Shopping by bike

The Dutch cycle for any reason so of course also for their daily shopping.

All the things you need to make shopping by bike an attractive option are:

  • a population that thinks cycling for every day activities is normal
  • perfect infrastructure to safely cycle from your home to the shops
  • good bicycles that are capable of transporting goods in an easy and safe way
  • the opportunities to park your bicycle near the shops.

When parking your bike is not possible right in front of the shop (because that is in a pedestrian zone or because the number of parked bikes would be too high) cities created underground parking facilities. The two shown in the video are in the city centres of Tilburg and ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Both are guarded but free and for people who want to shop in the historic inner city.

I made this video on request. It was used at Velo-city Global in Vancouver on Friday 29th June last. In a double presentation “Cyclists are Customers Too: The Business Benefits of Being Bike-Friendly”, Johan Diepens used this video in his lecture called “Cycling Customers; A Myth or Reality?”. I think this video will also have answered that question.

16 thoughts on “Shopping by bike

  1. The grocery store is 900 metres away from my house and bakfiets are within my family’s price range, and the route to get from home to store is not bad, and if you do it during the mid day, is subjectively safe enough, and yet my mom believes that we cannot get our groceries by bicycle.

  2. This topic interests me especially since I think it could be a break through idea for us in Australia where we have been locked into another sort of bike culture, sport/leisure. It could potentially enlist new support groups for cycling of the basket and chain guard variety.

    i can imagine Chambers of commerce getting interested in promoting bike shopping if they could be persuaded that such shopping will help small business on the high streets of the nation to survive.

    Small shop keepers, struggling to stay afloat as the out of town malls steal their customers haven’t realized that such big clusters won’t steal bike shoppers. Chambers of commerce and small retailer associations could organize bike racks, give discounts and promotions to people who come on bikes

    1. Shop keepers, even in the Netherlands (!) always have to be convinced that customers passing by car are less likely to buy something than people on foot or by bicycle. Which is strange when you think of it: it is after all so much easier to stop when you are on foot or by bicycle. And you don’t have to point to the Netherlands for this. Just today a report in New York was published saying the exact same thing: better streets are better for business, and this phenomenon seems universal.

  3. Dank u wel! This video must be very enlightening for Japan’s municipalities, many of which try to completely ban people from parking their bikes on streets. On the other hand, many shopping streets are struggling to survive. I embedded this video into my blog (

  4. I’m getting a bit nostalgic, remembering the few month I stayed in the Netherlands! Here in Vitória, Brasil we fight to get first public bike racks… Is it possible to buy those saddlebags on-line. Here in Brasil we don have access to that. I’ve seen in particular the one at 1:29 which look like it could be a great but cheap one!

    1. Why not get someone to make those is Brazil itself? Good for a small business, I’d think!

  5. The social benefits of shopping by bike are worth it alone: we meet and chat to people one the way to and from shops, and tend to shop locally. It makes the place we live much nicer to live in 🙂

  6. @Urban Commuter Ottawa
    Someone was actually fined for that!? I live down in St. Catharines and as bad as the police are towards cyclists here, they would never even stop to warn someone for riding with one hand.

    When I started using a bike 8 years ago for shopping, people looked and asked questions as if I had just landed on this planet…Now most don’t even think twice as more people are doing it here.

  7. Nice job. Just learned last week that in Ontario, by law you have to hold your bars with two hands, other than when you signal. So no parcel or bag in one hand on your way home from the store. A Dutch intern from the embassy in Ottawa got a fine….

  8. Oh, this post definitely needs a list of pros of going shopping by bike:
    -It’s quick and free, no parking issues or costs
    -easy acces to shops in the town center
    -because you can’t carry shoppings for the whole week for an entire family, you need to go to the shops more often, so you can buy fresh food (I once read an article somewhere that the Dutch eat fresh baked bread because of this, instead of industrial bread that keeps for 6 months)
    -stimulates having small shops in town centers
    -makes for a lively lovely townscape
    -it gives the cyclist a breath of fresh air, exercise and a chance to meet/see other people

    anyone who can expand on this is welcome ;D

    1. It also makes cycling more visible, and makes people think that if they can carry dozens of kilograms of mass for quite a few kilometres on end, they can use bicycles to go to work or school. It reduces costs, because cities and shop owners do not have to pay for the actually rather high cost of bicycle parking. For what it costs to build a single car parking space, you could build dozens of bike racks. You are also more likely to shop as a family, giving the rest of said family air, interaction and exercise.

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