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Comment of the Week: The end of errands and driving’s decline

Posted by on January 9th, 2015 at 1:12 pm

DSC_4271

A truckful of outsourced errands.
(Photo: nshepard)

Say what you will about Amazon — they might have done as much as any private company to make low-car life convenient in the United States.

That seems to be the experience of BikePortland reader Chris, who wrote in a comment on our post about the federal government’s acknowledgement that per-capita driving has plateaued that e-commerce and doorside delivery have had a huge impact on his or her travel habits.

It’s not clear whether Chris has any kids, who are definitely a common cause of errand-running. Still, the personal examples here resonated with my life, too:

I remember how much time my parents spent “running errands” in the 1980s. The only errand I run now is getting groceries (and even that I’m hoping to eliminate in the next few years). I download or stream all multimedia, I get the majority of physical goods delivered from Amazon, and I pay all my bills online. There’s absolutely no reason for me to spend my evenings or weekends darting around the city, and I try to avoid going into stores if and at all possible.

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That said, many older people haven’t fully adapted themselves to modern technology. My parents still run the same errands they did in the 1980s, and a friend of mine who works at Comcast said that elderly people drive into the center to pay by check.

Earlier today, I was reading about networked locks, which allow you to unlock remote doors via smartphone. Think about the number of times that you might have drove across town for the purpose of letting in the plumber or your overnight guests. All of these things add up, but the necessity of doing them is going away.

Also, don’t miss the cool tip right below this comment from reader SteveG (who we happen to know is an expert on low-car lifehacks).

Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing a $5 bill to chris in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!

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72 Comments
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    reader January 9, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Interesting that this topic came up now as just this morning I was considering ordering some inexpensive pharmacy supplies from Amazon rather than trying to fit in a visit to Walgreens or Rite Aid this weekend. I decided to shop locally.

    (On a side note, ordering from Amazon would not have resulted in one less car trip as I do not own a car and my travel to the store will be by bike or foot.)

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    RJ January 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Great comment. The roadway infrastructure we’ve built over the last half century reflects the travel demand from high-intensity land uses that are in rapid decline. I mean, when was the last time anyone used a drive-thru bank?

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      Alan 1.0 January 9, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      I stopped at one on my bike one last week. 🙂

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    Paul January 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Yikes, not only does that sound like low-car life, it sounds like low-people life, as in a ghost town. I mean, I’m being overly assumptive here. Regarding groceries, shopping and some small errands, I actually like frequenting the shops as it gets me out of the house and allows me to interact with people and the city.

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      soren January 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      Since I buy groceries exclusively by foot or bike, I make far more trips than I would if I used a car.

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      chris January 9, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      No, i still go to cafes, bars and restaurants. I don’t consider that to constitute an errand. Part of the product of a cafe is the experience, but I never went shopping for the sake of the experience.

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    Adam H. January 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    When I moved to Portland, I actually started using Amazon a lot less. The lack of a sales tax was the biggest reason that made Amazon so much less appealing. I could buy something today, pay about the same as Amazon, and actually get it today. Plus, I could actually try the product before I buy it and returning it was way easier.

    The proliferation of terrific local shops (bike shops included) certainly made that decision easier as well.

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    JJJJ January 9, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I try to buy local as much as possible to support local business. That being said, I live in an area where I cannot buy certain items because theyre not sold. Theres no gardening store, videogame store, or even hardware store accessible to me walking or by bike. Yes, bus is an option but Im not going to spend 2 hours and $5 to buy something minor.

    In another universe, being inconvenienced would have pushed me to buy a car. Instead, with online shipping, I recently bought a potted plant and a humidifier that arent sold locally.

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    RH January 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    My brother got about 150 deliveries from Amazon last year…just daily stuff like diapers, food, books, pet supplies, etc..He says it has saved them heaps of time.

    I get ‘Organics To You’ delivered to us each week. It has cut our grocery shopping from weekly to bi-monthly. We also use InstaCart for our monthly Costco delivery.

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    matt picio January 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Networked locks already exist – Zipcar. You can open a ZipCar’s door with your Smartphone. (after having swiped it once with your card) The technology is the same for others. There are several companies marketing that solution now, not just for cars.

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      chris January 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Yup, Car2Go introduced this feature a month or two back as well. You can even unlock the door from miles away, although it will immediately relock the door if nobody get’s in and enters their PIN.

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      davemess January 12, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      I am a bit of a luddite, but I do fear a day when you will rely on your phone for EVERYTHING. I am perfectly okay keeping my house key.

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    Tim January 9, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    During the recent holidays I would look out my office window at the endless line of cars headed for the shopping center and wonder how there are still that many people who have not heard of the internet.

    Buying local is great, but these people are waiting in line an hour to park their car and shop the same store that will drop their purchase off at their doorstep.

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      Shanana January 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      One of the things about internet buying that I don’t like is that I can’t read everything that’s printed on the box of the product, specifically where the product is made. Many times this info isn’t listed at all. I’m pretty sure country of origin is required to be printed on the box, but that doesn’t seem to translate to the internet. And buying clothing online? Forget it. I have a hard enough time finding stuff that fits in the store. Plus, I can examine the quality of the product before buying it and not hassle with shipping returns, etc. And when it comes to gifts, I often don’t know what to get someone but I’ll know it when I see it. I enjoy the hunt. Using the internet for the hunt feels tedious (and too many rat holes of distraction). The internet is great for many purchases, but not everything.

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        9watts January 9, 2015 at 4:12 pm

        “I can’t read everything that’s printed on the box of the product, specifically where the product is made.”

        That is actually an easy one:-)
        Five letters, capital Beijing

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        chris January 9, 2015 at 7:08 pm

        I’m probably a bit abnormal in the clothing department. I buy my clothes online, but considering that it’s always just short- and long-sleeve tshirts, synthetic base layers/socks/underwear, black jeans, and Adidas sneakers, it was pretty easy to streamline my purchasing. If you care about variety or fashion, I suppose it can be a bit more challenging to buy clothing online.

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        Tim January 12, 2015 at 10:02 am

        As a fit middle aged cyclist I can’t find anything that fits in the stores. Pants start at 34 inch waist and go up. Shirts that fit in the shoulders look like I am wearing a balloon. Based on stock sizes, Americans really do need to drag themselves out of their bucket seats and onto a bike seat.

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          Shanana January 12, 2015 at 10:17 am

          Exactly. As a woman I find it especially hard to find things that fit my biceps, shoulders, and calves. Apparently the clothing world thinks women don’t have muscles, or if we are larger in these areas then we must also be larger all over. Even a simple fitted t-shirt is hard to find.

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      Kyle January 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Yeah, I try to avoid shopping at “mall stores” and other big chain stores as much as possible. It’s a huge hassle to get in and out, not to mention the onslaught of smells and advertisements in the mall itself. It feels like a cheap plastic version of life.

      On the other hand, if I can buy something at a local shop via foot or bike with ease I will most certainly do it instead of using something like Amazon. I’d rather pay a bit more to get something right away and support a local business.

      For grocery shopping I live in a very walkable neighbourhood and thus tend to shop more European-style, buying various items as I need them from a multitude of stores.

      Then there are some things which I can’t find anywhere except online, including many items on Amazon. A lot of these items were available for purchase at actual retail stores but have since disappeared. Whenever retail companies complain that their sales are down I have to wonder if they’ve noticed that they aren’t carrying what people want to buy…

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        chris January 9, 2015 at 6:21 pm

        If a particular item is available within a 15 block radius of my apartment, I’ll often buy it there instead of ordering through Amazon, but with the exception of food, beverages and the occasional small electronics item (e.g., a USB or HDMI cable) that might be available from Freddy’s, I typically cannot find what I want within such a small radius.

        A city like Tokyo strikes me the type of city where a combination of density and mixed-used zoning makes buying locally more convenient than using Amazon. The rail station is the hub of the neighborhood, and transit companies obtain their income by leasing their properties to retail operations, meaning each station is a huge shopping center. If that were the case here, I’d likely use Amazon far less than I do, although it’s questionable that I would encounter the same variety. I’m also not a huge fan of entering multiple stores to search for an item when I could do it on my computer screen. At any rate, Portland is not like Tokyo. Even though Portland is more bike-friendly and more urban than your average American city, I still regard errands to be a huge annoyance that require long travel times.

        I personally don’t find any inherent value in buying locally for it’s own sake. Our society is wealthy in part due to economy of scale. A society where everything is locally produced is not going to be a modern society, but rather a hunter-gatherer society.

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          9watts January 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

          “Our society is wealthy in part due to economy of scale.”

          Actually, our society is one of the most unequal.

          Jeff Bezos’s 2014 net worth = $30.3 billion

          Median US adult’s 2014 net worth = $44,900

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            chris January 10, 2015 at 1:10 am

            That’s a different issue entirely and wasn’t really my point.

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              9watts January 10, 2015 at 7:55 am

              except that they are related.

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                chris January 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

                Ok, then choose a country with a social market economy like Norway or Germany, where the GINI index is lower instead. I’m not in favor of an unrestricted free market economy, but I do believe in the benefit of economy of scale. The point is that these countries or only capable of modernization due to economy of scale. It isn’t possible to produce a microchip, a car, a modern apartment or even a bicycle using entirely local labor, components and raw materials. An economy that’s entirely local wouldn’t be capable of producing much more than spearheads and baskets. Therefore, I don’t base any of my purchasing decisions upon whether a shop is local, whether the goods are locally made, etc. If I did, I would be ignoring the importance and necessity that economy of scale plays in producing modern technology, which I happen to like.

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      PNP January 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      Actually, I saw those long lines of traffic (I live near Washington Square) and wondered why the holiday season seems to come as a surprise to so many people…who were then going to waste an hour in traffic and shuffle through the mall in lockstep with the horde.

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    Travis January 9, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Being able to deposit a check with my phone is one of the humankind’s greatest advances.

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      chris January 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      Yes, I also cannot remember the last time I set foot in a bank. That said, the persistence of the paper check is a bit antiquated. The only time I ever wrote one in recent years was to pay rent and to accomodate the refusal of my various landlords adopt electronic payment methods. I now pay through online banking, which is itself not truly electronic. In response to my online scheduled payment, my credit union prints and mails a physical paper check to my landlord on the same date each month.

      I have some acquaintances in Europe who tell me that they have never received, written or even held a paper check. Apparently it’s been all electronic there for decades. I wonder if that’s incentivized by lower transfer fees.

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        davemess January 12, 2015 at 4:59 pm

        Chris you have an incredible faith in online security.

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        LK January 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm

        When I lived in Germany in 2012, people could not believe that we still used paper checks to pay rent. It actually was confusing to them that the US was so antiquated. Also our insistence that a signature (rather than chip-and-pin) is a form of “security” for credit cards.

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    Andrew January 9, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    This may sound like hyperbole, but I was horrified to read “get the majority of goods majority of physical goods delivered from Amazon” as a sign of progress, especially on a website dedicated to bike issues. As someone who lives in Southeast and bikes everywhere, I can plan my route every day to accommodate my needs, choosing a different route through the grid depending on whether that day I need a book, a piece of hardware, or a bundle of carrots, and I can fill a pannier or two without any packaging, fossil fuels (besides the ones that got the product to the store), or wear on the roads. At the same time, I have noticed more and more UPS trucks parked in the middle of Clinton at rush hour, or otherwise in bike lanes because somebody thought that the further erosion of brick and mortar commerce was progress. I’m with Paul: we live in a place with splendid urban walkability, in a time when Amazon is getting way out of hand. Errands don’t have to 20 minute drives to the big box store, but a day-to-day interaction with the city and its people.

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      9watts January 9, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks for bringing the problematic nature of the Amazon worldview back into view, Andrew.
      Institute for Local Self Reliance’s take on Amazon:
      http://ilsr.org/amazonfacts/

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      Tim January 12, 2015 at 10:07 am

      I get most of my bike parts from local on-line distributers. Parts show up the next day and they have very good customer service. Best of both worlds.

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    Beth January 9, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Long ago, my seventh-grade reader (“Thoughtvault” — anyone here remember that one?) had a story in it about a futuristic world where people lived at and worked from home, put tokens into slots in machines installed in their home, and got everything delivered — food, education (there was a tutoring drone in every home) and other stuff. (As I recall stuff appeared from larger slots and openings in the wall, delivered by giant tubes or something.)

    No one ever left their apartments. Enertainment was streamed 24/7 and the was basically never a need to leave home. The hero of the story, a teenaged boy, falls in love with one of the pretty entertainers he sees nightly on the family’s TV screen. So one day he sneaks out — and finds a near-empty world outside. The streets are quiet, litter blows down the alleyways, and a stray cat is the only life he sees. He makes his way to the TV studio at the other end of town, where he finds, to his horror, that the pretty young thing is now an old woman who does voice-overs and helps run the boards.

    I read that story in 1977.

    I value my errands. They don’t always have to be at stores, but when they are I try to make sure I shop local. We also visit farmers markets where we sometimes run into friends. But my errands and other bike trips get me out of the house, help make it easier for me to interact with others and give me a sense of actually being in the world. I would hate to see an end to all errands. And I would hate to get my groceries delivered to me at home. Ugh.

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      chris January 10, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I think there are other reasons to go outside. Although I don’t have many errands to do, I still visit cafes, restaurants and pubs in my neighborhood on a regular basis. I’d imagine people would still get out of the house to take advantage of massage studios, yoga classes, nail salons, or any any sort of service that requires one’s physical presence and which is just as much about the experience as the product.

      I personally despises errand-running. I resent having to run them because I regarded them as unwelcome intrusions into my so-called “free time”. Doing them is like working, except I don’t get paid for them, and I have to do them during my “free time”, which I’d rather use doing something that I enjoy. I find them to be a huge burden and annoyance. Therefore, I find the decllning necessity of performing them to be a liberation. I accept that some peoples’ preferences are contrary to mine, but I don’t think I’m especially unique either.

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        chris January 10, 2015 at 9:51 am

        Jeez, typos. *I personally despise errand-running. I resent having to run them because I regard them as unwelcome intrusions into my so-called “free time”.*

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      soren January 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

      I view trips to farmers markets to be primarily entertainment. The food is good and the people-watching is excellent.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu January 9, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Thieves are following UPS and FedEX trucks and taking packages off doorsteps and porches. Happening a lot in my area. It is getting so that you have to be home to sign for any high value delivery. Which makes ecommerce a lot less convenient.

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      chris January 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      I make extensive use of the Amazon Lockers that are located in various 7-Elevens. There aren’t as many as I would like though.

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        chris January 9, 2015 at 6:51 pm

        And in response to the expected retort that going to the Amazon Lockers at 7-Eleven defeats my purpose of not doing errands, I only have to walk four blocks to get to the one in my neighborhood.

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      Pete January 10, 2015 at 12:17 am

      Indeed! I’m out of town now and FedEx keeps missing my wife and leaving notes because they’re requiring a signature for a little bike light I won for her on eBay. A month ago, though, they left my kiteboarding gear – ~$1.5K’s worth – standing up in it’s large yellow and black ‘golf’ bag on my front porch like a beacon (I clearly filled the form out to require a signature). During the holiday season my mailman has pretty much a daily report on the make and color of cars following him around quite blatantly.

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    chris January 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Five bucks! Now I really regret posting with a phoney email address! This one contains the real one, if it’s not too late. I promise I won’t spend it on an errand.

    I don’t have kids, and recognize that if I did, I’d have to do more errands than now, although likely far fewer than my own parents did. To this day, they don’t even pay their bills online, even though my father was a software engineer.

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    Paul J January 9, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Good points in intro. One prime example that I can provide is the demise of Blockbuster. Remember when you had to go pick up the DVD (or VHS!), and then return it the next day, or pay extra? Joined Netflix, and never looked back.

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    Pete January 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    The old guy (68) weighs in about how things have changed and how they haven’t.

    I grew up near Rose City Park School. My folks didn’t have a car. Dad took the bus to work; we walked two blocks to Stanley’s Grocery at 59th & Sandy. I walked or rode my bike to grade school and little league baseball and whatever else I did as a kid. I took a bus to high school. In other words, my parents didn’t drive a lot.

    When I returned to Portland in the late ’90’s, I rode my bike to work. Now that I’m retired, I do most of my errands by bike.

    Yeah, I buy some stuff from Amazon and other online retailers, but I hold my nose when I do it. It beats the hell out of going to a mall but I don’t like the way they screw small businesses and writers. I’d rather buy my books (yes, books) from small local bookstores.

    Life’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better here than a lot of other places.

    Oh, and you should have seen the ten foot drifts of snow I had to walk through as a child…giggle.

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      Adam Herstein January 9, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      Uphill both ways, right? 😉

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      Pete January 10, 2015 at 12:20 am

      This is totally the reason I think BikePortland should have authenticated accounts to post comments… 😉

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        Alan 1.0 January 10, 2015 at 9:26 am

        Welcome to my clan, Pete 1.0.

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    Matt Pie January 9, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    yeah, down with the local economy! right?

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    Aaron January 9, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    I have to agree with Chris. Since I got Amazon Prime, I really only go to physical stores for groceries, pharmacy prescriptions, and of course… bike shops! Local stores are fine when service needs to be hands-on (haircuts, massages, bike tune-ups). But online + delivery often makes more sense.

    The nostalgia and fetishization of local business baffles me. You end up paying more because of all the inefficiencies involved. Not just paying more money, but more in time (travel to and from) and space (brick and mortar have to be located somewhere, and local retail is highly duplicative).

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    S. Brian Willson January 9, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    I have refused to acquire any handheld electronic device. I make increased efforts to conduct face-to-face interactions with friends, businesses, the credit union, etc. I still pay by check rather than credit card. I do not want to further entrench myself into the electric communication/information grid. I prefer walking and cycling over cars. I like moving more slowly so I’m engaged in my journey. I think slow and small are beautiful. So what, if I am in the minority. I do not like the modernism brought on us by industrial civilization which is actually on a collision course with life itself, including my and your life.

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      Adam Herstein January 10, 2015 at 1:49 am

      But you just used a computer to communicate with other people online…

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        S. Brian Willson January 11, 2015 at 12:18 am

        Yes, but I have drawn the line at my laptop, and have considered getting offline completely. There has to be a boundary somewhere and I have begun to define it for myself. All this electric communication requires tremendous amount of burning carbon which is just making our endgame come all the sooner, with PPM already over 400.

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    The Odd Duck January 10, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Being semi-retired and having no kids, if I don’t use my trike I try to have car free days, in other words I try to bundle all my trips in to one day if possible. Now that I have a peddle power three wheeler I have more freedom of action but I still like to bundle my trips. There is a lot things I need to do around the house.

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    jeff bernards January 10, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Ordering from Amazon or Domino’s isn’t a zero carbon footprint, just because your not behind the wheel doesn’t mean your not behind the consequences of a carbon based lifestyle. I think it’s less of a carbon footprint to buy your shoes from the store down the street. They have their shoes delivered in bulk by truck, not just one pair with one truck. If it’s the wrong size? double the carbon-footprint to return them and to get another size? triple the carbon footprint.
    I’m in Slovenia, they don’t even have checks, it’s cash, online or credit/debit cards.

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      chris January 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

      However, given that the car is still the primary mode of transport in the US and even in Portland, most people are going to drive to take care of their errands — unless, of course, they stop running errands entirely. The delivery van is not transporting one pair of shoes, but as many deliveries that can possibly fit. Let’s suppose that a UPS truck is carrying packages for 100 people, and then let’s imagine all 100 of those customers driving around the city of Portland to try to locate those goods instead of buying online. Let’s keep in mind that they won’t necessarily find what they want in the first store that they go to, and might need to visit five stores to locate their product. This scenario would be the likely alternative to online delivery, and not one where everybody walks or bikes over to their local neighborhood stretch on Hawthorne, Williams or Division, which won’t likely have what they are looking for anyway. The carbon footprint of one delivery van has got to be better than 100 cars. Maybe 100 bikes would be preferable to one delivery van, but Portland’s modal share has been stuck at 6 percent for over a decade.

      I personally don’t find bicycling particularly convenient as a means of running errands, both because I really really hate doing errands (and find the very process to be the antithesis of convenient — how is it convenient if I’d rather be doing something else?) and because it’s actually extremely difficult to find that which I want to buy. I say this as a person with a relatively minimalist lifestyle. Even finding a package of long sleeve tshirts or synthetic base layer tops is no easy task in Portland. I basically bike to commute and to meet up with friends at various places, but the whole process of biking to various places around town that probably don’t carry what I want to begin with is a burden that I’m happy to be relieved of.

      At any rate, I feel like this entire discussion hasn’t really grasped my main point, which I guess I wasn’t too explicit about, namely that the average person drives, and that the automation of errands has likely led to the decline in total vehicle miles traveled. People aren’t really switching their mode of transport as much as they are transporting themselves far less frequently due to lack of necessity. Posters here can respond with anecdotes about what they personally would rather do, but that’s not an explanation for the societal phenomenon that’s currently taking place.

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        9watts January 11, 2015 at 11:21 am

        You make some fair points, chris. But one thing I think you are overlooking is the specific ways in which this shop-from-home convenience provides a positive feedback loop. Not having to deal with all the hassle of running errands in the physical world not only permits more careful targeting of obscure products, I might discover how much I didn’t know I needed through just those searches.

        In my life it is Craigslist. Through judicious and persistent use of Craigslist I’ve bought (and sold) hundreds of objects that I would have simply not known about/never encountered/done without/or given to goodwill before the internet.

        All I’m saying is that we can’t assume that an increase in shop-from-home convenience has no effect on the total quantity of good purchased.

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    J_R January 10, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Chris needs to check back if or when he has kids or elderly parents to look after and let us know how its working for him then.

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      9watts January 10, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Maybe give us who have children/a child, and who care for elderly parents the benefit of the doubt, eh? The idea that a car is required for real adults to function is the problem here, at least as much as the driving itself.

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        J_R January 12, 2015 at 11:24 am

        In my younger days, I had a daily commute-to-work-by-bike record measured in years. My auto trips were mostly for hauling building materials, dog food, a major grocery shopping trip every week or two, and long weekend trips to the mountains for recreation. I thought those who didn’t do most of their in-town trips, especially self-proclaimed fitness enthusiasts, were being wasteful.

        With my more complicated life involving both a younger and older generation, I’ve learned that there are tradeoffs involved that sometimes make an auto the best option. I’m proud that I still use my bike quite a bit and my annual mileage is less than half the average, but I’m no longer the critical zealot that I was before. I’m not saying that anyone commenting on this site is one, only that I was and am more tolerant of those who choose an auto more than I do.

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      chris January 10, 2015 at 10:29 am

      My post wasn’t really meant to be about me personally. I was just using myself as an example to illustrate a larger societal phenomenon, namely that errand running is less necessary today than it was when I was a kid. Of course, somebody taking care of children or elderly parents will have to run more errands than I personally do, but they won’t have to run as many errands as my parents did in the 1980s when I was a kid. Of course, some people like to do errands, as seems to be the case with many who comment here, and some people don’t embrace new technology quickly. At any rate, the article I was originally responding to was regarding the drop in total vehicle miles traveled by car, and my anecdotes were meant to contribute to the explanation as to why. It wasn’t meant as some sort of moral admonition to everybody to live as I do.

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        Amy January 11, 2015 at 9:52 pm

        So vehicle miles by jet and delivery van are better than vehicle miles by car? The errands are just being outsourced but are still being run – just less efficiently by someone else. Amazon is easy and cheap, but it isn’t saving the planet or our roads.

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    Tom January 10, 2015 at 11:05 am

    One compromise may be to use a locker. Especially if there was a non-7-Eleven option for Amazon, and more locations. I would think local stores would want a locker in order to bring in customers who might buy something while picking up their package. Ebay may come out with the same service soon. This minimizes those small delivery trucks driving around neighborhoods. Those delivery trucks are some of the more dangerous vehicles, with their blind spots combined with always being in a hurry. Having fixed locations to drop off stuff minimizes how much they are driving around.

    I think errands are the least of the road blocks to car-free/light. Car-free dating seems to be a bigger problem. I’m not sure how people are dealing with that.

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    jbn January 10, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Not meant as a criticism of Chris in any way, but to me Amazon is just online Walmart.

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      rick January 11, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      The delivery trucks are often noisy.

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    Paul G. January 10, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Just a perspective from a Portlander living temporarily on the other side of the country, in a small (and beautiful) Western North Carolina college town. Amazon (and Western Bikeworks) is brilliant here, and saves lots of time, gallons of fuel, and gets me some things that are simply unavailable within hours.

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    Leif W. January 11, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I hadn’t correlated running around to various business around down with driving. I run around to all kinds of stuff: banks, grocery stores, retail, repair shops, parks, restaurants… Doing so by car sounds like torture: starting and stopping the thing at each new place, trying to find parking each time, getting lost… I’ll also take advantage of the visibility and ease of stopping on a bike to check out new places that catch my eye as I travel by.

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    Jim Lee January 11, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Must add this to NEIGHBOR BRIAN’S comment:

    My Social Security deposit arrives at Umpqua Bank right on time every month. Then I ride the No. 10 bus to check my balance at the ATM and enjoy FREE COOKIES AND COFFEE! What kind of NEANDERTHAL actually cashes checks these days?

    Also, my little dumb-phone tells me when the next bus will arrive, so I do not have to pay OUTRAGEOUS MONEY for a hopelessly hipsterish “SMART” phone, which I do NOT need to unlock my Zipcars!

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    kittens January 11, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I REALLY try to shop locally and support local stores and traditional stores. But you know, we would not even be considering the possible world domination of Amazon if it were not for the truly deplorable state of retail. Go in to almost any store, high or low, and ask a question of the staff. They do not know anything or have anything useful to provide. Just cashiers or stockers. At least on Amazon you have reviews, ratings and vast selection.

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      rick January 11, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      How about local bike stores or New Season’s grocery store? Noodles Restaurant in Raleigh Hills? Parr Lumber?

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        davemess January 12, 2015 at 5:08 pm

        Yes, isn’t the current world of a retail a product of companies like Amazon?

        Kittens, I think you’re just going to the wrong stores.

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        kittens January 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm

        good point, but these are only notable because they are the exceptions.

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    Tim January 12, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I tell people that one of the reasons I ride so much is that it turns something I hate (running errands) into something I like (riding my bike). Besides, I can drive to the store for a quart of skim milk or ride to the store for ice cream. Life is better by bike.

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    Craig Harlow January 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I really really like going in to all of the local shops in my n’hood and city. I like my dollars to stay as close to me as possible after they leave me–I’m insecure like that.

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