We’re home from work, and it’s a hot day. "I’m going to get some milk and O.J. from the store," I tell my loving spouse. "Want anything else?"
Loving Spouse thinks for a moment. "How about KFC?"
"Sure! Anything in particular?" I was actually hoping he’d suggest something like this, as I really didn’t want to heat up the joint any more than it already was by cooking a hot meal.
"If you can get the six-piece meal deal, in the chipotle flavor, I’d really appreciate that. Otherwise, whatever’s available."
I grab the money from my wallet and a minute later I’m pedaling on my way.
Both the KFC and the store aren’t very far away at all from my humble abode: Just about half a mile, and they’re just across the street from each other. I decide, since it’s a hot day, to go to KFC first, as I don’t want the milk curdling in the carton while I wait for my KFC order. I ride close to the curb yet visible to the other traffic going by; cars are able to pass me, and I can see them coming in my rear-view mirror that’s attached to my helmet’s visor. It helps that cars aren’t allowed to park on this particular busy road: I don’t have to worry about getting "doored" by somebody exiting on the driver’s side of a vehicle.
The KFC doesn’t have a bike rack, but it does have a roomy double-doored vestibule. My bike fits snugly and out of the way against an interior wall, where I can keep an eye on it while I wait for my order.
The person behind the counter starts to reach for one of the traditional round KFC buckets. "Can I have everything in boxes instead?" I ask. "They’ll fit better in my pannier that way." "No problem," says the counter person, who manages to get six pieces of chicken, three biscuits, and a whole mess of potato wedges into three small boxes that fit easily into my Banjo Brothers Grocery Pannier.
Now it’s back across the street to the local convenience store. They have a bike rack, so it’s easy for me to secure my bike. I could undo the pannier and take it inside with me, but I’m not worried about it or the chicken getting stolen — my neighborhood isn’t that rough — so I leave it on the bike rack.
I get the orange juice and milk, each in half-gallon containers. There’s enough room in the pannier to fit them in with the chicken and wedges and biscuits; I put my U-lock between the hot stuff and the cold stuff so that they aren’t touching each other during the three-minute ride back home.
That’s a typical use of my bike and my bike pannier. Think about the various little stores and restaurants near where you live. Think of all the short trips you often do by car that you could do by bike. (Check WalkScore to see what’s near you, bearing in mind that you can bike three times as fast as you can walk.) Think of the money you’d save, not to mention the carbon input.
And think of the fun you’ll have when you take home your first meal-by-bike and realize: "My own two legs did this. My own two legs, on this machine, did this." It feels really good.
A side note: So far in our little series on bicycling we’ve discussed what kinds of bikes to ride, what sort of riding we do, and what we can do with our bikes. But what if, for health reasons, pedaling a bike is contraindicated? What are your options if you want to get around but don’t have or want to avoid using a car?
A lot depends on your level of mobility. Are you able to walk, but your doctor worries about heart stress? Have lots of steep hills in your area? An electric bike — or even better, an electric trike — may be right up your alley. These vehicles can be powered strictly on electric power, or with a pedal assist from you if you’re up to it. And you can even charge your bike — or electric/hybrid car, or even wheelchair for that matter — with power from a solar car port, as seen here and here. Yes, even if you can’t turn a pedal, you can still cut your transport-related carbon emissions.