On the Frugal (and Other) Pleasures of Doing Errands by Bike

Laura's bike

Laura's bike

By Laura King

One of the deal-sweeteners of our recent move from the city to the suburbs, in my husband’s view, was getting our car back, which had been on loan to family. And, although my partiality to car-free living has been lifelong–when I was 8, I told a friend I would never trade my bike for a car (she responded, “The air you breathe will be my exhaust!”)–I have to admit, having a car makes some things much, much easier. Weekend trips are no longer tainted by auto rental hassles, and our days of lugging heavy items through the subway are behind us.

That said, I find that most of my everyday errands can be more pleasurably conducted on two wheels rather than four. When we became suburbanites, I invested in a pair of saddlebags
(and, importantly, a comfortable seat) for my bike. The saddlebags are roomy enough to hold two big canvas sacks of foodstuffs, plus my purse, bike lock, and whatever else I’m carrying–letters for the post office, or books to drop off at the library, for example. With a little forethought, I can plan a smooth multi-errand trip. (Grocery shopping usually comes last; I don’t like leaving my groceries, and full saddlebags make locking up more cumbersome.)

Every time I swing a leg up onto my bike and get rolling, I’m reminded of the long list of benefits of this let-your-hair-down mode of travel. It makes the world feel more real–no surprise, given that in swapping car for bike, you’ve stripped a ton of steel and glass separating you from the road down to about thirty svelte pounds. The air, the birds–and yes, that gnarly pothole–are all on offer for you to experience in their full glory. Plus, it’s mood-enhancing, wiping the fog off your brain and waking you up; even the bumps are enlivening. Add a maneuver around an obstacle and a greeting to a pedestrian, and you’re feeling positively competent and neighborly. It’s good exercise, but not especially strenuous (and any work you do pumping up hills is always rewarded with effortless speed on the other side). And, it’s free, or almost. Magically, its costs are also benefits: stronger muscles and a kindled appetite to fill with something delicious. To me, it seems a frugal no-brainer.

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