Saturday, 5 March 2016

Cycling & The Big Box Stores - You Are Not Part Of The Business Model

This morning, I popped to my local B&Q to pick up a few bits and pieces for some decorating. I didn't need much, so I hopped on my bike.

The store is 1.2 miles from home and so cycling, it takes no more than 8 minutes each way. I can use a cycle track next to a trunk road to get there and back (albeit shared, a bit narrow in places and a bit bumpy). Now, if I was after 20 bags of ballast, then the car would take the strain; but a pot of PVA glue, a paint brush and a paint kettle fitted in my pannier bag without a problem. In terms of journey time, the car might be slightly quicker first thing on a Saturday morning, although as a driver, there are more traffic signals to get through so it's marginal.

Arriving at the store, I cycled across the car park to the main entrance and looked for somewhere to park. It was no surprise that there was no cycle parking (I know the store after all), I was looking to see if there was a stock display cage I could tie my bike to.


I was in luck; there was - filled with logs and so with my D-lock, the bike was secure enough. I have turned up when there hasn't been anything suitable and so I have to use the steel fence around a trolley park at the edge of the car park. I raised this issue privately with B&Q several months ago (perhaps 18) and a very nice person from their customer services team assured my that they would pass the matter to their store manager who would contact me. Did, I get a reply from the local store? No, of course not, so a public whinge is in order.

The store has been there for 20 years and so when planning consent was granted, cycling was not a consideration in planning policy terms. There was no cycle track passing the site back then and cycling in the area was not even a consideration. Time has moved on and even in this low cycling London backwater, the trunk road now has a cycle track on each side and it is at least possible to get to the store by bike in relative safety and quite easily. There is a retail park on the other side of the road (with Toucan crossings to get there) and they have provided cycle parking right by the shop doors. In fact, Next took over a retail unit a couple of years ago and they installed even more cycle parking!

B&Q has cycle parking at its other big stores in the area, but they are newer and whether planning for cycling was thought about or not, modern local authority planning policies ensured that a certain provision was made (whether the quality of the installation was checked is a another matter).



It is so easy and low cost to install cycle parking. There is plenty of design advice out there such as Chapter 8 of the London Cycling Design Standards. Basic Sheffield hoops can be purchased really cheaply; £29.99 plus VAT from Broxap will get you a basic galvanised hoop which can be concreted into the ground. For situations such as my local B&Q, for a little more, a plated version can be obtained for bolting down to a power-floated concrete floor.



In fact, I have a couple of Sheffield hoops in my front garden for cycle parking which I installed myself and so it should not be beyond the capability of a DIY superstore which has literally all of the materials and tools needed to install a couple of cycle hoops! I don't want to criticise just B&Q. My local Tesco superstore has some cycle parking, but it is well away from the main store entrance. It is useful for staff (being by the staff door), but for the public, it should be relocated where it is useful because (surprise, surprise), people using cycles are lazy (ish) and don't want to lug their shopping to the other end of the store in the same way as customers arriving by car vie for the best parking spots!

I think the real issue for many of the big box stores is that cycling doesn't feature in their business models, or even on their horizons; they are based on providing access and parking for people arriving by car or van (in the case of B&Q). Most only provide cycle parking because they have a planning condition telling them to do so. It would take a tiny amount of effort for them to undertake an audit of their stores and very little cost to plan, design and provide even a few Sheffield stands. They might just attract a few more customers.

So, B&Q, if you read this post, don't bother asking me to DM the store location, or email your customer services. Get you network of store managers to undertake an audit and provide a couple of lines back on how cycle parking could be provided - it will take 30 minutes out of their day. For those on Twitter, I think it is time to start naming and shaming the retailers who are not providing cycle parking or providing crap cycle parking!

11 comments:

  1. Maybe I'll have to work the big-box-retail parks into my promised Cambridge tour. Not the nicest places to cycle, but plentiful, mainly well positioned, high quality cycle parking. Because when cyclists ARE a major part of the local population the big box stores take note.

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    1. Yes, that would be an interesting contrast.

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  2. Why do you need bike parking when the store is laid out to permit fork lift trucks driving up & down the aisles? I've never parked a bike outside a B&Q, Wickes, Screwfix, Toolstation, RS Components ....

    Ride in, load up, ride out simples

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    Replies
    1. That's fine if that's your bag and the store is happy. I just want to mooch about and can't see a reason for not providing cycle parking.

      Delete
  3. In a midlands town I often visit, all of the big supermarkets including Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons and a brand new Asda, are only accessible by an enormous dual carriageway system that offers no active transport provision. They may be accessible on foot or bike from a few very local estates, but everyone else must drive or take their chances with an appalling bus service.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, cycle parking pales into insignificance in comparison; we even have in town retail parks which are just as difficult to get to.

      Delete
  4. I find it very common for workplaces and retailers to install bikes racks of that type that I know as "wheel benders". See the image below for an example. These seem to fail a couple of the criteria in the standards document you linked. Unless you consider locking your front wheel only to be secure, it is very difficult to lock your bike effectively. When placed against a wall, as they frequently are, they have accessibility problems when your bike is in the middle of the rack and you have to reach past it in to a tight space on the ground to lock or unlock your bike. They mostly seem designed to facilitate people who aren't that worried about locking their bikes and aren't too bothered about whether their spokes get damaged. Presumably they are really cheap to install as well.

    I consider this type of rack dreadful, but even other cyclists in places I have worked see nothing wrong with them. I see them in pictures of Dutch train stations. Are there studies showing this type of rack to be an inferior solution or are they actually acceptable and it's just me?

    http://www.bluegrassplaygrounds.com/img/site-amenities/BikeRacks/low-bike-racks.jpg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't see how the wheelbenders are of any use - perhaps they work where theft is less of an issue!

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