket works great for fragile produce.
• A rear rack with panniers creates low, even weight distribution.
• Always bring extra reusable bags.
• Use bungee cords to secure loads.
• Buy cold things last, and pack them together.