Grocery Shopping by Bike (part I)
How many times do we get in our cars to run the simplest errands? Most of us live less than 2 miles from the nearest grocery store, yet we think nothing of hopping in our cars to pick up some eggs, milk, bread, and a couple of other items. According to the National Personal Transportation Survey, 40 percent of all car trips in the U.S. are 2 miles or less. These short trips by automobile not only add to local traffic, they produce a high proportion of air pollution because a car’s exhaust is dirtiest in the first 10 minutes of driving, before the engine is warmed up. Reducing the number of short car trips goes a long way towards reducing pollution. Not to mention these short trips also contribute their fair share of greenhouse gas emissions, require large parking lots at these retail destinations and add to our unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.
For a change, try doing some of these smaller grocery runs on your bicycle. You don’t need a special cargo bike (though those are becoming increasingly popular), but I recommend a rear rack and grocery panniers, as shown in the picture. These aren’t very expensive and each one can carry a fully loaded grocery bag. Most of these panniers come with straps so you can carry them when you’re in the store or farmer’s market. I keep mine on my bike, and just take my reusable bags into the store with me.
You’ll need to bring a lock to secure your bike while you’re shopping. Many markets have bike racks near the front of the store, but some don’t (if not, you may want to mention this to the store manager). If there’s no bike rack, find a secure signpost or rail to lock your bike to. Make sure the post is tall enough that your bike cannot be easily lifted off the top of the post. Many stores have corrals for shopping carts that work just fine as a place to lock your bike. Just be sure you don’t block the entrance or walkway.
Using your bike for small grocery runs is a great way to add some exercise into your routine, do your part for the environment, save money on gas, reduce traffic, and, best of all, it’s fun.