(OCTOBER XXVIII) Biking for groceries

Ever since I have lived in Evanston, my main method of going to get groceries has been on the bike.  The other ways that I could do it, though, are carpooling, public transit, walking, or taking out a Zipcar.  (Personal vehicles are excluded from this discussion, since I don’t own one!  Similarly, this discussion is based off my personal possession of items that would facilitate grocery shopping.)  Each has advantages and disadvantages, of which I enumerate (no, make that itemize) and occasionally expand on below:

Biking.

Advantages:

* You can only carry a limited number of items, compared to when a car is available. This is a positive since it reduces the likelihood of adding impulse items to the cart.

* If the bike isn’t equipped with panniers, it encourages the cyclist to use reusable bags and/or a backpack.  Go green!

–> Corollary: It provides not only some leg exercise, but some resistance exercise for the upper body as well.  (Granted, this might not be so much exercise as it is dangerous strain.  With how I shop, will I need to eventually put a chiropractor on speed dial?)

* With a bike, unlike public transit, carpooling, or Zipcar, you have total freedom with when to go shopping.  Zipcar is mostly independent of time, but there’s a chance that the nearby car(s) are all taken during the time that you really want to go to the store.

Disadvantages:

* Cycling is more dangerous than the other modes of transportation, especially if the return ride is an awkward carry.

–> This is particularly true in the winter, if ice or snow is on the ground.

* Not only is there limited space to carry items, but some heavy and/or awkward items would be difficult or impossible to carry on a bike.

Public transit

Advantages:

* Since I use my rolling suitcase when shopping via public transit, it allows me to buy items that would not be practical to buy on bike.  This includes, for example, multi-packs of pop or big bags of rice.

* There may be some amount of walking involved, although this is usually trivial.

* Again, only a limited number of items can be bought.

Disadvantages:

* You are at the mercy of the schedule of the bus and/or L, and all the disadvantages of public transit on any other type of trip.

* The bus/train may be crowded on your return trip, leading to difficulty if you bought a lot of items.

Zipcar

Advantages:

* You can buy more items than you could when using public transit, biking, or walking.

* Similarly, it is the way to go when there are items that are “impossible” to take on bike, train, or bus.  (Canonical example: larger items from Target, like when I got the drawers).

Disadvantages:

* The most expensive alternative that I have listed here.

* The car may not be available at the time that you need it.

Carpooling

Advantages:

* Same as Zipcar.

* The person you are carpooling with is going to the store anyway, right?

Disadvantages:

* Might be the most inflexible of the alternatives.  You and your carpool comrade must agree on a time, which can be difficult.

* You might have to pay for gas.  (Not a major deal, of course).

Walking.

Advantages:

* Many of the same “green” and “exercise” advantages as what I itemized on biking.

* More practical to use a rolling suitcase here than when biking.

Disadvantages:

* The most time-consuming alternative.

* Although there are several stores within walking distance (i.e. <2 miles) of Engelhart, the sidewalks are not always great.  (Furthermore, I would rather bike!)

Of course, no matter what method you use to get groceries, it pays to know that there are often multiple ways to get around.   Though I love biking, there are times where it is better to use another method.

Today is the twenty-eighth day of O.C.T.O.B.E.R.  That makes four weeks.  (Three days to go!)

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