To the uninitiated, buying groceries by bike may sound daunting, but with a little planning, hauling home supplies can become an enjoyable part of the weekly routine. Avoiding parking hassles, working exercise into an already busy day, and earning extra dessert calories are just a few of the perks of biking to the market.
Santa Barbara resident Diana La Riva does the majority of her commuting around town by bike, and shopping is no exception. “I do have a shared car with my sister. Maybe once a week we use the car, if we have to.”
La Riva says that one of the major advantages of biking to the store is rolling right past overcrowded parking lots. The trade-off is spending a little time and mental energy thinking about purchases and prospective routes. “I live on the Mesa, at the tip-top; it gets hard biking heavy things up. 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, 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.
Genevieve Metzger, a recent bioinformatics PhD and Seattle mother of two, 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 push 65 pounds of kids and 60-plus pounds of groceries up the hills without any assistance.”
Metzger says 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.
Jen Goldman, fellow Seattle mother and high school science teacher, says shopping by bike for the three young children and four adults who live in her home has become commonplace. She started out using a baby trailer; however, she notes that storing the food and children in the same space has 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 stresses 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. Just dipping your toe in, with a little trip when you just need a few things, is a fabulous way to test the waters and get in a fun bike trip.”
Adds Goldman, “I’ve found what systems and routes work for us through the years, but the first step to refining this is just giving it a go.”
Quick tips for shopping by bike:
• A front basket works great for fragile produce.
• A rear rack with panniers creates low, even weight distribution.
• Bring extra reusable bags.
• Use bungee cords to secure loads.
• Buy cold things last, and pack them together.