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Why We Need a National Bike to Shop Day

“I can see people biking to offices here and even to the movie theater, but I can’t see people biking to shop here. Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up,” said the planning commissioner at a city meeting on the redevelopment of a major shopping center. I was stunned. I had just stood up and spoken about why bicycle access there was important to me.“The center is where I buy my groceries, my clothes, my household items,” I had explained. “It’s only two miles from home, so I ride my bike.”

I was so angry at not being heard (or believed) that it took me an extra two hours to fall asleep that night. Didn’t the commissioner see the busy bike racks outside the center’s two grocery stores? Didn’t he realize that purchases from a jewelry store are small, and that when people buy mattresses they have them delivered?

Trailer at Trader Joes

For the past 20 years we’ve pushed hard to promote bike commuting through Bike to Work Day, and it’s worked to get many commuters hopping onto bikes instead of into their cars. Like me, back in 1997. I got a little route advice from an expert at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, then pedaled to work. I kept it up once a week until daylight saving time ended, then went back to driving until Bike to Work Day the next spring.

My dedication to bike commuting waxed and waned over years. My next job site didn’t have a shower so I drove. The next one had showers and was close by so I started riding again. Then I took a job 14 miles away and was back down to once a week in summer only. It wasn’t until I realized I could ride in my work clothes for short distances and combine my commute with transit that I became the daily bike commuter I am today.

But even when I didn’t commute to work I biked for my weekly errands. Most things I needed were within a few miles of home, I could wear whatever I wanted, and I could schedule trips during daylight hours. Errands were fun, as evidenced by this Facebook post five years ago: “Long day in saddle again: Farmer’s market/noodles/bookstore/bike shop/Target/Bev Mo/Trader Joe’s. Only 8 miles, but it took some creative packing.”

Errand Bike

I wasn’t the only one doing errands back then and there are even more today, especially in shopping areas with limited parking and/or slow moving traffic. The bike racks are getting fuller and no one blinks twice when you roll away with big vegetables sticking out of panniers or toilet paper indelicately strapped to a rack.

Still, shopping by bike isn’t seen as mainstream. Few bikes come equipped with racks or baskets and bike shops and bike manufacturers rarely actively promote that kind of riding. I could elaborate on this, but I already have before, and if you’ve ever shopped for the perfect bike bag or basket you probably know what I mean. And there’s no national Bike to Shop Day program like there is for Bike to Work Day.

Grocery Bikes

But I think its time has come, and I’ve been working behind the scenes to make it happen this year in Silicon Valley. I sketched out a plan, convinced the staff at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to sponsor it, recruited some hard-working volunteers and we’re all off and rolling. In two weeks we’ve recruited 22 businesses to offer incentives to shoppers who arrive by bike for Bike to Shop Day Silicon Valley on Saturday May 17, 2014.

Oh, and we have a Bike to Shop Day web site with merchant profiles, sign-up forms and a zoomable merchant map. Plus lot of how-tos, from how to convert an old bike into a grocery getter, how to pace yourself at Costco, and what you can stuff in your road bike’s seat bag for impromptu shopping trips.

Bike to Shop Day web site

I have no idea how far Bike to Shop Day will go, but dammit I had to do something. Anger is a powerful motivator. Maybe next time city commissioners discuss plans for shopping center redevelopment, we’ll hear this instead: “There’s not much space for car parking, we’ll need more bike racks.” That’s my dream.

Do you do your daily or weekly errands by bike? What makes it easy (or makes it hard)?

Cherie

 
28 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Barriers to Transit

The train station is only a mile from my home, but with two major road crossings it’s not that quick a trip. Hit the signal wrong at Shoreline Boulevard and it’s a 90 second wait. Time it wrong at Central Expressway and I’m waiting, waiting, waiting as multiple trains go by, including the one I was supposed to catch this morning.

20140331-081155.jpg

About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashions for Fifty: Fifty is Fashionable Forever

Every decade has its iconic styles, like the cloche hat of the Roaring Twenties and the knit dress of the Disco Seventies. But when a style truly works, it works for any decade, from your own roaring twenties to your own fabulous fifties. And when I’m in my seventies, look for me dancing the Hustle at the senior center.

Forever Portrait

Inspired by the poem by Jenny Joseph that begins “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go,” Fashions for Fifty is a month-long celebration of my fiftieth birthday in March 2014.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Skunked on the Trail

I love the wildlife on the Guadalupe River Trail, really I do. Great blue herons, snowy egrets, mallards, coots, crows, squirrels, and even the feral cats. But that black and white “feral cat” I saw tonight just didn’t look right as I rolled up. Fortunately, he was in a good mood, I was duly respectful and we both escaped without incident.

Skunk

About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashions for Fifty: Fifty is Flowers with Flair

Spring has sprung and the flowers are in bloom, not just in the garden but all over spring dresses and purses. Time to pull out the big straw hats and head outside for a picnic or a tea. With a lightweight periwinkle cardigan, ballet pink tights and little white gloves to ward off winter’s last gasp, you’ll stay comfy in sun or in shade.

Red Straw Hat Portrait

Inspired by the poem by Jenny Joseph that begins “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go,” Fashions for Fifty is a month-long celebration of my fiftieth birthday in March 2014.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Crafts: Panniers from Reusable Grocery Bags

When you want answers, go to a librarian. They don’t know everything, but they know how to find out about everything. Even in the internet age, librarians have the Google-fu to get the information to get the job done, quickly and accurately. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that librarian Emily already had project plans for making bike panniers when she asked me to help at a Shop by Bike program at the Mountain View Library.

After Dick & I lead a discussion on how to get started shopping by bike (with our bikes as assistants), Emily launched into the craft portion of the workshop. By taking two standard reusable grocery bags and doing some snipping, stitching, gluing and tying, the crafty folks in the group went home with a pair of inexpensive but effective panniers. They turned out pretty impressive for about $5 in materials and 30 minutes of work.

A small tie or ponytail band can be used hold the outer handles in place for security.

Emily shared her instructions with me so that I could share them with you. The finished result will fit almost any bike with a standard rear rack with a platform top and a supporting frame on both sides of the wheel.

Materials & Equipment

  • 2 reusable fabric grocery bags
  • 2 pieces of flexible but sturdy plastic, cut to fit upright inside the bags
  • Scissors, straight pins, tape measure or ruler (optional)
  • Sewing machine
  • Hot glue gun
  • 1 or 2 small bungee cords

Step by Step Instructions (click on photos for close-ups)

There are lots of suggestions for modifying or improving this project on this bike forum.

Have you ever crafted your own bike panniers or bags? If so, how did you do it? What would you change in your next iteration of the design?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Bike Crafts

 

Fashion Holiday Edition: Irish Spring Blessing

The luck of the Irish has not been with us this season. Paltry winter rains couldn’t turn our California golden hills into their usual emerald green, so it’s up to my green knit dress to add some color for St Patrick’s Day.

May the wind be always at your back and the road be always downhill. May the sunshine warm you, and the breezes gently cool you. Any may life be full of good rides. (And may this spring bring us rain!)

St Patricks Portrait

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 15, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 
 
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