Monday 29 October 2012

Shopping by bike - vote with your D-lock...

I went down to Hughes electrical shop at lunchtime. We want a new stereo for the kitchen, I always used to get kit from Hughes when they were up on Burleigh Street, now they've moved it made sense to see how they're getting on down where they are now, Cherry Hinton Road.

Burleigh Street isn't bad for cyclists. A good example of compromise between different users of the space - I mean that without intending any sarcasm or criticism. Its sort of 'pedestrianised', in that motor vehicles can't go up and down most of it (or the adjoining Fitzroy street), and its closed to cyclists between 10:00AM and 4:00PM, Monday to Saturday. This is a very busy pedestrian route during shopping hours, but for commuting its also a handy throughfare. And its also got loads of cycle lock spaces along its length - that sounds silly (whats the use of a bike lock you can't ride to?), but there are several side street access points to Burleigh Street and Fitzroy Street, its easy enough to ride on to the street and push the bike to a locking space. Do some cyclists flout these rules? Of course they do. Does anyone ever get hurt? Not to the my knowledge. And with ample local, independent shops, charity shops and some chains (and close access to the Grafton Centre), its really one of the more useful places in Cambridge to know about - alongside Cambridge Market its a place you're likely to shop at if you live here, although its off the beaten path for tourists.

Hughes used to be there. Cracking little small chain of electrical retailers, with the rarest commodity of all - knowledgeable staff.

So I went down to Cherry Hinton Road, where they've moved to. Now Cherry Hinton Road is a motorists heaven - places to park, wide lanes, more or less straight, utterly unpoliced, an entirely hostile place to be a cyclist. I was also disappointed to discover that while Hughes have somewhere to pick up by car, there is nowhere to lock up my bike. Nowhere at all. There's a domestic railing and street sign down the road, but if I actually want to buy the new stereo then I'll have to go back with my bike trailer, and if I lock that up there I'll completely block pavement - I can't do that. The chap in the shop directed me to their side alley and the railing therein; naturally its got a 'no cycles' sign on it, and as the railing belongs to another building I won't be able to use it. I'd also be blocking access if I did that.

So how the heck do I buy this stereo from Hughes? The short answer is that I can't. I suppose I could call in a favour from a friend and get a lift by car, but frankly that'll take hours (this is Cambridge after all, only a fool would choose to drive in to the city). I could leave the bike and trailer out front, but I'm confident that this being Cherry Hinton Road, it WILL get nicked. The simple truth is that without somewhere to lock up my bike I'm not going to shop there - I'll go and test the kit out on Wednesday, but unless they can give me  a better option for where to lock up I'll be forced to thank them kindly and go home to buy the stereo online. Not what I want to do but if they want my custom, shouldn't they accomodate my desire to shop by bicycle?

Hughes will join my (thankfully short) list of retailers I've gone to look at by bike and resolved never to return to because they don't want me there. If they wanted me there, if they wanted my business, they'd have bike locks. So that means you, Notcutts at Horningsea - last time I the best I could find for locking to was a flimsy wire fence. It means you, Screwfix. How the heck can you sell steel frames to lock bikes to but not actually have any installed yourself? Thats inexcusable. It now also means you, Hughes. Sorry. Was nice knowing you, but you decided you don't want me any more.

Bluntly, I'm not just a cyclist. From a retailers point of view, I'm a consumer. Why alienate me by not giving me a safe place to lock up my bike?


  1. Which is why the Beehive Centre is so interesting. I don't know anybody who likes to support out-of-town retail parks, but the one off Newmarket Road has some of the best and most convenient bike stands (even covered ones!!) in town.

    And guess what? They're almost always in use!

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    2. Yeah, for the most part they're okay, the ones on the Beehive. Not enough of them IMHO, I think there could be a lot more of them, but the ones there really are pretty good. And I quite like the cycle access it has from the City end of it - I often ride through it on the way home, coming in the side route next to Hobby Craft, crossing Newmarket Road at Tescos. Useful route to do some shopping while coming home from work.

      But for all that, the actual cycle lanes running through the Beehive scare the crap out of me. If you're going along past Homebase towards the other end (so towards Currys Digital) then cars coming out of the side roads head straight out into it without stopping - I'm amazed I've never seen someone knocked off there considering how many near misses there seem to be. Still, for an out of town shopping centre in the UK its as good as it gets, for cyclists.