Sandy Bender's Commuter Challenge Story

This fall, Local Motion is challenging its staff to shake up their routines by replacing a trip they typically take by car with any other means of transportation (but no plane or helicopter, though that might be a good story). Our Services Coordinator, Sandy Bender, took us up on the challenge. Here’s her story!

When I thought about what single-person car trip I could replace with a bike trip, my semi-weekly grocery runs to Hannaford immediately came to mind. I’ve had a goal to do all my grocery shopping by bike, and this challenge gave me the push I needed to make it happen.

While I have ridden the North Ave./Leddy Park/Burlington Bike Path route countless times before, I’ve never used it for utilitarian purposes. So this was my challenge: to bike to Hannaford and get groceries.

I do most of my shopping at City Market and the ONE Farmers’ Market (when it’s in season), but there are some things that make more sense for me to get at Hannaford. So every few weeks I make a trip up to Burlington’s Ethan Allen Shopping Center to stock up on some heavier pantry items.  In the past, this has exclusively been a car trip because I’m intimidated by the process of transporting my groceries home without my spacious backseat. This challenge inspired me to get creative and to push my comfort on my bike.

The first hurdle was creating enough space on my bike in which to load and carry things. I have one pannier, but that wasn’t going to fit all of my larger groceries. Inspired by the decked-out bikes I’ve seen around town, I grabbed a milk crate and an old bike tube and jury-rigged a carrier onto my rear rack.  

My car stayed home and sat in the driveway this time.

The ride out on North Ave is precarious in spots, but the designated bike lane kept me out of traffic and gave me the confidence to go my speed without worrying about holding up cars.  Dodging a few Vermont potholes and navigating the Rt. 127 intersection were the only events of note on the ride out, and neither slowed me down too much. As I approached the Rt. 127 intersection I was hyper-aware of the cars around me. The right turn lane crosses the bike lane, and cars were turning right on red, so I got into defensive riding mode and made eye contact with drivers to ensure that I was seen. The intersection is easy to navigate as a biker, but the sheer amount of lanes and cars still make it a bit intimidating. 

I arrived at Hannaford with no problems and locked up my bike. Hannaford has plenty of bike parking, with the bike rack styles that allow for safely and correctly locked bikes. For more information about safely/correctly locking your bike, check out this post

The frame and front wheel are securely locked up to the U-rack. Even better would be to secure the frame and rear wheel, but I felt comfortable locking up this way outside of Hannaford.

I brought my pannier into the store to use for my smaller, loose groceries, and found the perfect spot to store it in the shopping cart! 

Even at Hannaford, I shop local whenever possible!

In hindsight, I should have brought my reusable shopping bag to line the milk crate, but I made it work. 

Apparently the bike racks are great for dogs too.

With my bike packed for my return ride, I headed out, opting to take the bike path home instead of North Ave. The weight and bike setup were very new to me, and if something went wrong I didn’t want my butternut squash to be squashed by cars. It was a lovely ride home, and I even passed some friends who were out for a ride with their dog. But the weight proved to be too much for my bike, and by the time I was home my rack had slid down and was rubbing on the rear tire. 

Even with too much weight, I was able to make it home!

As much fun as it was to leave my car at home and shop-by-bike, I will have to solve the weight problem before heading to Hannaford again. I might be in the market for a bike trailer soon, or maybe follow this guy’s design and make my own shopping bike.