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Grocery Shopping By Bicycle

November 8, 2012 Bicycling, Featured, South City 18 Comments

To many people stocking up at the grocery store means taking the car, but not everyone  thinks that way.

ABOVE: A woman loads two bags of groceries into baskets on her bike in front of Vincent’s on 12th Street in Soulard, Oct 13th.

When I saw this woman come out of Vincent’s pushing a shopping cart with two bags I expected her to go toward the parking lot. Instead she headed to the bike secured to the bus stop sign. Initially was a bit shocked because, like me, she wasn’t a young 20-something. The more I thought about it I realized I know people my age (mid 40s) to well into their 70s that bike everywhere.

If the bus wasn’t about to come I would’ve stopped her to find out more. Given that she has fold-out baskets on her bike I’d say if she has a car at all it doesn’t get used much for grocery shopping.

Those of you who drive everywhere may find it hard to believe that a person can live in St. Louis without a car, but more and more are doing so.

Note the bike racks in the background, not near the entrance. It’s telling she locked her bike to the sign post rather than one of the two bike racks further away.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Bryon says:

    That is cool. Thanks for seeing this, having the wits to grab a pic and taking the time to explain it a little. This is exactly the kind of thing that the big news outlets overlook.

  2. Scott Jones says:

    Good for her! Here in Madison WI, my neighborhood grocery store (The Jenifer Street Market) usually has about 5-10 bicycles parked at any given time. Also, the other local grocery store (Willy Street Co-Op) even has a special section for parking bikes with trailers and will lend you a trailer for free if you’re a member. This is not to brag but to point out what is possible in the mid west.

  3. RyleyinSTL says:

    Your right, cycling in STL City can be tremendously easy, particularly in South City where you don’t need to go very far to find the things you need. Additionally the old street grid allows you to stay off dangerous roads (KHW for eg.) but still efficiently get where you’re going. However I’d say that the summer heat can make it slightly impractical for commuting or making public appearances unless there are shower facilities at your destination. Likewise Nov-Feb can be dicey as the wind chill and ice can make things very difficult.

    I’m going to play devils advocate here….this woman, to me, looks to be doing this by necessity rather than choice. Her attire, choice of bike, and lack of clipless shoes lead me to that conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to see her doing it. I bicycle all over this city constantly (mostly for recreation) and generally the people I see on bikes, commuting or shopping, are doing so out of necessity rather than choice.

    • Will Fru says:

      What are you basing that on? The picture is far too small to discern any of the details you just listed. Last month I sold my car because I almost never used it, but I could certainly afford to have kept it. Further, I don’t have a flashy (or new) bike, and I’ve never used a bike with clipless pedals. I think this mindset that you need all this gear is a major impediment for a lot of people to use bikes for utility rather than recreation.

      • Will Fru says:

        As for how she’s dressed: do you dress up to go grocery shopping on a Tuesday evening?

        • RyleyinSTL says:

          Most certainly not. However street clothes tend to be the very worst thing to cycle in.

          • Nick says:

            Street clothes are perfect for transportation cycling. I bike to work in my work clothes almost every day. Some days that means I bike in a suit and tie. It works fine.

          • RyleyinSTL says:

            That must get interesting in July

      • RyleyinSTL says:

        I’m not expecting to see everyone dressed to join a peloton. Commuting by bike is not a race. However, if you are using a bike as your exclusive/primary mode of transportation day in and day out, and you’re not doing so out of fiscal necessity, efficiency, safety, comfort and style will be part of your equipment choices. I see little evidence of that in this picture.

        Steve is making a point that some people in STL choose to use a bike instead of a car and that STL isn’t as unfriendly to cyclists as many folks think it is. He is not wrong on that point. However the bulk of riders I see commuting to work in the morning (in South City) are more often than not clearly doing so because they have no other option, not because STL makes it so easy to do so.

        In the morning I regularly see a few individuals biking (sometimes against traffic!) on KHW, riding a two decade old mountain bike, dressed in jeans, not wearing a helmet, smoking a cigarette and with dreadful seating positions. Someone who is choosing to commute by bicycle because they find it relaxing, enjoyable, exciting, covenant or altruistic would almost certainly not fit the above description.

        …or so says I.

    • Nick says:

      Clipless pedals in the city? Really? What’s the point? You have to stop every block or two anyways. Why would someone want to have to wear special bike shoes to go to the grocery store, or go out for dinner, or go to work? I agree with Will that this idea that one needs all this racing-oriented equipment to bike somewhere is an impediment to getting people on bikes. The needs of a transportation cyclist are totally different from the needs of a recreational or sports-oriented cyclist. Transportation cyclists need fenders, a rack, lights, and either a chain guard or a belt drive. For anyone interested in learning more about transportation cycling, “Just Ride” by Grant Petersen is a good resource.

  4. Chris Carr says:

    This reminds me of my 3 months in Amsterdam last year. Nobody wore helmets, spandex or clipless shoes either. Just regular people getting around.

  5. gmichaud says:

    I’m sure the bicyclist will set a new clothing trend, probably with a new line of casual bicycle wear available from everyone from the homeless to the very wealthy. Oh wait, the wealthy travel by limo.
    Seriously though, this is more than marking streets, it is about creating a healthy urban environment with bicycles, walking, transit and the auto. City planning, real and imagined does not welcome the bicycle, old St. Louis, both in the City or older suburbs do the best job, but it has more to do with previous development policies rather than current ones.

    Maybe the real question is what would a city look like that was committed to the bicycle only, like today we are committed to the auto only?

    Great slice of life post.

  6. Michael C says:

    I am a 25 year old postgraduate student. I’m from South City. I don’t have a car. I bike everywhere. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t use plastic or paper bags that are provided, I put my groceries in my backpack or in the baskets on my bike. I don’t wear a helmet. I’ve been biking without a helmet since I was four. In fact, I never used a helmet. I realise not everyone has the opportunities to do what I do, but I hope that more and more, people will be able to choose biking as a means of transportation. I hope that the little things that I do can help support a vibrant and diverse bike culture so that it can become a normal sight in our beautiful city. I know a few professors at my university that bike to their offices. It’s impressive to see. Little by little, one person at a time, we can transform our city into a bike-friendly, family-friendly and eco-friendly community. Transformation takes time, and if people are willing to come out of their comfort zones, we can achieve this. Europe has done it, so can we.

    • JZ71 says:

      One, “being more like Europe” won’t play well / be a good argument with many folks around these parts. Two, while, yes, wearing a helmet is a choice, choosing not to is a poor one. After wrecking my bike in city traffic while I was in grad school, and waking up in the ER with a concussion, I became a believer and a consistent wearer. And three, change will only occur one person at a time.

      • Sian says:

        Being more like Europe is the only way to go! Let’s Europeanize St. Louis today! Start making all signs in both French and English. Let’s have French class mandatory in our public and private schools! Actually if this did happen, our economy would be far far far better than it is now. Just think of the possibilities. The problem with St. Louisans is that they are so so so close-minded. They simply cannot and will not think outside the box. It is a fact that the most successful people who live in St. Louis are ones coming from other parts of the States and the world. Although I was being slightly facetious before, I would suggest that second language acquisition is fundamental if St. Louis wants to be an international competitor.

        • JZ71 says:

          Spanish or Mandarin would be the better answer . . . .

          • Chris says:

            How many of you have actually been to Europe? I’ve been there ten times for various amounts of time, and I can tell you it’s not all like liberals in America think it is.

          • JZ71 says:

            Please expand. I’ve been to Europe, but only once. Like any other place, it has its positives and its negatives. My point was that saying we, in Missouri, should “be more like Europe” would go over about as well as saying that we should be more like California or Texas, more like New York City or Chicago or more like China or Japan. Most people here are pretty satisfied with how things are, and don’t want or see a need to change. Heck, we can’t even agree to increase the cigarette tax here. I agree, more biking would be a good thing, just that using “Europe” (or anyplace else) as the argument to do so would not be the best thing to do.


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