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.


  1. Tesco Bristol are helping with the car parking problem by taking the bus/bike lane outside out of action with their daily delivery lorries:


  2. Great points, although it would be a shame if there are no wheel-chair users in the store because they can't get past the bikes on the ramp!


  3. It would be a shame, Tesco should add some cycle parking.

  4. This explains why large supermarkets in London (Vauxhall Sainsburys and Richmond Sainsburys fir example) have massive car parks that are mostly empty. But they have rubbish provision if you want to go by foot or cycle there.

  5. In the case above the local authority has failed to enforce planning guidance for providing at least a minimum amount.
    Tesco likes cyclists, but because cycling is such a resilient mode of transport coping with unbelievably adverse infrastructure, Tesco doesn't need to provide for cyclists as they will find a way around it anyway.
    If you are on your bike, don't shop there. Then write to them everytime you shop elsewhere because of it.

  6. There is a new Tesco's express on Lower Clapton rd. No cycle parking whatsoever. The Sainsburys I used to go to in Harringay - massive carpark - 4 cycle racks. I used to laugh at all the people in there cars spending Saturday afternoon looking for a park while I'd just fly past them lock up at the front door and be out again in no time. Supermarkets are terrible at looking after cyclists, but there is a real opportunity for businesses that are cycle-friendly to exploit the uptake in cycling.


  7. Oh yeah, the point being - maybe a drafted letter to supermarkets/local authorities which we could then ask why there is no parking provision for cycles and then bombard the press office. seems to be the way forward.


  8. Waitrose..


  9. Tesco's are the bottom of the pile when it comes to cycle-shop experience.

    Crewe 24 hr - only person in store at 23.30 wheeled bike round wide aisles to grab food for 23.59 train. paying at desk when the one person with a problem (justifying his presence?) tells me to get out - almost felt like handing food back and asking for a refund but was a bit tight for catching train.

    Leicester new store using adverts on ticket gates - immediately outside pop bike inside the door and immediate hassle from (again) the only person in store with a problem - security guard. I now buy from local store 2 doors along the street

    Lidl and Aldi never a complaint, Sainsburys' a few dud stores. Farmfoods - if quiet I go round if busy the guy at door keeps an eye on the bike (park inside)

    Car parks cost big bucks - because they are huge rainwater collectors and water is polluted (cars again) there has to be a interceptor system to filter out pollution, and a cost of £500-£1000/year per space for lighting, maintenance. amortised costs. for space which does not earn money. I recall a supermarket in Sheffield that built over little used car park spaces to increase sales area as it increased revenue of the site, and Safeway (Byres Road Glasgow) had the highest per check-out earnings simply because most people did not come in by car (only a small car park on upper floors).

    Lidl in Maryhill Road Glasgow has car park so under used that someone started a used car lot in the far corner and it took months before someone noticed!

    EU study - cyclists spend 20% more per sq m of non revenue parking space than motorists, 17% of cyclist buy more than 2 full bags of shopping per visit (the amount that can be carried sensibly on foot). By contrast only 25% of car users bought more than 2 bags full.

    So let's not grip at the places that don't deliver lets encourage folk to use the local shops and national chains that are cyclist friendly

  10. I believe bikes should also be prioritized in our roads much like cars. They are pretty much more at risk while on the road.

  11. @Si thanks for the heads up about waitrose, i shop there all the time in High Barnet but tend to drive for the weekly shop, they could do with advertising the scheme a bit more but will definitely be registering this weekend!

    Tesco's megastore on Colney Hatch Lane has parking for bikes but you practically have to walk around to the back of the store to access it.

    Morssons in Boreham Wood built their smoking area over 5 of their 10 bike slots.