Not as Easy as They Say

There are plenty of studies out that there prove that bicycle infrastructure leads to improved local economy because people traveling on bicycles tend to shop more locally. The bottom line tends to be that people on bicycles buy more locally, shop more often, and, if they are not spending money on cars and car things, have more to spend. One of the arguments says that it is easier for people on bikes to make spontaneous stops for things. I guess not having to hunt for a parking spot, and the ease in maneuvering for a spot to lock a bike makes it easier. And people on bikes apparently eat alot.

However… I often feel that it is not as easy as they say it is.

Tonight was a good case in point. I needed to make two quick stops on my way home from work, both of which would have meant maybe 5 minutes inside each location (depositing a check, dropping of something to a colleague). However, I had a ton of extra stuff with me, and having to strip my bike, then repack it, for barely five minutes makes me dislike these types of errands after work.

The routine goes like this:

  • Find place to lock up bike. Luckily, the bike rack near where I was deposting my check was emploty; it isn’t always.
  • Stop, get off bike, position bike in best spot to lock it up.
  • Dig out key from purse in front basket. It’s on my regular key ring, so that means hauling the whole thing out. (It also means I’m never without my lock key…)
  • Lock bike.
  • Dump key back in purse.
  • Turn off rear light.
  • Removed both back pannier bags from back rack. Decide which shoulder each one goes on.
  • Turn off front light.
  • Unplug and remove front light battery.
  • Find a place to put aforementioned battery. Because it is winter, and I’m (begrudgingly) wearing a reflective vest over my coat, I have to fumble to get it in a pocket. Normally I just toss it into my helmet, but, again, because it is cold, I’m still wearing my helmet at this point. The ear pads keep me warm!
  • Remove purse from front basket. A third bag to now juggle.
  • Remove leg bands. These normally go in the helmet once I’ve removed it.
  • Remove glasses (I wear clear ones when its dark).
  • Remove helmet so I can stash all these little pieces.
  • Remove gloves.

Now that I’ve done all that, I drag my four items into the store, juggle all of them while I pull out  my wallet to deposit said check, fumble while I put wallet back, pick everything back up, and return to the street, and repeat the process in reverse order.

The bike this evening, loaded down (and reflecting!).

The bike this evening, loaded down (I look like a Basil bicycle bags add).

Really, that is NOT easy. In behavior change-speak, that is 15 different barriers to making this easy. Okay, maybe I am being lazy. But let’s be honest – it’s easier to jump out of a car and lock everything behind you, run in somewhere, and run out again. Sure, going to the gym is not a problem, because I’ll be there for over an hour. But these little short trips? Torture. I skipped the second errand because I didn’t want to do all this all over again.

Last weekend I wanted to go to Target, Petsmart, G Street Fabrics, and JoAnn Fabrics, all in Seven Corners, which is not far from my apartment, five miles-ish. Not the most bike-friendly of routes, and deceptively uphill, but manageable. Even getting from the Target and Petsmart side to the G Street Fabrics and JoAnns side, which is definitely bike-friendly, isn’t that terrible. What drives me nuts and makes me not want to go is having to stop, lock up, strip the bike, drag my stuff around, repack the bike, move it, and repeat the process. I don’t know why, I can’t explain why it bothers me so much, but it does. Seven CornersI can think of several things that bother me in similar fashion – I hate flying with too much stuff, for example. Juggling carry-ons, and boarding passes, not having my hands free – it just bugs me. I prefer having everything in its place, neat and compact and efficient. And somehow, this process of unloading and loading a bike seems very inefficient.

Am I the only one who has problems with running multiple errands by bike like this? Or is everyone else okay leaving panniers and helmets on bikes while running short errands? Maybe I just carry too much stuff? Is there a secret I don’t know – someone please enlighten me! How do you easily run multiple errands?!


9 thoughts on “Not as Easy as They Say

  1. I just had this experience tonight on my way home from work. One advantage is that I have a dynamo light on the front, which is bolted on, so no need to remove. I also just leave the little blinkies on the bike, and my rear light is hard to remove–for both me and a thief, so I don’t take that one either.
    However, the panniers are a bit of a drag, but I’ve gotten pretty good at taking them on and off quickly.
    As a guy, I have pockets for my keys.
    Question: I watch my wife dig for her keys in her purse all the time. It can take her 30 seconds or longer to find them. I have watched this for 20 years. How long does it take to figure out a better solution?

    • I always clip my keys in my purse so I know right where they are; I hate digging for keys. So I can’t help you there! I am sure I’ll find ways to streamline as the winter progresses. Winter coats are great for their big pockets, so that helps!

  2. I agree that taking things on and off the bike makes errands a pain. I have “saddlebags” permanently attached to my bike. I have an old canvass (or maybe it’s heavy cotton?) pair I got in Holland years ago (Fastrider brand)–I zip tie them to the rack so you need scissors and a bit of time to get them off. They hold whatever bag I’m carrying, my lock, and lots of groceries. My tail light is bolted to the bike so I only have to take off the front light (I don’t have a battery pack). (I am considering getting a dynamo hub to power my lights–then I’d have them both permanently attached to the bike.)

    It does take a bit more thought than driving or even taking the bus, but I think the reason I like the saddlebags so much is that I avoid several of the steps you describe by always leaving them on the bike. It’s a risk I’m willing to take for convenience.

  3. I’ve known people to tour with Bromptons, so I think carrying capacity would be just dandy 🙂

    I’m with you; I try to find a midway place to park my bike for chores & then walk a lot. Right now I’m contemplating what the best kind of pannier bag is (to make) because I’m not happy with Ortlieb as a runaround bag, awesome as they were on tour.

    But cycling for chores still beats driving. I hate finding a car park spot. I do the same as cycling, just park somewhere & walk.

  4. Ok…I’ve been cycling for last 22 yrs., car-free for last 30 yrs.:

    I don’t carry a purse. What for? I keep my wallet and keys inside a pannier pocket. Yes, removal of bike lights are necessary. Otherwise they get stolen. It’s happened to me twice. However I don’t have battery pack powered lights.

    I try to leave any bulky goods that get strapped on top of bike rack over a pair of back panniers, as the last store stop.

    Yes, there is some coordination of stuff and repetitive lock-up, unlocking for each different destination stop in 1 day.

    HOWEVER, for me…I get lots of exercise and I don’t belong to a fitness club. I never lockup my helmet, it takes me ages to find helmet that I like if it ever disappeared from me. I walk around in store with my helmet on. I’m not there to look like a fashion plate. I’m shopping. Not dating. Or I put helmet in shopping cart with my pannier.

    Sometimes I leave 1 empty pannier on bike and carry 2nd one into store. My panniers are dusty and used. Not attractive.

    Yes, I do walk into lovely fashion dress shops with my bike pannier, etc. (Though I rarely buy. :)) I am occasionally the odd woman out…but hey, if you are bike-fit….being fit and healthy never goes out of style! You will be envied for fitting into smaller clothes sizes, etc.

  5. I was thinking the same thing as I stopped at the grocery store yesterday. Take out U-lock, search for keys, lock bike. Remove headlight, remove taillight, remove pannier (or panniers). It is a slight pain to me, but the one time I did not remove my taillight someone removed it for me. THANK YOU, thieves.

    I don’t know if a Brompton would actually solve all these inconveniences, as I really don’t like the idea of going around the grocery store with a cart and carrying my bike around in a store. I’m not sure how that would work. Also I don’t know what the Brompton’s carrying capacity is. My upright bike is a real workhorse and can carry a lot of weight. To my mind, it would just be an exchange for another set of issues.

    • I’m glad to hear it’s not just me! I don’t even like to leave my helmet with my bike, even locked. I would rather not have to replace anything, regardless how small or inexpensive.

      I was thinking about a Brompton, and I don’t think it has the hauling capacity that my commuter bike does – I can fit a big purse, two panniers, and whatever I want to bungee to the top of the rack, currently. I don’t think I can do that with the Brompton. And then, yes, it would be one more thing to drag around, and that’s my biggest issue, I think.

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