I personally think that commuting by bike is more than just the to-and-from work daily grind. It’s about cycling for transportation in general: Utility Cycling, if you will. A while ago, Warren introduced us to Clif Bar‘s 2-Mile Challenge. To those of us who live in suburbia and are in the process of reducing our car usage as newer bike commuters (like me), it can be temping to drive to places that you are used to going to simply because those are the places you go, and they’re too far or too inconvenient to get to by bike for what they offer. Often, there are similar places close to home that you don’t even know about yet. Or, maybe you do, but as a creature of habit you’ve have passed them by.
I can only use personal examples in my own life, but I’m sure they apply to many newer bike commuters. Instead of driving to the place I usually get my hair cut (about 8 miles from home), I could try one of the several barbers that are a lot closer. Instead of going to the big, fancy market grocery store with all the premium deli brands, I could try one of the budget stores down the street. My favorite Buffalo Wing shop is quite a ways away, but there’s a local bar just a few intersections away that makes some decent wings. My old primary care physician is almost 15 miles from home now, but the organization has a small branch practically sharing a parking lot with my apartment complex. I’d need to switch physicians, but then I can walk to the doctor’s office.
Day in and day out, I would drive past countless little strip malls. They seem to be peppered around the Kansas City suburbs, spread out in one- or two-mile intervals. Take the time to ride through and really look at what types of shops are close to home. Almost anything that I really need or want can be had within a two mile radius: Dentists, post office, a branch for my bank, doctors, dining establishments, grocery stores, a coffee shop, electronics and clothing stores, and even a big discount club (like Sam’s Club or Costco).
Learning your local “village” is a big step towards using your bike more and your car less. It will also allow you to make a few quick stops on your way to work or home to run quick errands, saving you even more time since you’re already out and about. You don’t always need to give up things that seem too far for a bike. You can probably find something a bit closer to home that meets your needs.