Short bike trips

On one of my recent posts Chris left the following comment, principally about the  inconvenience of riding a bike for short trips.

What I don’t understand is why people would actually want to cycle for journeys under 2 miles?

By the time you’ve got your bike out of wherever you keep it locked up, cycled to wherever you’re going, found somewhere to lock it up and removed your pump, spare tube and other bits and pieces (I wouldn’t expect to find them still on the bike when I got back in London if I didn’t), it’s probably just as quick to walk, and you don’t have the hassle of a bike to worry about.

I can see the benefit when you’re going shopping and will be carrying heavy bags back, but other than that there seems to be lots of asking how we get people to cycle these short journeys, but very little asking why they would want to in the first place?

I love my commute – and at 18 stone and 5’10″, I’m not your stereotypical weekend racer Mamil – because it gives me an opportunity to exercise on at least a couple of days a week which I wouldn’t otherwise get, but once I’m at work (in Central London), if I’m going to visit a customer within a couple of miles of the office, it would never occur to me to take my bike. If it’s raining, I’ll get a taxi, but if it’s not, then I’ll walk. The last thing I want is the hassle of not knowing if I’ll be able to find a secure place to lock my bike when I get there, or the worry during the meeting of whether the saddle (or potentially the bike itself) will still be there when I get out!

Chris will probably be a bit horrified, but I often use my bike to travel very short distances indeed – less than a hundred metres.

I’m not stupid, or wasting my time. The reason I cycle for these short distances is because it’s simply ridiculously easy for me to do so. I can make the transition from walking to cycling – and vice versa –  in a matter of seconds.

I was going to try and explain how with words, but decided to make a short video instead. Because it makes it a bit more obvious.

My bike doesn’t really require anything of me, beyond a key. I don’t need to wear any special clothing, or equipment, that needs to be taken on or off. I just ride it in whatever I happen to be wearing, which will be ordinary clothing, appropriate for the time of year. I don’t need to take anything on or off the bike either – beyond unplugging the chain when it is locked with it – because everything that’s needed is a permanent part of the bike, like the lighting, and any storage. I don’t carry spares, or tools, because I don’t need to. There’s nothing to go wrong – the bike is built to be as tough and as indestructible as possible.

If I’m just popping into a shop, I can park it right outside, which is obviously very convenient – I can step straight onto the bike as I come out of the shop. Anyone trying to steal it will have to carry it away. If I’m away from the bike for longer periods (like work, or an evening out) or if it is out of sight, I will obviously lock it to something. The chain is wonderful for allowing you to improvise with street furniture that is close to hand, unlike a D-lock, which requires a degree of faffing and an appropriate object to lock to.

So – that’s why I ride a bike for very short trips. I’m definitely not the only one…

Supermarket shopping in the rush hour in Utrecht. Nearly everyone was coming and going by bike - because it's just as easy as walking

Supermarket shopping in the rush hour in Utrecht. Nearly everyone was coming and going by bike – because it’s just as easy as walking. Doubtless some very short trips are being made here, as people travel from shop to shop, or cycle home

Kevin Hickman has written eloquently about short bicycle trips already. You can read more about my bike here

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67 Responses to Short bike trips

  1. Mark Hewitt says:

    Chris is correct. Bicycles are a hassle for short journies. For exactly the reasons he describes. Used to be my wife would meet me at the supermarket to do the shopping – some 4 miles away, but the sheer amount of logistical faffing about with locks, removing lights, water bottles etc became too much and it’s easier to just drive.

    • inge says:

      You could buy some good panniers, solves your problem.

      • pm says:

        Personally I carry my shopping in the largest rucksack you can buy (loaded up to the point where I can barely stand up!) and I don’t have panniers of anywhere near that capacity.

        Also, given the nature of this area I’m quite paranoid about locking the bike up. And of course there are very few places to lock it and those are often already taken.

        I don’t see that it matters much though – I’m quite happy to walk for such short distances. Gotta get _some_ load-bearing exercise!

    • Paul M says:

      Mark, as I think Mark T is in effect saying, that is because you have the wrong type of bicycle!

      I cycle from Waterloo to Blackfriars every morning and back every evening. It is a mile – 15 minutes on foot. Allowing for unfolding my bike at the start and folding it again at the finish – a comparable time commitment to locking it properly – the ride takes me about 7 minutes at a comfortable pace.

      I cycle to clients in central London – weather permitting – and would say that anything over 3/4 mile is definitely worth considering cycling.

      • Mark Hewitt says:

        But then you are saying that I should buy another type of bicycle, just for the run to the shops; that my road bike is not suitable. Well having another bicycle is even less practical as there is no more house room. And I’m not going to swap my road bike for a ‘shopping’ bike because that would hamper the other 99% of my cycling.

        • Simon says:

          But I suspect you are unusual in that respect – you are a sports cyclist who isn’t interested in using a bike for day to day transport. Having said that, I question your “99%” estimate – if you had a more practical bike for day to day riding then that 99% would probably fall massively because you would use a bike for day to day transport.

          I’ve got a road bike in my shed – great for those Sundays when I want to go for a long ride. But I can’t be bothered with it day to day – putting on special shoes, special clothes, etc – I would barely be able to stand upright in the local Co-op in my cycling shoes. I have a couple of other bikes – a Brompton for my journey to work (would you really not have space for a Brompton?) as I can fold it for the train part of my commute. And an old MTB which I’ve “practicalised” – it’s rigid framed (i.e. not suspension forks) and I’ve put on flat pedals, full mudguards, a rack. I use it all the time – popping into the village to the shops, going to the park with my kids, going to the station when I don’t need the bike at the other end, taking on holiday, and so on.

          The old MTB isn’t as practical as a proper Dutch bike – I do wonder about getting one of those (as a replacement rather than an extra) with a built-in lock, hub brakes and gears, full chain guard, etc. But it is my first choice for day to day travel.

        • inge says:

          Mark , in my first comment I forgot that bicycles in Britain are not like the very practical dutch bikes with fixed lights, racks and other handy things. Makes a difference, I suppose.

        • b says:

          I think that it is really a matter of setting up your bike and routine to accommodate short trips. I use a road bike but have set it up with Ortlieb bags/panniers set up with their QL3 mounting set. It takes less than a second to attach or detach from the bike.

          If I am going on short trips I skip certain items like a water bottle. I am not going to work up that much of a sweat in less than 2 miles. You don’t really need a flat tire kit because I could walk home if needed.

          As for locking the bike you can get special locking skewers that you need a special tool to remove the wheels. That way you can save time locking your bike since you don’t need to worry about putting the lock through your wheels. You really only need to make sure the lock goes around the frame. You can get a mounting kit for your U-lock so that it is easy to attach or detach from the bike.

        • But then you are saying that I should buy another type of bicycle, just for the run to the shops; that my road bike is not suitable

          This discussion started with a comment about why people would ever cycle short distances, because it is apparently impractical.

          Now nobody is denying that it can be impractical with a certain type of bike. I wouldn’t use a time trial bike to go to Waitrose. And nobody is saying you have to get another bike – you can do whatever you want. The point here is that cycling short distances is very easy with the appropriate bike. That’s all.

  2. Patrick O'Riordan says:

    I’m not sure I see the point in carrying things like water bottles, pumps, inner tubes for a trip to the shops… It is hardly as if you are going to die of thirst and if you get a puncture, walk the bike home.

    I can see why some wouldn’t want to ride their carbon racer down the shops, but if it is something you do regularly, you adapt the bike for this purpose. You don’t carry unnecessary clutter on the bike, as many parts as possible are bolted on (no quick release seatposts..), you have a mounting for a lock, and it takes literally seconds to secure the bike with a D-lock.

    It is easy to do the maths. Even if I allow a few minutes faffing around getting my bike out of its shed, it will always be quicker to cycle than walk for a trip more than a couple of hundred metres… and as for a car in London… even if there isn’t congestion, you are highly unlikely to find a convenient parking space anyway.

  3. Peter Clinch says:

    I have a Brom with dynamo lights and it’s similarly little hassle, though I tend to fold and take in rather than lock. Not a problem, /but/ it would be if everyone was doing it.
    Similarly, if everyone on a crowded city street had a bike too then it would be much more crowded and much more awkward, so I think it’s one of those things where we can make hay while the sun is shining but realise that if our dreams of high model-share bicycle/pedestrian nirvana come to pass we’ll actually have less freedom than we do now…

  4. jimmy-j says:

    To someone who’s main transport is a bicycle in London, this is a bizarre conversation…

    How can someone even suggest walking two miles is more convenient than cycling the same distance? I’m a brisk walker but two miles will still take me 30-40 mins, which is well over an hour round trip. I’m also fairly swift on a bicycle, so that same round trip will take me only 15-20 minutes, instead of 60-80 mins.

    This isn’t hypothetical, these are trips I take regularly to friends, meetings, train stations, doctor/dentist, shopping, etc.

    My mini D-lock lives hanging on my handlebars, and that’s where it stays for short journeys. For my commute it’s tucked in the outside of my backpack. Therefore, my preparation time is pretty much zero, and parking time at the other end rarely more than 30 seconds or a minute.

    I’d suggest it’s simply unfair to compare walking with cycling at distances of two miles because walking is so slow. A fairer comparison is driving or taking public transport, both of which I do (though I very rarely drive in London as I don’t have a car).

    I love walking for leisure (more than cycling, in fact) as it gives me time for capturing the sounds and smells of my surroundings, and my girlfriend (who is scared to cycle on British roads) can take part too, but we’re talking about transport here…

    If your bicycle is “a hassle” over short distances, you’re doing something very wrong!

    • pm says:

      I disagree, but then I guess the point is this will vary greatly depending on personal circumstances.

      Complications include – one-way systems that mean bike trips are twice as far as walking, huge hills, a total lack of anywhere to lock the bike up, high-crime area so locking it up is essential, only having room for one bike and that bike has to have lights and all the rest that have to be removed when locking it up and then put back on again, and living in a flat that requires carting bike up-and-down stairs to get in and out…

      • Fred says:

        I don’t see why locking it up is an issue – Jimmy said he cycles in London, as do I, it’s not a place to leave the bike unlocked. With a D-lock clamped to the frame, or a chain lock in a bag it’s really not an issue.

        It seems to me that this is actually more about people saying, it’s really not convenient to take my racing bike to the shops – I’m not going to disagree, but racing is not the main point to cycling for an awful lot of people!

      • jimmy-j says:

        @pm Cycling trips are not “twice as far” as walking ones. True, there are one-way streets but they don’t affect journeys anywhere near as much as you imagine.

        Security is not an issue if you have a strong lock and a ‘normal’ bike (ie, not too flash). There is always somewhere to lock up, usually within 20-30 metres of your destination.

        Yes, going up hills slows down cycling, but it also slows down walking. On a bike you get to cruise down the hills afterwards, which on a two-way journey evens out the effort and the time greatly.

        Modern lights take seconds to attach and detach. I use a pair of BTwin USB rechargeables from Decathlon that cost me £10 each.

        I live on the first floor and take my bike up and down two flights of stairs all the time. I can be on the street or back in my flat in 10-15 seconds without breaking sweat, and I’m not particularly strong or athletic.

        I only have one bike, which I use for cycling holidays, commuting, and nipping to the shops.

        Everyone’s experience of the world is different but I’m afraid it does sound like you’ve decided cycling isn’t for you and are creating excuses.

        Or maybe it’s because you have a walking speed of 4.8mph, which is not far below my jogging speed of 6mph (over an hour). This is well above the typical pedestrian speed of 3mph, and is certainly unmanageable for anyone overweight, young, old or short. On the other had, pretty much anyone can ride at 10-12mph with ease.

        Whatever your walking speed, I could still do the journey to your friend’s about four times in the time you do it once even though you’re clearly much fitter than me.

        It’s just I’d use my incredibly efficient and cost-effective human-powered transport machine…

        • pm says:

          I really don’t wish to be argumentative, because I’m certainly not denying that using the bike for short journeys is fine for many, and I’d far rather people did so than drove a car (using a car for journeys under a mile is simply crazy, in my opinion, if you aren’t seriously disabled). But I’m merely saying it varies depending on individual circumstances, and for me, its not worth it for shopping (or the doctor’s or quite a few other local trips).

          Regarding the one-way system – I’m not imagining anything, the whole area is one giant one-way system. Checking with route-finder websites tells me that my journey to the shops is 9 minutes by bike or 9 minutes on foot! OK, coming back is quicker on the bike, but then I’m back to the ‘lugging the bike up and down flights of stairs’ issue, which together with locking the thing would more than wipe out any time saving.

          Also I can carry a lot more shopping in a 140ltr rucksack than in my panniers! There’s also the little matter of a scary road.

          And in general it really isn’t true that there’s “always somewhere to lock the bike”. That is a never-ending source of annoyance of mine, in fact. So many supermarkets, pubs (_especially_ pubs!) and the like will have dozens or even hundreds of car parking places and not a single bike stand (or just one or two that are already full). The local supermarket has exactly 2 bike stands, which are, from what I’ve noticed (never having had cause to use them) usually full. Shops further afield have no bike parking at all. This is, on reflection, by far the common reason for not always using the bike.

          As for the 4-mile journey, I now cycle that – except when the very unpleasant road terrifies me into walking again (whereupon I usually then encounter aggressive pavement cyclists – you can’t win, really).

    • pm says:

      But my experience is that public transport is far slower than walking for that sort of distance! I used to walk 4 miles to a friend’s house regularly, and that took about 50 minutes (once I’d got the hang of it!) – while the circuitous and traffic-jam-plagued bus route bus took over an hour.

  5. Adam Bowie says:

    My top tip for any Brompton owners going shopping: fold your bike up and put it in the trolley. It’ll fit in even those mini trolleys, and I can still get groceries in the trolley too.

  6. I think the problem is we don’t have many proper utility bicycles such as the one Mark owns in this country so the choices that are normally between road, hybrid or mountain bike – none of which are really ideal for the quick dash to the shops trip that he is describing without adding accessories.

    • Patrick O'Riordan says:

      if you use you bike for multiple purposes (trips to the shop, commuting, a spin in the park, a riverside trail…) then you’ll always have to make some compromises and have a bike that can do all of those things, but won’t be optimised for any. The answer, of course, is multiple bikes! But most don’t have the space or money.

    • A good point. There are some in the UK, but you definitely have to hunt, as not many shops will stock truly practical bikes (let alone a range of them). The fact that I (and many of my friends) have actually got their bikes from abroad speaks volumes.

      • Joel C says:

        Am intrigued as to the “indestructible” nature of your bike – how much maintenance do you typically have to do (am guessing its fairly minimal)? Does it shake and rattle? Do bits fall off? Are there even than many bits to fall off in the first place? I assume its single-speed too?

        It’s not something I’ve seen discussed much but I think the maintenance issue, whilst less of a negative factor than “perceived safety”, is still a significant roadblock to normal users who might otherwise consider regularly using a bike.

        Think of your typical driver: they’ll be hard-pressed to fill up the washer reservoir regularly, let alone do basic mechanical checks like tyre pressure and oil levels (the former daily, the latter weekly). They just expect to get into their cars and go. If it breaks down, they’ll call out the AA* to sort it. If something rattles or makes funny noises, they call the garage (or Dad/Brother/friendly mechanic). I doubt that many typical drivers have any type of tool in their boots beyond an ice scraper.

        Why is it that people who use happen to use bikes are expected to be enthusiastic hobbyists too? And I wouldn’t under-estimate the confidence-sapping fear of not having tightened a bolt properly or a stray mud-guard scraping against a wheel.

        Also, people that say there’s nothing wrong with getting your hands a bit greasy are the same people that don’t mind getting soaked in the rain and to whom body odour is just a “bourgeois hang-up” – their views are to be graciously acknowledged, then politely discarded by the mainstream.

        (*) other road-side breakdown service providers are available.

        • I’ve had it nearly two years, and the only things I’ve had to do are a) pump up the tyres occasionally, and b) fix a terminal puncture (a hawthorn spike went straight through my rear tyre on a country lane). That’s it. The chain is completely enclosed, so I’ve never had to look at it; likewise the cabling is sealed. The rear brake is a coaster, so there’s no cable to worry about there.

          I do have eight gears in the rear hub, which is really handy – but probably a bit of overkill. I was worried about the weight of the bike being a problem up hills, but in hindsight a three-speed would probably have been sufficient.

          Your comparison with motoring is appropriate – people do not know how to look after their cars, and indeed most modern cars rarely break down. They’re designed to be user-friendly. When things go wrong they get fixed by someone else. Dutch people treat their bikes (at least these kinds of bikes) in precisely the same way. They ride them until something goes wrong, at which point it gets taken to the bike shop.

      • MarkC says:

        speaking as a Gazelle Toer Populaire owner, word…

    • Tim says:

      I have to disagree with Mark and I’m not sure why there’s so much hybrid-bashing going on these days.

      I own a hybrid. It has decent components (ie not a BSO). Seriously, I get the practicality of Dutch style bikes. I’ve ridden them and sung their praises many times. But for me the hybrid is inexpensive, sturdy, easy to maintain and practical in a similar way*.

      I use a d-lock rather than a chain, because it’s a little more secure, and it locks rigidly to the frame (so I never leave it at home, etc). It’s wide to fit around larger objects. I carry a few light tools in my rucksack (small multi-tool, puncture repair kit, mini pump) on any journey over a couple of miles because I’ve been stuck miles from home with a puncture before – rarely, but once too often. (Do Dutch bikes never get punctures?).

      But otherwise I completely agree with this post. I undo my D-lock, clip it to the frame and scoot off in my everyday clothes much like our host. I often ride my bike a few hundred metres or less because not only is it a few seconds quicker, but it’s easier – less effort – than walking. I enjoy the sensation (especially away from motorised traffic). I don’t mind walking and have run a few half marathons this year but why trot to the shop when I can glide in half the time?

      Hybrids aren’t the problem. For my money these people whining about the trials of “undoing locks” or “removing lights” like these are some kind of herculean tasks must be doing it wrong. As illustrated this stuff takes seconds. A one mile walk takes 19 minutes vs a 7 minute bike ride (using google maps). Does locking the bike REALLY take over 12 minutes? And as for “finding somewhere to lock it up”, well maybe a few more sheffield stands would be welcome but there are always railings…. and actually most of my short journeys are familiar ones anyway – to work, or the corner shop, or my running group, or whatever – so I already know exactly where I’ll lock my bike.

      *My hybrid didn’t come with a rack and mudguards as standard but the eyelets were there and the shop was happy to fit them. I’d be worried about getting dynamo lights getting vandalised, but I could get them fitted if I liked. I would prefer a chain-guard though. I’ll give you that.

      • Fred says:

        I’m with you on the chain guard, they don’t work so well with deralieurs.

        Hybrids do tend to be lighter than Dutch style bikes, which is a consideration as many people end up carrying their bikes up and down stairs.

        There are lots of good aspects of traditional bikes, but hybrids have their place and many satisfied riders!

        I like the idea of dynamo lights, but the fact is that LED + battery lights are a good solution and last ages. Given the price of dynamo light’s it’s an expensive solution to a relatively minor inconvenience.

        If what appeals is fixed un-nickable lights, maybe we need bolt on battery lights :-)

  7. Chris says:

    Thanks for the personalised reply! :)

    Looking at your video, I can certainly see the attraction, but Horsham (that is Horsham, isn’t it?), but you’re in one of the lowest crime areas in the country. There are over 25,000 bikes stolen every year in London, and that’s with pretty much all of them being locked to immovable objects.

    In most areas of London, I’d give a bike locked only to itself about 10 minutes before it got stolen. I’ve stood brazenly outside Epsom station (so not even London!) for 5 minutes cutting through a bike lock with bolt cutters before now (my daughter’s bike, after the key snapped in the lock, before anyone wonders!), and not one person questioned what I was doing. A London bike thief wouldn’t think twice before pushing away a bike that just had the rear wheel locked. In fact, its greatest deterrent is probably the fact that there are so few of them on London roads, so a thief might question whether or not they could sell it on.

    Maybe this really is just a London / Elsewhere question?

    I’ll accept Jimmy-J’s point that maybe 2 miles is a bit much, but certainly for a mile I’m still not convinced.

    • Charlie says:

      Possibly relevant anecdote. Our team at work went out for lunch together a couple of weeks ago, one fellow was leaving the team, so we all went out to lunch to wish him well. The restaurant is a mile and a half away, and I suggested we Boris Bike via the back streets. Half the team (3) did, half didn’t (and got a taxi one way, and walked on the way back). I was surprised that on the return, the walkers got back not long (maybe five minutes) after us – so we had just spent £2 each to shave off a few minutes.

      In general, I do cycle around London for short trips, and generally risk the saddle / wheels getting nicked. I’ve had a bike nicked when it was locked just to itself, so I’m not going to risk that again, but Chris is right – it’s too much hassle to remove all the bits and pieces and carry them around with you if it’s a short trip. His solution is not to cycle at all, mine is just to risk it. If anyone has any better advice, I’d be keen to know.

      • Tim says:

        I’m boggled. What are all these “bits and pieces” which take so many hours to remove and re-fit for every ride?! My mini pump and puncture repair kit live in my rucksack with waterproofs (but a pannier would do equally well). The only things which need removing are the lock which comes off the bracket to be used, and the lights, which take as long as it takes to say “unclip, unclip” to remove (or re-attach).

        For a short journey (eg the corner shop) I’m less likely to bother with even these things because rain, punctures, etc, aren’t really a risk.

        There are loads of options for security skewers these days,and I’ve never had a wheel or a saddle go walkabout in many years of leaving my bike around Manchester.

        Admittedly I might not hire a bike for a one mile journey, but that’s why I have my own bike.

      • Christine Jones says:

        What the Dutch do is have a scruffy bike with scruffy pannier, within which you leave pump, lock, lights. Works where I live in the Fens, my bike isn’t that scruffy, nor are the panniers but they are zipped up.
        I’ve also been known to go shopping and actually fold my brompton and put it in the shopping trolley, done it both in UK and NL. Seen others do it too.

        • I lock my bike with two locks because it has quick-release wheels. Bit annoying. I think I might have to replace the bolts with slower-to-release ones. Due to that hassle my threshold is about 300/400 metres. Less than that and I might as well walk. But I yeah I have a scruffy bike. It gives me piece of mind knowing that some else’s bike would get stolen first :-) Another thing. I always try to lock up my bike and walk away from it as if I’m in a hurry, and nipping into that office for a quick 5 minute errand. I keep my helmet on, and don’t do other faffing like putting keys in wallet, until I’m inside. This is all so that any onlooking thief would be less likely to conclude that I’m in the office for the day. Anyone else do this kind of nonsense? Clearly this video involves no such theft paranoia.

    • I probably wouldn’t leave my bike unattended in London with just the wheel lock for any significant period of time, but (as I hope the video shows) chaining the bike up to something does not really add much to the amount of time it takes to start riding it.

      In most Dutch cities I’ve visited, people will act the same way; they’ll leave the bike immobilised (but not secured), as in the picture in the post, if they’re just popping into a shop. But if they’re genuinely leaving the bike, it will be locked up with a chain. In either instance, it is incredibly easy to move from walking to cycling again.

  8. i ride a mile everyday for the post office run and its a boon. You do have to have the right bike and you do have to make it easy to access and use. If i can bring things back to basics here. bicycles were invented as a way of getting places more quickly than walking, there were no other options (a horse perhaps) for getting places. So its ironic that most folk that think it illogical or too much hassle to ride for a mile or 3. Bicycles that have evolved into fast light machines that with the right rider can travel large distances in a short time, they have (in this country) almost evolved themselves out of the job they were invented for…
    So expecting that arrangement to be good for the slower journeys over shorter distances probably with something extra on board on the return leg is bonkers. This is why cross bikes/road bike/tri bikes are designed differently, so the bike for local trips has to be different too. I hate to bring up the Dutch but their bikes have retained the local riding function and they are much the antithesis of our sport based machines. I would argue that a 3 speed hub gear (or 5/7 speed derailer) on a MTB frame with rear/front rack would not cost a packet and be ideal for those local journeys, but when was the last time you saw one of those…perhaps there is an element of the more fashionable cyclists amongst us not liking to be seen on such a humble machine..
    Bicycles are for transport and riding one locally can revitalise our local shops and reduce a lot of our car traffic..If we are facilitated for safe cycling, local riding is great for you, for those around you and potentially a society changer.

  9. D. says:

    My bike is a fairly typical hybrid with a rack fitted. I have QR wheels but I swapped out the QR seatpost for a non-QR one. I carry a spare tube and a multi tool and my locks (D-lock and a cable for the front wheel) in a pannier. I commute to work – about 6-7 miles each way (or 9-10 if I take the scenic route), no matter the weather, and I cannot bring myself to go anywhere without my lights in place, a pump and a spare tube :-)

    But short journeys from home are a pain – there’s no room to keep the bike in the house (and my wife would kill me) so it lives in the shed. So to go to the shops a five minute walk away I have to go out the back door, get bike out of shed, unlock padlock on side gate, put bike by front door, go back through side gate and padlock it shut again, then go back through house, out of front door and ride bike. Seriously, it *does* take me longer to get the bike out than to just walk to the village shops.

    • Ben Harris says:

      When I lived in a house with a side gate like that one of the first things I did was to modify it so that it could be locked and unlocked from both sides. That removes the need to loop round inside the house every time you use it, which is good for not covering the carpets in mud as well as for getting in and out quickly.

    • Tim says:

      This was one thing that did occur to me. I probably wouldn’t cycle short distances if it involved getting my bike down three flights of stairs first (for instance).

      But all this shows is that we’ve stacked the odds in favour of other methods of transport. This is a storage problem rather than a cycling problem.

    • D. says:

      Unfortunately, my side fence-and-gate are constructed in such a way that it would be a real PITA to change the hasp/bolt/lock arrangement. Which I guess supports what Tim said about stacking the odds and storage, and illustrates the priorities of my predecessors in the house.

  10. Jamie says:

    Nothing beats the 300m cycle ride to the local shop for the paper first thing in the morning. I have a Sheffield stand behind my garage and there are three stands next to the small group of shops. When it is dark I take a light and remove it when popping into the shop. So it is very convenient I even manage without a water bottle. If it is raining I pop my cycling cape on. A bit retro but it does the job.

    I get to check out the weather, get some fresh air and see if any aches and pains have developed over night. I also get to say hello to my neighbours, most walk though!

  11. Rachel B says:

    I’m a London cyclist and the security aspect is what I find hardest when doing short trips around town. I have a 10 mile (busy traffic) commute across London each day and have my hybrid set up for this with a rack and panniers and I don’t normally carry locks as I have secure storage at work. When I do take it on local trips – I would never leave it locked with anything less than 2 D locks and a cable extension through the wheels and rack. I used to park it outside my old job off Oxford Street in a public rack with this security arrangement and it was never touched – but hauling around all the extra locks was a pain. We are bike mad at home and also have nice road and mountain bikes which we take on holiday – but even in rural France we carry around a D lock (between us so the BF gets to carry it) for when going into shops or at a restaurant or bar where we can’t sit next to the bikes. It would be good to see supermarkets and other shopping centres putting in secure bike parking so that we don’t have this constant worry. I had my first commuter bike stolen within 1 month as I didn’t use a good enough lock, even though I only left it unattended for 10 minutes to pop into a store. The main solution we use is boris bikes for short trips as even getting some old battered thing for shopping I’d still be worried about it not being there when I came out.. Does Holland have a problem with bike theft? Or is their ubiquity that makes them safer?

    • Gareth says:

      Bike theft is a national hobby in the Netherlands, but there is a difference in motivation. Where as in the UK your bike is likely to be stolen by someone who wants to sell it on, a large number of bikes in NL are ‘borrowed’ by people who missed the last train and can’t be bothered to pay a taxi fare. There is even a small number of arseholes who simply make bike theft their take on personalised private transport. There are of course people who steal bikes for to make money.
      Its naturaly a bigger problem in bigger cities, than in more rural areas. Typicly you want at least 2-3 locks, the standard fixed rear wheel one, to make it a pain to move it around and to make it hard to remove the back wheel, and one to attach the front wheel to something, and a third for frame+additional wheel security.
      Its not unusual to see a bike missing a front wheel parked next to just a front wheel locked to something, someone stole the bike, and nicked the wheel of the other bike, fixed it up and cycled home.
      Secure parking options for a price, is far more common over there.

      I pretty much only cycle short journeys to go to shops to buy stuff that UK supermarkets genrally miss (thankfully, Epsom is still Londonish enough to have enough people of different immigrant backgrounds to make their speciality grocery stores viable). Being used to the Netherlands means that the UK will forever be an inconvient pita for cycling to me, guess NL just spoils you rotten.
      I’m the opposite of Chris in that I don’t understand why anyone would put up the annoyance and inconvenience and agro (not to mention butt ache from the poor road surface) that a long cycle trip in the UK would involve. That is what the car is for.

      My Gazelle (oddly considered one of many varieties of hybrid in NL) has everything I need on it, rear fixed lock, and an additional thick steel cable lock that is stuck under the seat but wrapped around the frame in a way that makes it unstealable, and lights, 7 gear hub is more than adequate for the immediate area (I’ve lived in ‘hillier’ parts of NL). And thats all I need, just the one key. Shopping goes in the crate in the front, no bags, but the option is always there as the rack is integrated, usualy just a carboard box and straps is adequate.
      I have an even older fixed speed, rear hub brake, ladies gazelle that looks extremly beat up, I’ve left this unlocked on occasion by the library and outside the mini-mall in the town centre and its never been stolen, its probably thief proof by British standards.
      And thats it, if I needed anything more than a key, I’d just drive.

      If I had grown up in the UK instead of NL, I likely wouldn’t cycle peroid, I would be one of those tedious pricks in a hatchback who hates cyclists.

      • Chris says:

        My “longer” route is from Epsom to Waterloo. Fifteen miles which nobody in their right minds would want to drive, although there are plenty I assume to be clinically insane who do!!

        I’m not particularly fast, but I can still do this in an average of around 75 minutes. It would take me at least half an hour longer to do it in a car.

        Once I add in time to get to & from the stations at each end and the time waiting for a train to arrive, I only save around 10 minutes over taking my bike, and that’s assuming the trains run on time.

        I hate to think how much it would cost to drive the route – the congestion charge alone would be enough to pay for a really nice bike on cycle to work in a year – and I’m saving*
        around £1,500 a year cycling to work 3 days a week rather than catching the train.

        If you look at it that way, why on earth would you think of making the journey in any other way?

        This blog came from me saying I didn’t really understand why people would choose to cycle short distances. Both from the blog entry itself and from the comments, I can see how it would make more sense to cycle short distances outside London, but I really don’t understand why anyone would choose to travel the distance I do into central London in any way other than on a bike! :) Although yes, I do realise I seem to be luckier than most in having a combination of quiet backroads and CS7, so nothing scary!

        * by “saving”, I do of course mean “getting to spend on nice, shiny bikes and stuff for them!!!”

  12. Ben Harris says:

    Being able to use a bike for short journeys is an exercise in micro-optimisation. I keep my bikes in my garage so I don’t have any gates to lock or unlock. I keep all the cruft (tools, spares, waterproofs, lock) in a pannier so I can remove it all at once and carry it around with me (and I have somewhere to put the shopping). My lights are bolted on (and automatic on one bike), so I never need to remove them. I live in Cambridge, so I can expect there to be a bike rack anywhere I go. None of this requires a new bike — both of mine are basically old-fashioned tourers and just as suitable for a 300km day ride as for a trip to the shops.

  13. petestevens2012 says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this. I saw Mark’s comment too and was going to call him out on it but was too lazy. The shortest distance I ride my bike on a regular basis is to the local supermarket which works out at roughly a 1.2kM round trip. The shortest distance I’ve ever rode is 0.26kM (round trip).

    It’s just much quicker than walking and I don’t think it’s any coincedence either that both of those journies I described above take place on filtered permablity roads and/or shared use facilities where mixing with motor traffic is either rare or not possible. If I had to ride on the main roads to get to these places I honestly wouldn’t bother.

  14. Only one thing wrong with your video – for the real Dutch experience there would be a basket on the front into which the chain can be thrown. Now that’s even more convenient!

  15. South londoner says:

    I find when going to the shops with my bike I think it’s a hassle to have to take off both my panniers and helmet and attempt to get round a supermarket trying to carry that lot and a basket and get items off the shelf (without needing 3 arms…) and then repeating the exercise if you go in and out of 2-3 shops that aren’t that near to each other.- also none of my panniers stand up by themselves which can be very annoying in shops where you want to put things down as you’ve run out of hands and everything splays about onto your feet or other shoppers feet. Are there any panniers that can be:

    a) locked to a bike so you don’t need to take them off empty to avoid them being nicked.
    b)if you take them off will stand up like a normal shopping bag?
    c) will carry boxy shaped items (the main brand available in most bike shops called something like Avalon which I have are weird shaped – narrower at the bottom than top so things don’t stand up well in them and have the most annoying closures eg draw string and two clips for the flap…..

    I wonder if I just need a basket on the front!

  16. Christine Jones says:

    Cultural?
    A Dutch bike weighs a tonne, you lock it up with a horse shoe lock, it’s not going anywhere. I lock mine, not to anything, well I do have a plug in cable that plugs into my horseshoe lock for when I plan to be away longer, but mostly I don’t bother where I live in Cambridgeshire. My bike is so heavy, it takes two people to lift it. It has a wooden box on the front and child seat on the back plus dress and chain guards. This is an ideal city bike, carries loads including kids, it’s locked up in seconds and has its own stand do I don’t even need to lean it to anything.
    I learnt this way of cycling having lived 10 years in Utrecht back in the 90′s. It works just as well here, the main difference is the 8 speed hub and bottom gear will get you up a brick wall, which I need with a hill and a trailer full of kids and shopping.
    Mum friends who ride to school mostly have touring bikes, practical but not as comfy as my sit up and beg. The sit up and begs are on the rise but the ones that amaze me are the full suspension naked bikes, clearly bought in tescos. If you are uninitiated, you can end up with something like this, with no protection from rain splashing up your back and nowhere to put anything.
    Bikes in the UK go a long way to put people off cycling starting with the chopper back in the 70′s. People here don’t have the culture to help choose the right bike, and even when I show up at school with my Dutch mummy bike, wooden box etc no matter how many complements I get (I get a lot) most of it I got in holland, from their halfords and the Hema, but halfords here is very different – mostly car related and Hema would be maybe M&S but M&S here doesn’t sell bikes and bikes accessories for bikes suitable from birth to old age.
    Is it chicken and egg? I don’t think so. If central gov invested in cycling culture, so would shops.

  17. Jitensha Oni says:

    No space/money for multiple bikes? You have to find both if you’ve got kids. I often nick my son’s MTB for the 600 m round trip to the newsagents/offie & take a backpack (or get him to go up for me if I̶’̶’̶m̶ ̶f̶e̶e̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶l̶a̶z̶y̶ my back is bad).

    On the subject of nicking – I’ve had smart road bikes stolen in London and Rotterdam in equal measure, so in reply to Rachel B I don’t think it’s a specifically London/UK problem – I reckon it’s just a fact of life worldwide if you leave fancy bikes in cities.

    I accept that if you have commuted, let’s say 20 miles, on your Dogma to your job in Inner London (from high crime area to high crime area?), you might not want to use it to go down the bistro at lunchtime. But there will be a significant number of short trips already being made on all sorts of bikes at all times of day by other people in your vicinity (some on the one you started out with that morning :( ). I repeat, short trips are already being made by bike in the UK*. Just not enough.

    So if you think you have reasons to never cycle for short trips, you don’t. They are just excuses.

    * Here’s a lot of practical bikes parked in Kingston-upon-Thames http://goo.gl/maps/feQtg

    • pm says:

      I don’t get your use of the word “excuse” in this context. I could equally argue you are just making excuses for not walking! Give it a try, your bones will thank you for the load-bearing exercise!

  18. Gerry Matthews says:

    Quick plug to consider those who cycle ‘short distances’, and longer, because walking is a problem. Cycling is not load-bearing on ankle and knees, albeit issues for wrists and fingers and shoulders. It also makes shopping easier if the weight is on the bike.

    However, giving access to a bicycle to those who would benefit for this reason* means planners need to give much more thought to the detail of parking and storage schemes. (I write from the perspective of inner London but even in locations where home storage is the garage/shed convenient parking at the workplace/shops/medically facility/leisure centre/station no doubt still an issue. )

    (*And for whom avoiding excess weight is even more necessary…)

  19. Gerry Matthews says:

    Clarifying that not a response to pm’s post immediately before mine. Observation on the discussion.

  20. It’s heavily dependent on location and a crude model but 2 miles at 20mph is about 6 minutes. Average walking speed is 3mph so that would mean about 40 minutes. I’m assuming consistent speed and a more accurate figure would include time lost at junctions, which I’m cancelling out at roughly equal.The time I save could afford me a shower, change of clothes, parking, and a beverage. That’s why I cycle.

  21. P Barritt says:

    I got myself a Fuji city bike, a Classic 7, about 6 months ago. Tbh its the best bike I have ever used around town even rides up to 20 miles. Full mudguards, kick stand, chain guard, dynamo lights, coaster brake. The sit up position is so comfortable and its great to be able to just get on and ride.
    I have a Brompton, two road bikes which just do not get used any more. My tourer still sees some use when touring. The retail side of the cycle scene in the UK seems very strange that most bikes seem to come without mudguards.

  22. Jaan says:

    Sometimes I am lazy to walk to local shop which is just 200 meters from my flat,so I rather go there on a bike.

  23. legocyclist says:

    I bought my wife a Riesenthel basket with Kaul and Rixen lockable fixing for Christmas last year, which now proudly sits on the handlebars of her hybrid. I think it is fair to say that it has revolutionised her shopping habits. She’s now quite happy pottering to the town centre, which is about a mile away – a classic short journey.

    In the car, she has a slightly longer journey on busier roads, she then has to find somewhere to park, pay for the parking and then walking the final hundred metres or so to the final destination. In the bike, it is a quicker, more direct route and she can park directly outside the shop.

    She cycles in her normal clothing (without helmet) and just takes a lock – nothing else required! She wouldn’t have dreamed about shopping by bike last year, but is now a complete convert. It’s funny what can be achieved with a stylish basket!

  24. I cant see what the problem is to cycle to do shopping, whether it is 1 mile or 10. I do it all the time now that my leg is strong enough to so not need a bus. I find it easier than a bus & not as cramped as a full bus. I have a selection of panniers now & a trailer to do my loading up. Takes me just a minute to get bike downstairs & off I go.
    If anything doing the shopping has helped me rebuild muscles in my bad leg & got me to become stick free, a car wouldnt have (not that I have ever bothered to learn to drive anyway). But I do see a problem of those choosing to drive just around the corner to get a paper or a pint of milk. The road gets clogged up, become unsafe & raise pollution levels. If you want to drive out of town to a supermarket & get 2 trolleys worth of shopping into your car, then thats great as your making the most of the car & being efficient as possible in burning the petrol to get there.
    but for me, I will continue shopping by bike & give myself a bloody good workout to get fitter & thinner. :D

  25. Paul Smith says:

    My other half does a lot of our food shopping by bicycle, easy to quickly nip to the shops, to or from work or when she just fancies getting something. Really don’t understand why people want to use a car for such short trips. She uses a hybrid, with add-on rack, mudguards, lights and kickstand, same bike she uses for commuting, or the one or two leisure rides she might do a year.

    It’s about a mile to Sainsbury’s or Tesco, over that distance the bike is faster, and free to park, often right outside the doors, she needs to carry a lock, wrapped around the top tube, panniers and bags all stay on the bike – haven’t been nicked yet, I’ve bolted her rear lights securely onto her bike, so they’d prove difficult to nick, she only typically takes her front lights if she’s going to be at night, and they take about 10 seconds to clip off and pocket. Takes what, 20 seconds to lock the bike? Much quicker than finding a parking space, and often paying for a parking space.

    Visiting multiple high street shops is more of a faff, and at the moment she parks the bike in town and then walks everywhere she needs to go, but that’s as much of an issue with the legality of cycling in the town centre during the day than with repeatedly locking it up.

    But her next bike will have an integrated lock and kickstand so she can more easily perform the Tour de Charity Shop run through town. I’ll be showing her this video of a bike conveniently parked up along East Street – near charity shops – and hopes she gets the hint.

  26. Hello

    I am in the UK and have all that integrated lock, kickstand, lights business on Big Bertha but then she is “Made in Holland” and from Dutchie so easy to use her for any journey even the journey 10 doors down to Mums! Especially when you have small people with you and a trailer attached less faff, less stress, and easy to shove all manner of stuff in and on Bertha.I also have a basket that pops off in second on the front that everything “stealable” goes in so it is easy to just click off and take with me like a handbag

  27. MarkC says:

    For a while now, I’ve considered the UK cycling scene to be paradoxical, not least because many cyclists admire and advocate the Dutch utility cycling culture wrt infrastructure, but dismiss the bikes best suited to it as too heavy and slow…

    A bit self defeating IMO, because proper town bikes where you can wear the same clothes as you would when driving or walking, make using a bike for everyday trips more attractive and to recommend sport/leisure oriented ones does the opposite. Cycling will get more popular when people see something in it for them…

  28. Andy Mabbett says:

    I ride short trips, too – on my Brompton. When I arrive at my destination, I fold it and take it with me. No locks, no need to find something to lock it to, and no coming back to a wet saddle!

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