Monday, 17 March 2014

Cycle Parking: Supermarkets - Lidl & Aldi

Last time, I looked at the cycle parking provision at Morrison's Gallowgate and Asda Toryglen. This time, it's German discount chains Aldi and Lidl that get the treatment.


Compared to long established chains like Tesco and Sainsburys, Aldi and Lidl are relatively recent editions to Glasgow's supermarket retail scene, despite being fixtures of continental European high streets for decades. Although subtly different in service and products, they both share similar traits. They are both a product of German supermarket philosophy, which favours smaller shops in urban settings - as opposed to the UK's love of US-style out-of-town big box hypermarkets - with a focus on providing a (relatively narrow) range of good quality, own-brand products with steady (budget-orientated) pricing; you don't find the profligacy of multi-buy deals common with the so-called "big four" retailers. Efficiency is key, with items being displayed in floor to ceiling packing crates (hence they are in a sense, self-stacking and self-clearing), tills which only open up when required and where customers pack their shopping at tables away from the tills (thus improving the flow rate).

As is probably quite obvious from the above text  I unequivocally declare myself a fan of both brands (although I have no relationship with them) - I like the smaller scale, the low prices and that I can find pretty much all I need shopping-wise; there's also the coup of including the "mystery middle aisle" (more on that later). As they are so evenly matched, choosing one or the other depends a lot on small details - a specific product, where I am at a given moment, the direction I'm travelling in etc. One of the factors that can have an influence if I'm shopping on my bike are the facilities for me to park.

There are four Aldi stores in Glasgow proper, with several in the periphery of Greater Glasgow, including Rutherglen, Clydebank, Paisley, Erskine, Bellshill, Motherwell, Airdrie and Hamilton. Lidl has a similar spread, although is more firmly established - there are about double the number of stores in roughly the same radius, with at least 12 within the city boundary. I'll look at the closest examples of each. Aldi Rutherglen, approximately 1.7 miles away and Lidl Victoria Road, a mere 0.8 miles distance. It goes without saying that both are easily commutable by bike distance-wise; the road conditions differ significantly though.

Aldi Rutherglen

Note that I'm cheating again by including Rutherglen, which isn't technically Glasgow. Indeed, it's actually part of the South Lanarkshire Council area. However in reality, the town integrates pretty seamlessly with Glasgow, forming a de-facto local business district for this part of the South-side. Aldi is (in my opinion) the slightly "posher" of the two, with better products (for example, the hommous is just that bit tastier :) ). It is also on my commute, hence I'll often pop in for some dinner after work.  The shop sits just slightly away from Rutherglen Cross, near the (slightly intimidating) pedestrian subway under Glasgow Road and Rutherglen Main Street. As befits a small urban supermarket, there's a modest car-park, with the majority of customers coming on foot.

As indicated above, Aldi has a the mystery middle aisle, in which can be found a series of seasonal or limited offer stock - a veritable Aladdin's cave of bric-a-brac and pot-luck ephemera, from kitchenware and tools to clothing and electronics. Aldi is notable amongst cycling enthusiasts for its "Crane" range of cycling apparel, which (like much of Aldi's product range) is of decent quality - I have a number of items which I use on a daily basis that have originated here.

Regrettably and counter-intuitively, Aldi Rutherglen lets itself down with bike provision - there is no "official" parking at all.

Trollies and ... erm ... plants are well served

"But there are Sheffield Stands there", you might say. Yes, there are metal barriers, but these are intended to wrangle trolleys. When full, there is no room - not to mention the danger of the bike being damaged by errant shoppers in a rush to get a trolley. This despite a recent refurbishment of the car-park to add additional spaces (FOR CARS) at the back of the shop. 

Brand New Parking and Trolley shelter

Other than the railings for trolleys, there are fences near the car-park entrance - exposed and relatively far away from the shops front door. The implication is very clear here - dry trolleys and cars are more important than bikes. It's such a shame that the management (either local or regional) fail to understand this, particularly given that they provide reams of specific "Parent & Child" parking too:

Couldn't just one of these spaces be allocated for bikes?
There was a clear opportunity to improve facilities here with the renovation work which has been squandered. This would suggest that someone believes that the way to get more customers into the shop is to provide extra parking, which I believe is a false paradigm. The size of the shop precludes the sort of bi-monthly bulk buying that fits with car dependency. Supermarkets like this and in this area are suited better to more frequent/smaller quantity shops - the kind more suited to pedestrian or customers arriving by bike.

Lidl Victoria Road

Yay Lidl!
By contrast to Aldi Rutherglen, the bike provision here is streets ahead. Unfortunately the photograph was taken at a time when some work was being done on the roof, hence the cherry-picker parked beside it - but imagine this same scene without it or the (slightly) encroaching Heras fence. There are 8 good quality Sheffield stands - room enough for 16 bikes, which compares well to the limited number of parking spaces for cars. The stands are sheltered from the elements by a purpose-built roof, in other words they aren't sheltered by accident of design - someone has actually gone and designed this facility specifically with bikes in mind. 

The two bikes at the back are posh stainless steel custom affairs

The shelter is also prominently and conspicuously placed in the small car-park close to the entrance - the trolleys get top billing again (of course!). But its clear that Lidl recognise that their setting - an urban high street on a bus route - is going to get the bulk of its trade from pedestrians and people on bikes, and they've prepared for them. Bravo to Lidl Victoria Road! If only they started selling bike apparel, the choice would be a lot easier.


Thought I would note this little enjoinder. Across from Lidl, there's a small example of where filtered permeability techniques can be misapplied if not designed properly. The road here has been blocked off to through motor traffic with large, flat bollards, but there's supposed to be a little cycle by-pass. I say it like that because in reality, it isn't really usable, because of the close proximity of the bus-stop - people (naturally) use the bollards for sitting and tend to congregate on the pavement.

As you can see, the painted bike lane has long since worn away - the dropped kerb and the faded blue bike sign being the only real evidence of its previous existence - this is a pattern we see quite a lot throughout the south-side. A more useful approach would have been to direct the path away from the vicinity of the bus-stop - 5 metres or so to the right perhaps - and to mark out the path physically with either a drop in height, or a different surface type.