Is it really possible to do a food shop by bike in Sheffield? Yes, say these cyclists
At some point, every cyclist has a banana incident. The ideal pre-packed natural fuel source, bananas are too easy to forget after tossing a half eaten one into your pannier for later, in my case reappearing several weeks and dozens of potholes later, having smeared itself round my Allen keys. This never happens with a Range Rover.
“Packing your bags carefully” is one of the first rules of bicycle logistics, explains Jo Maher, after several soft fruit casualties of her own. “And making sure your panniers are balanced.”
Jo stocks up on fruit and veg at Sheffield’s Moor Market on her way home from work as a GP, and says using a bike makes it easy to shop with local traders as you can park right outside, carry in your bike panniers, pack up your side of salmon, curry leaves and fenugreek along with (top banana preservation tip) fruit and veg carefully packed above the heavier stuff, and then head home having done your bit to tackle air pollution and climate change, and helped local businesses at the same time.
“I know exactly what I’m getting and who I’m giving my money to at the Moor Market,” Jo says. “Shopping with local Sheffield traders is helping small businesses get back on their feet when they’ve been absolutely hammered by Covid.”
The market trip back up the hill to Crookes is about 15 minutes thanks to the e-bike motor on Jo’s bike, but she adds that flatter shopping commutes are perfectly doable on a standard push bike too.
A call out to Sheffield cycling ultra-shoppers via the CycleSheffield group revealed locals proudly pedalling home with planks of wood, lawnmowers, dogs, pot plants, a chainsaw and a toy shark, as well as ‘big shops’ in trailers or Dutch-style cargo holds.
Henry Norman of the Sustrans sustainable transport charity says that for most people, it’s not about committing to never shop by car again, but using the ‘right tools for the job.’
“While you can do your whole supermarket shop once a week by bike, you’ll find that a couple of smaller trips are a little more convenient,” he says. Carrying a decent lock means you’ll also have the convenience of parking next to the shop, he says.
Once you’ve tried it, you’ll probably find bike shopping easier than you thought, he adds. “You could try to bike and walk for shorter distances, and then use a car for longer or more laden journeys.”
Tori Gray from the A Different Gear shop and cycle hire social enterprise in Heeley says hiring of e-bikes of all shapes and sizes has become much more popular this year. E-cargo bikes can carry all kinds of loads, and can be hired to try out from £12 for 4 hours, she says. “One person even borrowed an ‘Urban Arrow’ to move house.”
New cycling shoppers find they start buying at smaller shops near home, or on their return commute, simply because it’s less faff. And those trying to save money say it’s amazing how many ‘buy one, get one free’ chocolate cake offers you can avoid when you have to consider your pannier capacity.
“I shop much more locally since using a bike for my main source of travel,” says Andy Douglas. “I don't think I would have moved away from the traditional big supermarket shop without it.”
Rosie Frazer from the Modeshift Stars organisation (which promotes active travel to local schools) uses a Babboe e-cargo bike to transport both shopping and family, with room for up to three kids, a Christmas tree, a medium family shop, a set of garden plants, or on one occasion a Sheffield bear from the artist’s studio to Carfield Primary school.
“The kids love it, but they do tend to eat the shopping on the way home,” she says. “Having the e-bike means I can easily nip out to the shops when I need to. I don't want to drive to the local refill shop to fill up my washing up liquid, after all.”
Why not give it a go? Rosie says. “You’ll realise how easy it is, and how much fun it is too.”