Running Errands by Bike

Bike to Work Week is upon us, which means that from Monday, May 17 through Friday, May 21 it is a great time to leave the car at home and head out each day by bicycle! And since there is a good chance you will find yourself out and about throughout the week on your bike, it’s a perfect time to start running errands by bicycle, as well. Therefore, this post is dedicated to that other piece of many people’s daily commute – the shopping piece.

General Statistics on Running Errands

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the United States, 45% of daily trips are taken for shopping and errands. Meanwhile, only 15% of daily trips are taken for commuting. The average American takes 4 trips per day, which might be to work, to run errands, to social gatherings, etc. However, 60% of said trips are 1 mile or less, but a shocking 90% of trips between 1 and 3 miles is made by car in the United States. Given this information, a large percent of car trips could be replaced by bicycle (or walking) trips, given the short distances. This would help to reduce congestion on the roads, since the short distance trips are the most numerous. And reduced car traffic and congestion could mean better roads for cycling! So in addition to Bike to Work Week, I suggest we also implement a Bike to the Shops Week. But in the meantime, this post will provide some useful information on running errands by bike.


How to Carry Your Stuff

Whether it be commuting by bicycle, running errands by bicycle, or any combination of daily trips, you need to find a good way to carry your stuff by bike. If you are combining a commute to work with an errand-running trip, you will need to consider how much stuff you have to leave the house with each day and how much you might return with, especially if the trip involves some shopping. Generally, if you are going shopping after work, as many people do, you will need to leave some space for the items you plan to come home with. However, assess each situation on a day-to-day basis, as it will likely vary a fair amount.


For smaller shopping trips, bike bags and racks are usually sufficient to carry a fair amount of stuff, depending on the size of the bag and rack combo and the nature of your purchase, of course. We have a great post, which describes some of the easiest ways for carrying your stuff using bike bags and bike racks. However, for large shopping trips (for example getting a week’s worth of groceries for your family) you might want to consider investing in a cargo bike, a bike trailer, or an Xtracycle. Consider it the family truck. I assure you, purchasing and maintaining such a vehicle is much, much more affordable than purchasing and maintaining a real truck! We will have a post dedicated to carrying your stuff by cargo bike or bike trailer in the near future.



If you are new to the idea of general bicycle transportation, don’t be afraid to take some time experimenting with what works best for you with regard to logistics. Everyone’s needs and trip routines are different, so take some time to figure out what works best. Especially when it comes to running errands by bicycle, you will need to assess your carrying capacity, the distance you are traveling, the weather conditions, and how much you need to purchase before you embark on each trip. Also, if you are making multiple stops on one shopping trip, you will want to consider how you want to keep your purchases safe between stops. If security is an issue, you might consider an enclosed bike trailer that can be locked. You might also consider shopping with a buddy, so that one of you can stay with the bikes while the other shops.


Again, this is all highly contextual, so experimentation is key. Nonetheless, running errands by bicycle is a great way to save money and time, while simultaneously getting some fresh air and exercise. So for the next five days, we invite you to bike to work and the store in celebration of Bike to Work Week. And if you enjoy yourself, keep it up for the rest of the month, the summer, or the year!

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0 thoughts on “Running Errands by Bike”

  1. kdt says:

    This is a great post. Think about the number of errands we each make by car that could be done on a bike with some carrying capacity. Does it really make sense to propel a 3500 lb vehicle a mile or so just to pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread? The key (okay, two keys): to have a way to carry your purchases, and to think bike first.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes, it’s important to get people to think bike first. But it only takes a matter of time to begin to appreciate riding over driving in many circumstances! At least that was the case for me. And agreed, biking to simple errands like a quick shopping trip definitely makes more sense than driving. For more complicated errands, such as buying a mattress, it becomes a more difficult choice, but certainly not impossible!

  2. This is a great post. Think about the number of errands we each make by car that could be done on a bike with some carrying capacity. Does it really make sense to propel a 3500 lb vehicle a mile or so just to pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread? The key (okay, two keys): to have a way to carry your purchases, and to think bike first.

  3. rodney says:

    In the last 2.5 years and 8,000 or so miles, the bicycle has been an integral part of my transportation needs. From the daily commuter to the utility cycling usage to the recreational “FUN” rides, my bicycle has been there for me.
    I now have installed a pannier rack and will be using the grocery bag panniers for my daily commute/errands. Presently I have a small plastic bucket that holds one reusable grocery bag strapped to the rack. For larger loads and bi-weekly shopping, I use the flatbed trailer.
    As of today’s date, I haven’t driven or had to fuel my truck since April 11.

    1. Hi Rodney,
      Good to hear from you! It sounds like you might as well sell the truck at this point. 🙂
      I agree, it’s nice to have options for shopping such as a flatbed trailer for large shopping trips or a grocery bag pannier for a small trip. And if one is really making the switch to utility cycling, it’s good to invest in a couple of options, which will save lots of money in the long run.
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. rodney says:

    …..For larger loads and bi-weekly shopping,…..should read bi-monthly shopping, sorry.

  5. […] Running Errands by Bike […]

  6. Thanks so much for the tips. Right now I only ride my bike in my neighborhood and on the Greenway….we’re moving soon, and I’ll be using my bike for most of my local transportation. I’m shopping for a basket right now, so will keep these things in mind while I look.

    1. Hi Jane,
      I’m glad to hear you found the post useful. I use a rear pannier-style wald basket on the back of my commuter bike, and I really like it for carrying a lot of stuff. However, it isn’t easy to take on and off, such as a pannier and rack system would allow for, and it’s a bit heavy, as well. Nonetheless, it is very convenient to get things in and out of, so I have decided to stick with my basket system for now! Best of luck to you with your future errand-running by bike!

  7. A Klek says:

    Check this out:

    I made myself a pair and they work great. I also get to look funny at the supermarket.
    Two years, no car, OK.

    1. Hi A Klek,

      The kitty litter panniers are a great idea. They look to have a huge carry capacity. Despite any funny looks you might get at the supermarket, it’s very cool to see such an item re-purposed into some useful for utility cycling. Thanks for sharing!

  8. dominic says:

    Glad to return to your blog after seeing it a year ago. I know biking is important to bikers but there is no strategic plan by the bicycle industry to engage the other 99 percent of the population. The few riders who leave their car behind are living reminders of the freedom we take for granted in our democracy. Those remaining 99 percent are dictated by lifestyles which are increasingly less sustainable in the 21st century.

  9. […] by bike.  But I’m currently working from home, so my bike commuting is currently limited to running errands and getting around town.  My daily commute, on the other hand, basically involves walking up and […]

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