Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cycle Parking: Supermarkets

As a slight diversion from the subject of the last four postings, I'm going to take a quick look at (tangentially) related issue: cycle parking. Compared to the safety issues related to cycling - junction design, protected lanes etc -  parking at your destination might seem like a bit of a side issue; a "nice to have". Whilst I agree with that in principle, I think it's still worth looking at the quality of facility provided for bikes at sites such as retail destinations, public buildings and transport hubs - something I'm going to call "End-point Infrastructure". After all, there's little purpose in having a good quality cycle network if there's nowhere to park the bike once you arrive. In addition, providing parking facilities, like other so-called "cinderella services" such as shower/changing rooms/lockers in workplaces is something that can be fairly easily and cheaply remedied right now, as well as being well within the competence of employers/site owners; something they don't have have to rely on local/central government for.

I'll start by looking at some local supermarkets, as these are destinations pretty much everyone has to visit one way or another at some point in their week (unless you live in some sort of local shop nirvana or are a freegan). I'll add more entries as I come across them, but I'll start with some I've visited recently (and had the presence of mind to take some pictures).

Evalution Criteria

In terms of evaluation criteria...Hmmm... this is going to be difficult but I'll try to apply some consistent guidelines. Do we compare like with like? Is it fair to compare e.g. an out-of-town big-box hypermarket versus a high street mini-market? I suspect this will change I look at more facilities.

I think by its nature - and without access to statistics like area, customer volumes and number of car parking spaces (I'm NOT going to go around counting them!) - this is going to be quite a subjective evaluation, but I'll try to consider the following dimensions:
  • Availability - by this I mean "are there any official facilities at all". Big demerits for "unofficial" parking (e.g. perimeter fencing, light poles, trees etc.)
  • Convenience - is the cycle parking close to the door of the shop. This includes "indoors" incidentally
  • Number of spaces - are there plenty of bike spaces available, relative to the size of the store
  • Security/conspicuousness - I've put these two measures together as they are (to my mind) inter-related, although it could also be applied to the sturdiness/quality of the facility. The more obvious/visible the facility, the less likely someone will be to have a go at nicking your bike
  • Quality - related to above. I'd expect a Sheffield stand as a minimum but more kudos for more elaborate solutions. Also includes whether or not the facility is sheltered or open to the elements
  • Other - is there something unique about this facility that isn't covered above?
I'm probably not going to explicitly look at how accessible the facility is from the street, unless there's a specific reason to highlight it but I will look at how other modes are treated in contrast.

* This is my assumption incidentally. Would be interested to hear if anyone has a different perspective

Morrison's Gallowgate  

Location - Open StreetMap
Morrison's Gallowgate's rear cycle facilities
This supermarket is quite a recent edition to Glasgow's supermarket corps (ahem... what's the collective noun for supermarkets? A Rip-off? A Robbery?) - it is also what you might call an "urban supermarket", in that it's located on an old brownfield site in the inner city, rather than being a big box greenfield in the suburbs or out-of-town. I'd estimate that it's probably what you'd call "Medium-sized" - it has a large groceries section but doesn't have the extended section for clothes, electronics or home goods.

It is located on Barrack Street, just off the Gallowgate, about a mile east of Glasgow Cross. The shop sits right across from the famous/notorious Barras Market - a development which will no doubt have depressed the remaining (demoralized) stallholders there. At the same time, it covers an area not well served by food retailers - fresh fruit&veg being particularly hard to find - as well as potentially attracting savvy students in the nearby halls of residence not wanting to be stung by the prices of mini-markets and the Co-op on George Street. The area - known as the Calton - is also one of the most deprived in Glasgow (the UK, even) and has a male life expectancy lower than Bogotá and Baghdad*. Thus, very few local residents have access to a car and I would expect a big proportion of customers will come on foot or public transport. In other words: a location ripe for bikes.

* citation needed

To be fair to Morrison's, they've done a decent job here - a benchmark if you will. There are two entrances to the shop - a main one on Barrack Street and a secondary door by the car park at the back. Each has a row of standard steel Sheffield stands right by the door, with six at the front and a further four at the back - I estimate space for approximately 20 bikes, which seems reasonable compared to the size of the relatively modest car park.The stands are conspicuously located under the well-lit and sheltered frontage, although I suspect given the right combination of wind direction and rainfall intensity they might be a little exposed in some circumstances.

At the very least, it looks as if they've at least considered that some of their customers will arrive on a bike and have prepared accordingly. This is in marked contrast to the next facility I'll look at.

Asda Toryglen

Location - Open Streetmap

Asda Toryglen - at least the trolleys are dry
This is my local supermarket, being about two streets away. It is also just across the road from Holyrood Secondary School (one of the largest in Europe) Hampden Park and the Toryglen Regional Football Centre and will be close to one of the proposed bike share stations. Like before, this supermarket could be called "urban" but it shares more in common with out-of-town big boxes - namely, proximity to a motorway junction (M74 J1A) and a huge car park. It's also pretty large inside and includes non-grocery stock - clothes, electronics and homeware on a mezzanine floor. At least it is also pretty convenient for bus routes (the 75 and 7) and Crosshill railway station.

Cycling provision is, to be blunt, fairly poor. You wouldn't know it from the picture but off to the right, there are some sheffield stands - round the corner, near the staff entrance, away from the main doors, out of sight.

Note the night-safe has preferential positioning
 There are four* stands here, thus potentially accommodating up to eight bikes, but as you can see, the stands are positioned too close to the wall, making it awkward to access and lock bikes conveniently. The area is reasonably lit, but again its position round the corner makes it feel less secure. You will often find bikes locked to lighting poles round the front, presumably because people don't realise there are stands or would rather keep them in a more public spot. Other than perhaps the wall, there is no shelter from the elements at all - you can see one of the bikes in the picture has a plastic bag on the saddle and for good reason.

What is abundantly clear here is that bikes are - at best - an afterthought. The management here clearly don't expect more than handful of people to come here by bike, despite it being close to an overwhelmingly residential area (including the nearby borough of Rutherglen).

* you can see another three metal stands that look like Sheffields, but these are there to prevent the doors from opening fully - you'd be pretty daft or desperate to lock your bike to them!

That'll probably do for this instalment - in the next post, I'll be comparing and contrasting the local instances of two German discounters Lidl and Aldi, which have surprisingly different approaches to the same issue.