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Top tips for riding to the shops

For most Australians the bicycle is a tool for exercise, recreation or commuting, however it's uses extend far beyond that. With Park it for the Planet coming up soon in Victoria (in the midst of stage four restrictions) it begs the question, how can I get more time outside and look after myself, my mental health and the planet?

One answer is to use your bicycle instead of the car to ride to the shops. For some this might seem like a daunting prospect, particularly if it's weekly shop with toilet paper or other bulky items.

While it may not be possible for every shop, the amount of products you can carry on a bicycle is surprising and it's a great way to cut down the amount of car trips.

To get started with substituting the car with a bike we've prepared some simple tips to help you swap four wheels for two.

1. Start Small

Not everyone is comfortable on a bicycle with a mountain of shopping, it takes time getting used to riding with extra weight and bags. The best way to get started is to start small. Forgotten the milk or bread? Rather than reach for your keys, reach for your helmet.

A handful of items will comfortably fit into almost any backpack, meaning you don't need to plan ahead. Just bring a lock, a backpack and your helmet and you're good to go.

The bike trip may cost you an extra 15 minutes, but almost all Victorians would agree spending 15 extra minutes outside in the current circumstances is a good thing.

2. Get a basket or rack

Ultimately if you can make a habit of riding to the shops rather than using the car will depend on your ability to carry as much as you need. The best way of doing this is equipping your bicycle with a basket or rack and panniers. 

We've recently discussed how bike baskets are making a resurgence, as they allow you to easily up the amount of luggage you can carry on your bike. Panniers are a more expensive upgrade, but they do allow for waterproof shopping with more weight. 

3. Make it a habit

Replacing your car trips for bike trips is something which ultimately takes time – it's all about making it the default mode of transport rather than the exception.

To do this effectively you need to set yourself up for success with careful planning. This means leaving your bike in an easy to get place, alongside your bike helmet and everything you need to get out. Or have your backpack prepped and your riding gear ready to go, so you have no excuses.

And reminder yourself that every kilometre you swap the car for the bike you save 243.8 grams of CO2.    

Other helpful hints involve trying to swap the car on other trips to show yourself that riding is normal and easy. So when you're meeting your friend for coffee, or a walk (when restrictions ease of course), try and ride there rather than jumping in the car. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

4. Enjoy it!

Being outside on your bike does wonders for your physical and mental health. With the most recent COVID-19 stage four lock down, it's crucial that we look after ourselves.

Something that should never be forgotten about cycling is that it's fun! Being outside with the wind flowing through your hair has never felt better than after being inside all day.

Substituting one of your car trips for a bike trip allows you to squeeze more time to enjoying yourself outside, rather than being in the car. You also get the best parking spot every time.

5. Know that you're doing the right thing

It isn't possible for many Australian's to swap every car trip for a sustainable mode of transport. However tackling the climate crisis is everyone's responsibility and personal car transport is one of the easiest ways we can make a difference on a macro level. On the 26th of August we encourage you to pledge to ride for Park it for the Planet, and see the difference that riding a bicycle can make.

Also be sure to get the up to date information about what you can do with the current restrictions here

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

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