I’ll have more to share about the Oregon Active Transportation Summit soon but I wanted to share something else while I’m pouring over notes and photos from my time in Salem.
During lunch on the second day of the summit I was talking with Kelly Bantle from Pac/West about how some people are constantly looking for ways to save money here and there, especially those people need (or want) to regularly use a car for transportation.
She mentioned one strategy that is really simple and can save a lot of money, time, and stress: trip chaining. As we were talking I realized the strategy is something I regularly employ, despite the fact that I don’t often drive a car.
If you’re not familiar with the idea, “trip chaining” is one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of gas you use when driving. All you need do is “chain” a series of trips or errands back-to-back.
For example, instead of going from home to the store, back home, to the bank, back home, to pick up the kids, and then back home again you simply go from home, to the store, to the bank, to pick up the kids.
Combining errands in this way always reduces the number of trips you take and it also usually will the milage you drive if you spend a tiny amount of time thinking it out.
As I mentioned before, I’ve discovered the same technique can be useful when you’re running errands on a bicycle, especially if you have a bike as versatile as the Cargo Cruiser.
The other day I started off my errands by going to the one place that was in the complete opposite direction of everywhere else I needed to go: the hardware store. I picked up paint, a toilet seal, and lawn moss killer (which the clerk at the store said has been very popular in the last few weeks).
After returning home, I started out on a chain of three errands. First was the used video game store.
There were a few old game consoles sitting around in my garage collecting dust and I figured they should go to someone who has the time to put them to good use. Working copies of Mario Kart 64 can be hard to find and I felt terrible for hoarding one.
Plus, the sale netted me more than enough money for a few pints of beer – something I can easily put to good use.
And speaking of beverages, next stop: the liquor store.
Our liquor reserves were running low but my wife and I hadn’t found the time to stop by to restock. I had a long shopping list and the gentleman behind the counter, when he saw all the bottles I was carrying, politely invited himself to the party he assumed I must be having.
One quick sidebar: I don’t drink Burnett’s; the box you see in the photo above was just an extra they had lying around. Burnett’s is not the worst vodka in the world but it’s not my first choice either. I proudly drink Oregon-distilled Crater Lake vodka. They’re not a sponsor or anything but they do make great vodka. (You can just make out the top of a Crater Lake bottle in the front left of the box.)
And my last trip before returning home was the bank. I deposited the money I got from selling the video games and took care of some other business while I was there.
Chaining errands didn’t save me any money on gas (less than “none” is still “none”) but I did save a lot of time.
If I broke up the errands into separate trips it would take up considerably more of my day and I wouldn’t get much done. I was able to combine everything seamlessly because I have a bike that can haul a wide variety of cargo.
Cars and standard bicycles can haul cargo too, obviously, but the Cargo Cruiser provides a level of flexibility that you don’t have with a standard bicycle or with a car.
On a standard bicycle I might not have had enough room to carry home the moss killer, something I hadn’t initially planned on buying. It also would have been tricky to carry all the video games and the liquor.
A car could have carried everything fine but, at least where I live, there are lots of shortcuts (in the form of sidewalks, parking lots, paved paths, and other options) that cut down on travel distances and make for a more pleasant trip. Many of the shortcuts I take either don’t accomodate cars easily or they block motor vehicles outright.
In most cases it’s also easier to find a parking space closer to the front of stores when you’re on a bike.
(If you’ve ever seen suburban big-box hardware stores on the weekend you know what I mean: they all come with theme park-size parking lots which overflow with minivans and SUVs on Saturdays.)
All of these things combined make chaining errands a Prudent Decision, even on a cargo bike, even in the suburbs.
My favorite definition of the word “prudent” is:wise in practical applications.
This article is one in a series titled Prudent Decisions. They’re stories highlighting ways I’ve seen bicycles make life easier and better for myself and for others.
If you’re a highly logical thinker you might also want to check out a similar series of articles we’ve published, titled Cycling Facts.