12. Shopping by Bike

This guide, provided as a public service, was first published in 2009, with many subsequent updates. For additional updates, or if you have questions, please contact us. To return to the portal page of the Tips for Bicycling Monterey County 20-section guide, click here.

“Let’s check this out…”

Old Capitol Books

Maybe this is you:  “Biking?  But I wanna go shopping!”

Perhaps you’re  afraid biking will cause you to miss out on shopping or other attractions.  Actually, being able to make frequent stops is a terrific advantage of biking! And when you’re biking, you notice places, people, and things that are so easy to overlook when you’re whizzing by in a car.  For example, can you name all the plazas in the City of Monterey?  Many people who bike can. Click here. 

Concerned about economic impact for communities if more people shop by bike? 

Don’t be. Shopping by bike is a win-win! See Tanya Snyder’s story in Streetsblog DC about “why bicyclists are better customers than drivers for local businesses.”  Toronto, the Netherlands, and others recognize this too (see “Commerce and Bicycles” for more), as most cyclists also learn from personal experience.  Biking?  Hold on to your wallet!

And reducing short car trips by substituting a simple habit of biking to the store, even just some of the time, reaps significant health benefits to impact a lifetime. Plus, it has a positive impact on the lives of others!


As Bicycling Monterey notes in Riding Skills, Safety, and California Bike Laws, California law (VC 21205) states, “No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the operator from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.” Learn more in that section, and see cargo-carrying tips below too.
Biking downtown is easy–and I don’t have to search for parking.

“I brake for cool shops”

Make that, “I bike for cool shops!” On a bicycle, it’s easy to stop spontaneously and shop at whatever spot catches your eye. 

Toodling along on a bike means going slow enough to make cool discoveries—including along “off-the-beaten-path” streets like Perry Lane in Monterey, the longtime location of Cypress Garden Nursery. Sadly, after 65 years in business, the Monterey County Weekly reported that Cypress will close 9/30/17. We’ll miss not only their nursery items but also their fabulous collection of greeting cards—like the bike cards Elena is holding (above).

Consolation: This clerk at The Quill, Pacific Grove shows they have bike cards.


Parking is easier, too!

When you’re biking, not only is parking easier, it’s free!  You don’t have to circle the block over and over, waiting for a parking place to open up.  You don’t have to walk from a distant parking lot or garage to your destination; you’re parked conveniently nearby.  Yup, you just lock up your bike close to virtually any place you want to go.

Can’t find a bike rack?

New bike racks are popping up all over Monterey County.  If you don’t see one reasonably nearby, not to worry:   You may lock your bicycle to many stationary objects.   See “Bicycle Parking Etiquette–and Laws” (scroll down that page) for tips.  Take care to position your bike so it does not interfere with disabled access or pedestrian traffic. 

More about bike parking below–including where racks are at some of the shopping districts/centers.

Want to suggest a place that needs a bike rack?  Click here for more info.

Cyclists are lucky–no worries about crowded parking lots

Even when you’re planning to shop somewhere that has a free lot, bicycling still makes things easier.  Want to swing by downtown Monterey’s “Uptown Monterey” shopping center to pick up some picnic goodies from Trader Joe’s?  Whoops, tough parking lot at times….but not for cyclists!

Let’s go Dutch!

Celebrated writer and humorist Jerry Gervase has the TJ’s parking lot challenge all figured out.  A regular columnist for the Monterey County Herald, Jerry wrote about the smart solution he found:  When he wants to be assured of a parking spot–and a close-up one at that–he bikes there.  As Jerry and other cyclists–like these in the Netherlands–recognize, it’s easy to shop by bike.  You don’ t haul home a month’s worth of supplies, you shop more frequently.  That’s how so many Europeans do it anyway, assuring their households of the freshest produce.

See “The Dutch Way:  Bicycles and Fresh Bread” for more on this topic.

Writer Jerry Gervase at home, his departure point for frequent Trader Joe’s shopping-by-bike trips.

The Italian pictured below, who was studying at the Naval Postgraduate School,  also had no problem with Trader Joe’s parking, since he biked there.

More downtown Monterey bike parking tips follow.

Cannery Row

There are more than 20 bike racks all along the Cannery Row stretch of bike path in Monterey. Use ’em up!—We can ask for more.  See some Cannery Row racks near Steinbeck Plaza and Plaza at Bubba Gump; click here.

Ever want to stop in and buy a gift at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s gift shop, or at a nearby souvenir shop, and wish you could get parking right out front?  You can if you’re on a bicycle!  That’s also true if you are stopping to purchase a bottle of wine by bike in the Cannery Row neighborhood or another locale.   (Tip:  If you do wine-buying trips by bike regularly, you may want a bicycle wine rack.)

Free Aquarium parking at the bike rack on the slope right in front of the Aquarium!Local cities’ business districts

There’s room for more bicycle racks in many parts of the county, so you’ll often need to lock up your bicycle to a light pole or sign post. Still, you’ll find bike racks already on the downtown streets in many, many places, such as:

In OldTown Salinas–where people above had paused to enjoy live music on the street, on a First Friday–you’ll see bicycle racks regularly spaced along Main Street.  Salinas businesses all over town welcome and appreciate bicyclists.  You’ll find many HER Helmet Thursdays participating businesses and organizations in Salinas. (For more about Salinas, scroll down, e.g., to Northridge Mall bike rack locations.)

Downtown Pacific Grove has some racks on Lighthouse Avenue, e.g., in front of Toasties, a HER Helmet Thursdays participant.  The Lighthouse Avenue Cinemas has its own large rack out front.

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History’s museum store is a HER Helmet Thursdays participant too. Handy bike rack out front.

Pacific Grove Museum

And elsewhere…

Downtown Monterey

Some places, like Cha-Ya Japanese Tea & Things, are especially appreciated by people with bike security concerns. If a friend would rather sip tea than shop, no worries; they can relax at this HER Helmet Thursdays spot and keep an eye on the bikes while you browse the gifts and teas inside.

Cha-Ya is one of the retail shops participating in HER Helmet Thursdays. See “Bike to Shop, including HER Helmet Thursdays discounts” for more retail spots, including bike shops and wineries.


In  Old Monterey, there are bicycle parking racks in the Uptown Monterey Shopping Center (don’t be confused by that official name, that shopping center is downtown), e.g., near Trader Joe’s.

Brightly colored bicycle parking racks were installed on Alvarado Street, replacing low-to-the-ground black iron racks. You’ll find many near Alvarado Street HER Helmet Thursdays spots; check out “Biking Downtown Monterey.”

The Alvarado Mall (pictured below) is the brick passageway, north of Del Monte Avenue, that runs between Custom House Plaza and Portola Plaza. You’ll find bicycle parking racks there too.

Below is Dan Vitanza, who owned a business along that walkway for 25 years—Pino’s Cafe, now closed.

When people bicycling leave the Custom House Plaza area, since Alvarado Street is one-way here, they are directed to first bike up Calle Principal. 

For route options to reach Alvarado Street from Calle Principalclick here for “Where the plazas are,” and refer to notes in Bonifacio Plaza section.

On Calle P, you’ll find bright red post-style bike racks, like the one pictured below near the Youth Arts Collective.

Monterey:   Fisherman’s Wharf/Wharf I

At times you may find the Fisherman’s Wharf/Wharf I bike racks full, as this is a popular place.  No worries, you can still stop and shop on the wharf!  When the bike racks are full, cyclists make use of overflow parking along the railing.

Kindly note that unlike Commercial Wharf IIriding your bike on Wharf I is not permitted, due to a narrower roadway and heavy pedestrian traffic.

Overflow bicycle parking at top of Fisherman’s Wharf/Wharf I.

New Monterey/Lighthouse District

In the New Monterey Lighthouse District, there are plenty of bike-friendly businesses, even though more bike racks are needed.  Here’s one fun place to shop, the Book Buyer, which is a landmark for several HER Helmet Thursdays locations in that neighborhood.

Among the wide variety of stores on Lighthouse Ave, you’ll also find the Goodwill store, where many budget-savvy biking families look for bright colored/high visibility apparel for growing children.

Bicycling for books:  looks like the Book Buyer has these guys on a Nora Roberts kick!

Shopping centers

Shopping centers are a bit different, because with much of their property, it’s necessary to treat it as you would a sidewalk—hop off your bicycle and walk it on sidewalks and malls.

It’s easy to guess that it’s appropriate to walk your bike on sidewalks of smaller shopping centers, such as North Monterey County’s Castroville Station.  With the larger shopping centers that have mall areas, please remember to hop off and there too, to help ensure pedestrian safety.

What about parking at some specific Monterey County shopping centers?

Note: The detailed info, including bicycle rack locations, that was previously included in this post for Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey has been removed. Why? Because DMC has removed all those bike racks! 🙁

Carmel:  Barnyard and Carmel Rancho II

The beautifully landscaped Barnyard Shopping Center at the mouth of Carmel Valley, and its immediate neighbor, Carmel Rancho II, are alongside a dedicated bike path that opened in 2010.  This new bike path gives cyclists a much safer route from Carmel Valley Road to Rio Road, parallel to Highway 1.

Although more bike racks will surely follow, through the initiative of a local business, there are bike racks in the neighborhood now!  Where?  Directly in front of Carmel Bicycle, which relocated to Carmel Rancho II in October 2010.  Thanks to Rob and Nettie of Carmel Bicycle for being good neighbors and welcoming diners, shoppers, and others visiting Carmel Rancho II and the Barnyard to make use of their bicycle racks!

Find this great bike parking at Carmel Bicycle, 26543 Carmel Rancho Boulevard; 831/625-2211.

And Carmel Bicycle’s next-door neighbors have followed their fine example:   There’s a new bike rack at In-Shape, Carmel Rancho II.

Carmel:  Carmel Rancho (I)

Looking for a bike rack at the Carmel Rancho?  This shopping center  includes the popular Do Re Mi music store, Brinton’s, and a community treasure:   Cornucopia Community Market.

Cornucopia, a natural foods store, is a long-established institution.   Its current location, for many years now, is 26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd; 831-625-1454. And Cornucopia has a little black bike rack, which is just to the right of the store as you face the store’s entrance.

Carmel:  Crossroads

Across Rio Road from the Barnyard and Carmel Rancho, there is another mouth-of-the-valley shopping center, the Crossroads Shopping Village.  You’ll find bike racks in front of the Safeway, as well as just outside the Crossroads at the MST stop on Rio Road.  As usual, you may lock your bike to any stationary object–simply taking care to position it out of the way of pedestrian traffic.  While shopping the Crossroads, you could even lock up at the racks alongside the nearby Class I bike path (pictured above).

Castroville Station bike rack next to HHT spot Hanabi’s

Castroville:  Castroville Station

Many people flock to the annual Artichoke Festival  in Castroville.  And year-round, local and visiting cyclists biking on Highway 1 enjoy a stop in Castroville, “Artichoke Center of the World.”  Marilyn Monroe was Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen in 1948.

Today, Castroville’s population is 88% Hispanic/Latino, so you can count on businesses carrying lots of items with special appeal.

The Castroville Station bike racks include one tucked under the stairway, next to the laundromat; and another nearby, close to the other stairwell. For more about Castroville, click here.


The Dunes Shopping Center is conveniently located near CSUMB.

Salinas: East Alisal Shopping Center

In some shopping centers throughout the county, bicycling is discouraged. In other cases, as is the case at the East Alisal Shopping Center, bicycling is officially prohibited. (The shopping center parking lot is private property, not a public road, so restricting bikes there is legal.) What to do? Hop off and walk your bike. 

Salinas: Northridge Mall

Biking Salinas is growing in popularity, and North Salinas, with its newer infrastructure, has a significant amount of bike lanes. Popular destinations include the department stores, movies, restaurants, and other businesses at the Northridge Mall. As of February 2014, bike racks at Northridge are located at:

  • J C Penney’s
  • Security
  • Food Court
  • Best Buy
  • Forever 21
  • Century Theater
  • Macys
A small shopping plaza in East Salinas, at the corner of Sanborn Road at Del MonteBike parking very closeby at Taqueria La Arrolladora - Del Monte and Sanborn
Shopping for postcards and souvenirs at Fisherman’s Wharf? There are convenient bike racks here.
Write out those postcards, then bike to the nearest drop box and send them on their way.
Sand City:  Edgewater and Sand Dollar

With an amazingly scenic Class I bike path on the coastal side of these two shopping centers, these centers make a handy stop for cyclists. And you’ll even find a casual HER Helmet Thursdays spot here–Jersey’s Subs, at Sand Dollar Shopping Center.

Jersey's Subs Sand City - HER Helmet Thursdays participant Oct 2013

And very near Sand Dollar and Edgewater, there’s another HER Helmet Thursdays spot, Lucky’s Roadside.

A typical place for cyclists to enter Sand Dollar is by hopping off the bike path and coming down the hill near the back side of Costco.  From there, you can also easily bike over to Edgewater.  Another typical way to enter Edgewater (especially if coming from the north) is exiting the bike path where it goes underneath the overpass by the traffic signal at Freeway Exit 404 (just fyi, the Seaside High School entrance sign is across that intersection).

Bicycle racks at these are located at or near the following businesses.  Most are wave-style racks, unless otherwise described.


  1. Chipotle (to rear on right side)
  2. Starbucks (on left side)
  3. Supercuts/GNC
  4. Monterey Federal Credit Union
  5. Sports Authority/Papa Chano’s
  6. Target (red post-style racks under shelter)
  7. Sav-Mart (long rack)

Sand Dollar

  1. Orchard Supply Hardware (low-to-the-ground rack)
  2. Costco
Seaside:  Seaside City Center

The savvy shopper below, spotted at a crafts fair on the Custom House Plaza in Monterey, bought a reasonably priced, colorful basket that she mounted to her bike.


As an avid shopper-by-bike, my hybrid bicycle has a kickstand.

Blogger Lady Fleur agrees, and she smartly suggests in her post about kickstands: “Any bike with a basket or rack for carrying stuff: Kickstand REQUIRED. Any bike for errands around town, locking up for quick stops: Kickstand DESIRABLE.”

How will I haul the things I buy?

Many rental bikes come equipped with small cargo carriers.  If your bike doesn’t have any type of cargo carrier, remember to take a day pack along to carry any purchases.  Or, you may also find it worthwhile to purchase a cargo carrier.  Many come with velcro straps and are quick and easy to connect and disconnect to a bike’s handlebars.

Of course, larger purchases can usually be delivered or shipped to your home or your local lodging accommodations, or held by the seller until you will be in the neighborhood at another time by car.

Also see tips above, including what Monterey writer Jerry Gervase suggests: “Let’s go Dutch!”

Today, there are bike baskets made for just about any use–even for hauling pizzas!

Safety first:  purses, packages and more

Think maybe it’s no big deal to just hang your purse from your handlebars for a little while?  Ask the friend of Jody Brooks of Plan Bike about her broken elbow!

Read the cargo-carrying tips–“Keep hands free,” “Spoke hazards,” and more, in the Personal Safety section of this guide.

Keep a daypack with you on the bikeways and you’re always prepared for an impulse buy!

Grocery shopping

In many countries, people shop for their food daily.  The fresh produce markets and such are a social high point of their day.  Here in the states, often people shop infrequently, then do a large shopping in one fell swoop.

If you have many grocery items, how to tote them by bike?  Consider purchasing a full-on cargo bike.  See “Biking-by-the-Bay, Cargo Style” at this site for a couple examples.

There are other solutions.  Here’s one easy bike-and-ride Rx and a great reason to purchase a bike rack for your car:

  1. Park where parking is easy, such as on the outskirts of a shopping district.
  2. Bike in to the congested shopping area with a daypack or cargo pouch, etc.
  3. Return to car, drop things off.
  4. Repeat as needed.
  5. Smile! You’re having more fun than most shoppers!

Click here for details on shopping at local farmers markets by bike.

Her smile says it all:  “Ah, life is good when you can bike home with your groceries and have a view like this!”

This East Salinas bike commuter knows:

Money not poured into the gas pump means more money for shopping to get the things you really need–or want!  And doing shopping by bike after work is a refreshing way to end the day.

Unique rest stop

Here’s one unique stop along the Cannery Row bike path:   Wave Street Studios courtyard.  This historic site is being used in a new way—as a recording studio and more.  This beautiful facility was built with extraordinary care on the site of the Quock Mui House.  It’s a popular stop on a chilly day, since it has a radiant-heated bench where you can warm up while you rest.

Rhett and Judy Smith, creators and owners of Wave Street Studios, on the heated bench.