The good folks at Car Free Days—who have been writing about their adventures hauling their family around Seattle on a bike since 2007—have written a great post about one of my favorite seemingly mundane parts of life on two wheels: Grocery shopping by bike.
My first trip to the grocery store by bike was a magical, mind-opening experience. As I pulled up to my apartment, the milk crate zip-tied to my old mountain bike’s rear rack completely packed with grocery bags, every remaining fear about living life without my car disappeared.
I grew up outside St. Louis where a car was not only my ticket to freedom (or so I thought), but also the way I accomplished just about every life errand. I never knew any different. Though it seems almost silly to me now, giving up my car was scary because it was the only way I knew to do things like get to work, buy groceries and see friends.
But that first trip to the grocery store changed everything. I hauled as many groceries as I could have wanted (unlike Anne and Tim, I have no kids), and it was easy. But even more than that, it was fun and I sort of wished I had gone to a grocery store further from home so I could have had a longer packed ride home. My car-owning days were numbered from that point on.
In fact, this is one of the reasons I like organizing Cranksgiving each year—it’s a radically simple demonstration of how something as mundane as grocery shopping can become a fun adventure on a bike.
Below is an excerpt from the Car Free Days post, which dives into the world-shaking effect the longtail bike has had on family grocery shopping and includes some tips for people trying it out for the first time.
Because stores are big (and bigger is better, right?) and far away, we all think we have to drive everywhere for everything. We’re also pressed for time. Our lives are more and more complicated and busy. We’re stressed and tired.
Quite frankly, all of us could use a break. Some of us are tired of driving short distances (1, 2, 3 miles) in cars. And many of us are looking for simpler ways to transport people and stuff.
The good news: now we have choices.
Thanks to Ross and the good folks at Xtracycle for inventing and bringing the modern longtail to America in the 1990s.
Cargo bikes change everything.
If you want to give riding a bike a try, I’ll leave you with a few tips and hope that others will add to them in the comments.
- Get a practical bike. It doesn’t have to be new or expensive. And it doesn’t have to be a “cargo” bike when you’re starting out. But it should be comfortable to ride in regular clothes, have flat pedals (no special shoes required) and have at minimum a rack, fenders and a way to carry stuff (panniers or basket). A kickstand helps too.
- If you just want to jump in and go big, at least practice loading and balancing your bike at home with groceries you already have in your house. Load up some grocery bags, secure them to your bike (see #1) and go for a spin around the block.
- If you have kids and plan to carry them on your bike, leave them at home for your first trip to the grocery store. You’ll thank each other. I promise.
- Oh and one more thing. When you’re ready to set out on your first real grocery shopping trip, don’t buy too much! Stuff just looks smaller in the cart. You want to be able to haul it home yourself.