Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Cycle infrastructure by accident rather than design boosts Tesco sales. Cyclists are worth just as much, or more than, other road users.

Tesco Clapham Road after work. 10 people in the
shop. Six came by bike
Last month, I profiled the huge difference between how politicians and Transport for London perceive people who cycle and the reality of who those people are in London. We seem to float between being perceived as politically left-leaning and being somehow 'less valuable' than, say, taxi passengers.

Try telling that to the tens of thousands of people who cycle to the City of London or to Canary Wharf to work. Even the Conservative's Assembly Member, Andrew Boff commented to me last month that Transport for London needs to start realising that a Londoner isn't more or less valuable just because they sit in a motor vehicle

So it's interesting to see how Britain's biggest retailer handles cycling. Pictured above, a new Tesco Extra on Clapham Road. This particular store is located on one of the new Cycle Superhighways and is brand new, in an equally brand new development. Despite the fact that thousands of people cycle past each day, there are no dedicated cycle parking facilities here. 

What there is, though, is an indoor ramp leading into the store. One night last week I popped in and there were six bikes parked on the ramp. I spotted a total of 10 people shopping in the store at the time (around 8pm). So 6/10 shoppers had reached the store by cycle. Each of them has parked their bike inside, chained to the ramp.

Sustrans Report. How do people get to the shops?
What retailers assume vs reality %

A couple of years ago, Sustrans, the cycling charity, undertook research into shopping trends in Bristol.
The report showed that retailers in an area of Bristol vastly over-estimated the number of shoppers travelling by car. By a factor of 2:1 in fact. Retailers assumed that 41% of shoppers came by car. In reality, only 22% came by car. It's not a huge surprise therefore that retailers named their absolute top priority for attracting more customers as 'more car parking'.

As the Sustrans report claims "This disparity between the traders’ preferences and those of their customers replicates findings in other cities. It may lead traders to push for transport planning decisions which are not in their best interest."

What's true of Bristol certainly seems to be true of Tesco on Clapham Road. I suspect that there are two factors causing the large percentage of shoppers arriving by cycle a) location next to the Cycle Superhighway and b) Tesco has provided its customers with hugely convenient cycle parking: It's indoors, it's fairly secure, it's right next to the shop.  But this cycle parking is entirely by accident rather than design. By pure fluke, Tesco seems to have stumbled on yet another example of build it and they will come.