What do you haul on your bike? How do you haul it?
Every Sunday something remarkable takes place in Newcastle. An ordinarily empty part of town becomes a hive of activity, filled with the sights, sounds and fragrances one might expect to encounter in a traditional European town square. The experience is made all the more authentic with a trio of jazz performers, narrow winding paths and the total absence of vehicular traffic. I am, of course, talking about the Newcastle City Farmers & Makers Market at the Showground, which has become immensely popular since its inception a few years back (so much so that they’re now on Wednesday evenings too).
Angela and I are regulars at the Farmers Market. There’s something incredibly satisfying about buying food from local producers, cutting out the ‘middle-man’ as they say. But more than that, the diversity of food and goods on offer is far superior to the local supermarket. Today, for example, we bought an apple cucumber, which I had no idea existed until a few hours ago. And if you don’t like the price? Try the stall next door. Shopping outdoors is also a refreshing experience, though under our sun, a hat and sunscreen are essentials. There are of course shaded areas. Oh, and did I mention breakfast? Mini Dutch pancakes, Greek tiganitsas, waffles, burgers, quesadillas, wood fire pizza, cupcakes, fruit, fresh juice, you name it. (Coffee goes without saying!) Some days there are more stalls than others, but there’s always enough to satisfy both your hunger and produce needs.
Angela on the way to the Farmers Market, Gregson Park
So, how does one get to this wondrous place? Unfortunately this is where the European town square fantasy ends. Most people, judging by the number of parked cars and Newcastle’s general love affair with the car, appear to drive to the market. One would hope a good number of people from surrounding neighbourhoods walk given the Showground is the centre of town. Its also a stones throw from Broadmeadow Station and the Opal card gives you unlimited travel for $2.50 on Sundays. The many two-wheeled shopping trolley bags about (you know those handy looking “granny bags”?) could also be a giveaway, but for all we know they are being loaded up into the car. As for bicycling… I have only ever seen five other bicycles other than our own locked up – and given bicyclists’ tendency to park close to the action and where passive surveillance can ensure the bike’s safety, we’ve concluded next to no one cycles to the market (if you’re reading this and you do – let us know!).
Update! We now go to the markets via a different entrance and the number of bikes we see is A LOT! Great work people!
Now, there are obviously a lot of positives associated with driving to the market. It’s convenient, it’s reliable, it’s easy for those who live far away, and it’s useful for carrying produce. Ok, sure. What about by bicycle?
Well, it sure is convenient being able to park right out front, not paying for fuel or the $2 parking fee. Perhaps you might feel less guilty about buying that coffee. We all know the health benefits of bicycling are a no-brainer. In terms of distance, as I’ve said before, Newcastle is relatively flat and the Fernleigh Track leads more or less directly to the Showground—you’d be surprised how far you can ride in a short amount of time. If you’re coming from west Lake Macquarie, try jumping on the train and alighting from Broadmeadow Station. (Hint: usually the all-stops trains are the newer blue and yellow trains with more room for bicycles. Also, there is a Farmers Market at Speers Point Park on Saturday mornings – alight from Teralba or better Cockle Creek station – no stairs – when the cycleway is completed).
So this is all well and good, but how does one lug all that fresh produce home? Surely a car is needed for all that kale? All those oranges? That sack of potatoes?
The photos below show how much we have carried on our bicycles to date in one trip. To be honest, we were amazed ourselves. Of course, we’ve all seen those National Geographic images of bicycles overloaded with cargo. Fortunately, the average weekly shop looks a lot less exciting.
I carted the precious haul pictured in first image from our local grocery store to home on my lonesome using my bicycle panniers and an extra bag strapped to my bicycle rack. The haul in the second image is from our combined trip to the market and local supermarket today, and fitted neatly into our bicycle trailer as pictured below. Obviously using the trailer requires easy parking, and the market is perfect for this. I picked up the trailer a couple of years back for around $100. It straps easily to my bike using a simple quick release mechanism, and I’ve since attached a bike lock cable and padlock to connect to my bike so I don’t have worry about it getting stolen when parked. Nowadays, with ‘everyday’ bicycling becoming evermore popular, there are a variety of different trailers available.
The haul from today's trip to the Farmers Market and local supermarket
While the trailer makes for more comfortable riding, you needn’t rush out and purchase one to do any sort of grocery shopping on your bicycle. More often than not we get away with using a basket each and panniers if need be. To make it easier still, use a quick release basket you can take with you once your bike is parked. And you can always tailor your shop by how much you think you can comfortably carry on your bike (and maybe you’ll think twice about buying those discounted lollies!).
A trailer is certainly one thing, but a purpose built cargo bike, now that is something different entirely. Do you own one? Tell us about it!