Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to go shopping by bike and what would make it more convenient

While most people agree that some kind of shopping is possible by bike, not everybody wants to do all shopping by bike. I also don't, to be honest. I transport my groceries (including party supply) by bike. I do my clothes and shoe shopping by bike, and I even transport electrical equipment by bike (e.g., computers, printers, espresso machines, dishes).

But what about refrigerators and closets, someone might ask. Well, small furniture I transport by bike, medium pieces by public transport (taxi or renting a car is also an option if the latter isn't available) and for big stuff I hire a professional transport company anyhow as this is the most convenient and cheapest way to do. Well, there are not many people who move house by car and I rather avoid such experiences after having it done myself.

Not enough transport capacities on a bike? I don't just doubt that, I disagree. Plus, surveys in Europe have shown, that only 25% of the costumers that came by car leave shops with two or more bags anyhow. Thus their purchase could easily be carried on a bike. Additionally, it turned out that cyclists are better costumers as they have to go shopping more often and are therefore more often exposed to temptation. For more arguments see “Bicycles and shopping”, p. 20. They start their observations with the obvious point:
“The equation ‘vitality of commercial enterprises = access by car’ is very far from being borne out in the facts. The contribution made by customers who arrive by public transport, bicycle and on foot is greatly underestimated, as is the negative impact for our towns and for the urban environment of the building of large supermarkets and thousands of parking places on the periphery.”
And I completely agree with
“It must again be stressed that the vitality of commercial enterprises is connected to the quality of the environment.”
as this has also been observed in Vienna when large parts of the city center have been turned into a pedestrian area (before, shop owners protested and feared less gains, now they do everything to maintain that).

Few and many items transported by bike

There are only two thing on my bike shopping tours that I don't like. Firstly, most groceries and also other shops here have no bike racks outside. Thus I either have to leave me bike on the sidewalk (allowed, but not convenient) or take many detours into account. Secondly, if I have to go to many shops I usually have to carry all my purchases with me as leaving it at the bike is not an option (whereas leaving shoppings in the trunk of a car is of course very convenient).

Straight away I can think of two solutions:
  1. shops should provide bike racks and lockers and
  2. secured bicycle parking in city centers.
In some places in Switzerland, they have an even better concept which I simply call “alternative trunk”: one goes shopping by bike, but doesn't have to worry about the purchase as the stuff is collected by somebody with an E-bike and trailer and directly brought to one's door. This seems to be very practical for a bulk purchase.

What would or already does make your shopping by bike more convenient?


L'Homme au velo said...

Hi , For some inexplicable Reason the Big Multiple Hardware and Garden & Furniture Shops do not have Parking Stands for Bikes and I am Sick and Tired of Telling them this and Yet Huge Areas for Car Parking. Most Cyclists have to Lash their Bikes to the Rail that Holds the Shopping Trollies and there is a slight Danger of getting your Bike Damaged doing this, also various Poles Supporting the Buildings.I have often brought huge amounts of Plants from Garden Centres like Trees ,Hedging and also Eartherware Pots.

The Biggest Item I ever tried to bring Home on a Bike was Lengths of Laminated Wood to Build a Wardrobe with. A Man I met on the Road offered to bring it Home for me in His Estate Car,I reluctantly accepted and he Dropped it off Safe and Sound at my House. You still meet People like this in Ireland sometimes who see you Struggling and help you out. I would never carry anything Huge on my Best Bike however it would have to be a battered up one.

I could do with a Bakfiets they would be great for Hauling Wood and Cement around or the odd Wardrobe.Or a Trailer for occasional use,nice and Light and yet carry a huge amount.Whereas heretofore Deliveries of large items were free now they charge you for the Privilege of bringing that Washing Machine or Heavy Item Home for you.

Velouria said...

The one thing I could never carry on a bike is stretched canvas, for painting. The canvases are large, and they need to be kept structurally intact. Most art stores do not deliver. So in the US, I have no choice but to do this by car (mine has a large carry capacity for transporting artwork). In Vienna I once carried some canvases home on the UBahn from the art store in Simmering to my apartment in Josefstadt - By the time I got them home, I wanted to hang myself and 2 of the canvases were damaged. So public transportation is not a good solution either. I don't really see a way to carry things like this on a bicycle, other than buying a huge-capacity Cargobike especially for this purpose - which costs over $3000 in the US.

I would also like to know whether anybody transports skis on a bike? I have an opportunity to use a ski track this winter, which is just outside my city - but I can't imagine how I will carry my skis there without a car.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Filigree- I bet you thiswould work pretty well.

I shop by bike all the time. As long as I can keep my shopping in the panniers where it can not be seen, I do not unload my bags to enter other stores or the café. Thieves do not want to rummage, they want to grab and go.

David Hembrow said...

We do all our shopping, including food for a family of four + a dog, by bike. We have to really as we have no other way of getting around. Most of it goes in the baskets on our bikes, but we do sometimes use a bike trailer too. Shopping by bike is easy here. There are cycle paths the whole way, bike parking right next to the shops, and it's extremely convenient. There's a video.

I've also brought home things like shelving and mattresses from Ikea by bike. Ikea is 30 km away, but like everywhere else there's a cycle path the entire way, plenty of bike parking (in the basement of the shop) etc. It's the same story as the close by shops, but just a bit further to ride.

Dottie said...

My huge front basket and heavy duty rear rack make shopping by bike super easy, although I walk to the grocery store because it's so close.

I agree that the biggest inconvenience is carrying all my purchases from store to store, but usually it's all in one big canvas bag, anyway. Certainly not a reason to drive a car! A steel front basket with a lock on it would be nice, but probably not worth the cost and weight.

The Opoponax said...

Recently, the big thing I needed to buy that I couldn't haul on my bike was one of those big 3 litre cans of cooking oil. However, I'm pretty sure that if I had a rack, I could have worked that out.

In fact, my next big purchase is probably going to be a rack to lug home more bulky or heavy items!

spiderleggreen said...

In America, people really overdo it with the carrying capacity of their motor vehicles. Everybody drives a big truck because they use it once a month or less to carry something. Sounds silly to waste all that gas, for occasional convenience. Maybe people should worry less about being completely self-sufficient. Instead they could ask for help from friends or neighbors. It's the same with parking spaces. Everybody has to have a space available, everywhere they go, by themselves. The parking spaces of America would fill the state of Connecticut. Such waste for everybody's personal autonomy.

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