Last month Cyclists in the City showed how Tesco have apparently failed to consider that anyone might want to cycle to their new shop on Clapham Road, even though it lies directly on a ‘Cycling Superhighway’ (which despite their faults have a high density of cyclists travelling along them). No cycle stands are provided at all, and people are reduced to locking their bicycles to the railings of an internal disabled ramp, probably inconveniencing, through no fault of their own, anyone in a wheelchair, or with a pushchair.
Well the (considerably larger) Tesco metro store on Battersea Park Road – which also lies on a Cycling Superhighway, CS8 – is no better. No cycle stands, at all, anywhere.
There is, of course, an enormous free car park.
This, like the Tesco store at Clapham, is ‘cycle parking entirely by accident rather than design.’
I counted seven bicycles locked up in this improvised manner, which again formed a significant percentage of the shoppers inside. Yet this mode of transport has been completely ignored by the planners.
In this case, it is not Tesco that are directly responsible, since the shop was until recently a branch of Somerfield. Courtesy of Google Streetview –
Evidence of a total planning failure. Notice how difficult it was – at the time the Streetview car passed by – to simply cross the road here. A forbidding Maginot line of defences stands in your way, first the enormous brick island wall in the middle of the road, then the anti-personnel fence on the far side.
Things have changed with the construction (or rather ‘construction’) of the ‘Superhighway’ – but not much.
The brick wall in the centre of the carriageway has gone – only to be replaced by another anti-personnel fence, which is more difficult to cross. The fence on the pavement side has gone, but only, I suspect, to make it easier for people to exit their cars from the parking bay on the left. The road is no easier to cross. Notice also that on-street parking is still privileged over a decent, protected cycle track here, despite there being an enormous off-street car park for this supermarket, as shown above. There is no need for on-street parking here, and yet cyclists are again expected to cycle in the door zone of parked cars, while traffic whizzes by, inches to their right. Remind me how this is supposed to be a ‘Superhighway’?
Meanwhile pedestrians wishing to cross the road upon exiting the store – like the young lady in the picture below – have to make a lengthy detour to get around the fence, to the point where the car park exits onto the road. The barrier stops here so vehicles can make a right turn into the car park – you can see the turn-in bay to the left of the photo. Naturally enough, the barrier stops where it is convenient for cars, not for pedestrians.
This isn’t an out-of-town supermarket. This Tesco store is in the centre of a high-density conurbation, where despite the hostility of the design, I strongly suspect the vast majority of people arrive on foot or by bike. Yet Tesco (or initially, Somerfield) have been allowed to construct an enormous free car park, have not laid on any provision for people arriving by bicycle (not deliberately, anyway), and Transport for London continue to maintain a road layout that is deeply antagonistic to both pedestrians and cyclists.
Both Danny, of Cyclists In the City, and more recently Joe, of War On The Motorist, reference the Sustrans study of a street in Bristol, which revealed that shopkeepers grossly exaggerate the importance of the private car as a means of conveying people to their stores. Joe has some good ideas as to why this might be.
High street shopkeepers and business owners greatly overestimate the importance of drivers to their success. Why? Perhaps proprietors are more likely to be drivers themselves, and, as is so often the case with motorists, can’t get their heads around the fact that so many others aren’t? Perhaps their view of the street through the big shop window is dominated by the big metal boxes passing through? Perhaps they see the apparent success of the big soulless out-of-town supermarkets and shopping malls, attribute that success to the acres of car parking, and leap to the conclusion that car parking is all that a business needs for success — that the model which succeeds on the periphery can be applied to the model that is failing in the centre.
I have two possible reasons to add to this excellent list. The first is that – certainly in the case of supermarkets like the one on Battersea Park Road – store owners probably believe that cars enable customers to buy more goods. In their eyes, someone on a piddly little bicycle is probably only going to be able to buy a rucksack’s worth of stuff, unlike a car boot-full. The logic then runs that they are not worth bothering with.
The second, and more substantive, reason is that the layout of our streets themselves suggests to store-owners and shopkeepers that no-one is walking or cycling along them. The manager of the Tesco store on Battersea Park Road looks out of his window and sees a street designed for cars. Is it any wonder, then, that he or she adapts his store for people arriving in motor vehicles, and won’t countenance the notion that most people aren’t actually arriving in them, despite the best efforts of Transport for London?
Perhaps Transport for London should start helping people to cross the road.