Bicycling brought me together with my sweetie, Timo, and we were car-free when we got together. We relish our fun and healthy lifestyle (no gym memberships!), and have figured out some ways to make living by bike easier in a car-oriented world. Here’s how we’ve customized our wardrobes, home, budget and habits to make living car-lite work more smoothly:
Wear “normal” clothes to bike
I wear an extra waterproof layer top — a bike jacket, pants, shoe covers — for rainy Portland, but much of the time it’s dry or just drizzly. I wear a lot of merino wool, which is soft, warm and very water repellent. Add in wool tights under my skirt and heels, a heavy wool coat for winter, and a set of bike fenders and I stay dry and warm.
Timo thrifts men’s wool slacks, sweaters, and sports jackets. Our friend Patrick runs the blog Velocouture, documenting everyday bike style — if you can wear it to walk, you can wear it to bike!
Make bike storage simple
We are lucky to have our own house, but no garage, covered porch, or deck on which to store our bikes. We bought an inexpensive Rubbermaid shed to store our bikes. At 7’x7′, the shed takes up only as much driveway space as a car.
We also use a freestanding vertical rack to help keep multiple bikes organized and accessible. There are also ceiling hoist and wall mount options out there, which you can use indoors and in living space.
It is very important to have somewhere to keep your bike safe and out of the weather where you can easily access it!
Make your landing strip bike-friendly
Our foyer doesn’t only collect jackets, keys, and scarves, but also helmets, bags of groceries, and wet clothes.
Since we come in the back door, we use the enclosed stairwell as a mudroom: I hung hooks along two walls for storage and for air-drying, and we have a flat shelf for unloading bags. At my last house I used the laundry room for the same purpose.
Having a space that makes it easy to get on and off the bike with your things, regardless of weather, is also important! If the accessories that help you bike aren’t convenient, you will be less likely to bike.
Make errands do-able with a $30 bike basket
You can strap two full paper grocery bags directly onto a rack with no special bags or equipment. I recommend old inner tubes as straps, which you should have if you’ve ever changed a flat. If you don’t have any, you can get used ones from a bike shop. The tubes are free, reused/recycled, and safer than bungees. Plus, those things can STRETCH!
We shop for fresh produce and meats on the way home from work during the week, and make bigger trips with panniers for staples and specialty items on weekends. Instead of making trips to multiple stores to save a few dollars on specific items, I try to buy everything at one store — I figure paying an extra $.60 for Band-Aids at the store I’m at is worth saving a trip.
Consider getting items delivered
I know it’s not THE most environmentally sound way of doing things, so I try to use it sparingly, but online shopping saves me a lot of time and definitely some money. I buy a year’s worth of contact solution and face wash on drugstore.com, and household wares on Amazon. It’s like Costco, but from the comfort of my kitchen table, and with reviews. Another car-free friend of mine makes quarterly Safeway delivery orders for nonperishable staples, like beverages, which are more difficult to carry by bike.
How to transport the big stuff (and kids!) with your bike
We have a trailer and are turning one bike into an Xtracycle. We have recently used the trailer to haul home a Shop-Vac and 40 gallons of plants I transplanted from my old garden. Timo can carry his bass and amp on the Xtracycle for band practice, and we can add kid seats to it to carry small passengers at the same time as groceries. We have friends who carry their children on front seats, back seats, cargo box bikes, and trail-a-bikes!
What happens when I just don’t want to bike?
Sometimes I’m sick, or tired, or it’s pouring rain. I know the local bus routes, and keep bus tickets in my wallet so I don’t have to have spare change. I can put my bike on the bus, and enjoy the time to catch up on my reading. Most cities have bike racks on the buses now. I also rent or borrow cars.
Most of all, if biking isn’t fun — you’re doing it wrong!