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Thread: Car Free Chronicles

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    I do all my shopping by bike with panniers/backpack and, on the toodler bike, front basket. This has been the case for many years, even when I had a family of four to shop for. It's surprising how much you can fit in two touring panniers and a backpack. I've looked at trailers, and I think there are some cool ones, but I've never pulled the trigger. There were definitely times when I maxed out the carrying capacity, though.
    I'm pretty certain Cynthia shops for herself and her two kids almost 100% by bike, strapping who knows what onto her pack.

    I have probably used a car to go grocery shopping, even when I had access to the family car, a total of 20 times in the last 12 years. With a trailer that likely would have dropped even lower.
    Another way to handle it is just to go grocery shopping a little more often so you can split the load up vs hauling 60 lbs of groceries in one trip. I usually go 2x a week, which allows me to split the purchase of heavy items up more. Honestly, the only thing I can't fit on my bike are the massive things of toilet paper/paper towel/cat litter that I buy at Costco, and that's because I hate buying that stuff at a normal grocery store, not because I can't buy it in smaller more reasonable quantities that can fit on a bike. Amazon also can ship that type of stuff for a reasonable price too, so there is also that option. Judd, for your new commute (assuming you go MVT-4MRT-new Apt) you go by a Whole Foods, Mom's, Harris Teeter, Shoppers, and I'm sure more--those are just the ones that exist on my segment of your future commute. If you fit grabbing a few items on your commute home once a week, it makes it alot easier when you do your big weekend trip.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Judd View Post

    The one other thing that I used my car for regularly was grocery shopping since I buy a lot of canned food. I'm probably gonna have to get all Bobco and get a trailer. The grocery store situation at the new place is a bit less convenient for walking and biking since it's further away, involves crossing the Pike and has a lot more traffic.
    I know that others have already addressed this, but as someone who does not own a car, lives near the Pike, and eats too often, I have to say that buses home from grocery stores are a nice crutch. I throw my bike or just myself onto them a lot when I'm feeling lazy. Don't know where you are on the Pike, but for me - easily done from Harris Teeter in Shirlington and Ballston and Pentagon City, and Trader Joe's in C'don. Slightly less easily done from MOM's Alexandria but I do it anyway because I love MOM's and recycled paper products.

    Anyway, congrats on going carfree.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emm View Post
    Another way to handle it is just to go grocery shopping a little more often so you can split the load up vs hauling 60 lbs of groceries in one trip. I usually go 2x a week, which allows me to split the purchase of heavy items up more. Honestly, the only thing I can't fit on my bike are the massive things of toilet paper/paper towel/cat litter that I buy at Costco, and that's because I hate buying that stuff at a normal grocery store, not because I can't buy it in smaller more reasonable quantities that can fit on a bike. Amazon also can ship that type of stuff for a reasonable price too, so there is also that option. Judd, for your new commute (assuming you go MVT-4MRT-new Apt) you go by a Whole Foods, Mom's, Harris Teeter, Shoppers, and I'm sure more--those are just the ones that exist on my segment of your future commute. If you fit grabbing a few items on your commute home once a week, it makes it alot easier when you do your big weekend trip.
    Y'all (you, Judd, Steve) are not wimps about lugging weight up hills. My commute also takes me past WF, MOM's and HT, but when car free I generally did my grocery shopping at Bradlee Safeway, because I could ride home with minimal elevation gain

  4. #24
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    I think I could tow my kayak by bike as far as Columbia Island, but any farther than that requires a car. Even then, careful route planning would be required - I don't think I could negotiate the Spout Run corkscrew on the Custis with a 17 ft boat behind me.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    My friend Gail experimenting with towing her kayak

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Judd View Post
    I'll probably go trailer, but I did read a great article about subsidies for cargo bikes in Europe last night that piqued my interest. Any bike trailer recommendations?
    This is the trailer that I currently use (Allen Sports Explorer Bicycle Cargo Trailer): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...05_s00?ie=UTF8

    That particular trailer is not sold anymore, but here are 2 images of it (note the second image shows the trailer in its upright form):
    Click image for larger version. 

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    What I like about it:
    • Relatively inexpensive yet sturdy enough
    • Easy process to detach from bike and convert from the regular behind-bike to one with a walking handle, perfect for going into stores (usually pet stores when I get kitty food and litter) and knowing exactly how much you can get
    • Has a cover to protect contents from rain (does well, but a puddle sometimes forms on top which starts to soak through)
    • Two-wheel layout makes it stable and does not cause issues with balance when riding (I've had my bike fall over yet the trailer stay upright)

    What I don't like about it:
    • The zipper on the cover is poorly made and broke (I use bungee nets to keep it in place)
    • Bottom of container does not have any support bracket/solid base (it kinda hangs from the edges), so tends to sag and bottom out on tree roots/sidewalk ramps/etc. when fully loaded
    • Tires/tubes were terrible, so I had to buy kid-MTB tires and tubes


    This set-up works for me, but I would guess that you would want something better geared toward bike adventuring than larger grocery/supply rides. A one wheel trailer might work best for you as it would be easier for longer distance rides (like for bike-camping) but will do just fine for grocery rides. If you go the two-wheeled route, definitely get a trailer that has a metal frame and a solid base. You can always get a tarp to make it more water-resistant. Also, don't worry about the included tire(s) as you'll probably want to replace that with a stronger one (kid BMX/MTB tires are cheap). Oh, and you'll want to put lights on it if not one of those caution flags (I have been considering attaching a flag to mine).

    In addition, I'd strongly recommend going to Rod for bike trailer advice. It's kinda part of his job!

  6. #26
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    Congrats on going car-free. That makes sense, especially since you hardly used it. And it sounds like a reasonable decision at this time in your life when you are not:
    a. driving kids to faraway sports practices,
    b. taking elderly parents to medical appointments etc.,
    c. facing a judge’s threats to take away your children because you lack a car.

    I was car-free for most of my life (until a,b, and c). Coming from Brooklyn, I never felt any need to have one.

    I’m curious, however, how it is to be car-free as a man in American society. It seems like there are still stereotypes and expectations that make it harder for men to be car-free. But maybe that is not-so-much the case in the DC area…

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheels&wings View Post

    I’m curious, however, how it is to be car-free as a man in American society. It seems like there are still stereotypes and expectations that make it harder for men to be car-free. But maybe that is not-so-much the case in the DC area…
    If I were still in the midwest, being car free would be a big red flag, particularly in the dating realm. No car typically is perceived as a sign that someone is broke or has so many DUIs that they don't have a license. It will be interesting to see if I perceive any change in anyone's attitudes. My boss (also a dude from St. Louis) thought it was cool that I was going car free.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by elbows View Post
    I know that others have already addressed this, but as someone who does not own a car, lives near the Pike, and eats too often, I have to say that buses home from grocery stores are a nice crutch. I throw my bike or just myself onto them a lot when I'm feeling lazy. Don't know where you are on the Pike, but for me - easily done from Harris Teeter in Shirlington and Ballston and Pentagon City, and Trader Joe's in C'don. Slightly less easily done from MOM's Alexandria but I do it anyway because I love MOM's and recycled paper products.

    Anyway, congrats on going carfree.
    Good thought. I've never used my bike on the bus before and seem to never think about busses unless it's a line that I'm really familiar with. I'm at Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse now, but I'll be moving to a condo tucked behind Arlington Mill Community Center in May. I'm going to miss having a very walkable Giant store. The Giant in Bailey's Crossroads is going to be the nearest grocery store, but from an ease of getting there standpoint, it looks like going to the Harris Teeter in Shirlington is probably a better option. I like Emm's suggestion of stopping at any store I fancy on the way home on my commute.

  9. #29
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    I find grocery shopping by bike to be much more pleasant than by car, at least in the city. Trying to get a car into and out of the P St NW Whole Foods is almost definitely one of the lesser known Circles of Hell. But getting a bike in and out? Especially when you use the super secret racks in the downstairs garage to get out of the weather? Not a problem at all.

    I find I go to the grocery store more days than not, but because we have so many options, including a Giant four blocks away, it's not that big a deal.

  10. #30
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    As someone who would love for us to go car free (but acknowledges it's not yet practical for my wife so we'll remain, as we have been for the past 16 years, a one car family), my two cents adding on to the great thoughts others have offered:
    1. It's amazing how much you can carry in four panniers (two front, two back) as far as groceries go. If the trip is just for perishables (so no cereal boxes, etc.), we can easily get four or five days worth of meals, milk, eggs, bread, beer, and the like for the 3 of us. If I have the trailercycle (more often than not), we can put two smaller panniers on that, as well (so max. capacity for 6), so it hasn't really been an issue once I got used to what could fit in each one. And since I do the grocery shopping, it's been either shop by bike or order online (trying to do that less and less) because I hate driving to any of the stores around here.
    2. Beyond the obvious "I'm used to going slow and carrying weight" aspect, I think part of our success on that front is location; in addition to sometimes dubious Giant/Safeway/Harris Teeter options in the area, we're also convenient enough to the Whole Foods on H St. NE (also with super secret bike parking in the garage should the weather dictate it) and the just opened Trader Joe's on 4th and Florida (completely obvious bike parking in the garage). Both are only a couple of miles from our place (and though it's uphill coming home, it's a nice fairly consistent climb up the MBT for a lot of the way rather than anything too steep or hectic). For example, tonight I was able to ride to the new Trader Joe's, stock up on some of the "I'm too tired to cook from scratch so let's make this easy thing" items along with stuff to cook for tomorrow (4 panniers worth), and get home and everything put away in about 45 minutes total time.
    3. Grocery shopping by bike has made me less impulsive in the store; I can't just throw whatever I want into the cart knowing I have room to carry at least a cartful of stuff, but have to think about capacity constraints. As someone who tends not to think about what he buys far too often, that's a good thing.
    4. As a guy taking his daughter to school on the bike, I've definitely been judged by other parents at the school for not driving in less than ideal weather. Some have told my wife that they really worry about our daughter having to ride in the cold and wonder if they should offer to give her a ride - though nobody's said anything directly to me like that.
    5. As a guy who just never learned to drive in the midwest (Milwaukee), my brother definitely has had people assume that he either lost his license/couldn't afford a car/was just odd. Granted, the last two are true, but people didn't know that.
    6. As far as trailers go: I'd suggest giving it a little time to see to what extent you really need one, and let that need dictate your level of investment (and size/capacity).

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