Monday 5 November 2012

Shopping by Bike - the painful truth

Last week I had a little rant about bad cycle provision at some local shops.

I took a couple of days off after that; I never seem to use up holiday and I had a lot to do. Perfect chance to actuall do the shopping I needed to do, including picking up a new stereo from Hughes. Clamped the bike trailer to the bike (the hybrid), and set off towards Cherry Hinton Road.

Continuing roadworks on Hills Road aren't a problem if you're quick and agile on a bike. With a trailer on my slow bike I'm neither. So where the bike lake ended with a sign across saying 'cycle lane suspended' at a three-way set of temporary lights, I found myself being loudly berated by a taxi driver as I signalled to come out at the second time the lights changed. He just wouldn't have it that I had business coming out of the bike lane, despite a barrier across it.

Up over Hills Road bridge to the junction with Cherry Hinton Road. Now at that junction, turning left, I maintain that the red lights cannot possibly be meant to apply to the cyclist cut through lane on the grounds that they are positioned BEHIND where you are at the white line. It is not possible to see what colour the light behind you is. You're meant to give way but not to wait at red. If someone could tell that to the BMW driver who sounded his horn at me all down Cherry Hinton road I'd appreciate it.

Got to Hughes, found my way to their back door car park where there was nowhere to lock my bike that wouldn't block the fire escape. Oh, well.

Picked up Stereo. Took it home. Home leg only slightly better. Stereo be dead on arrival; CD player wouldn't work. Shit happens.

Phoned store to resolve it, worked out I had to take it back. Repeated same trip to shop, only this time 4 miles there through hostile traffic with the stereo and 4 miles back without. So 16 miles with trailer, 8 in the rain, no stereo. I was somewhat irritated at wasted morning.

Credit where its due; guys at Hughes were sympathetic and resolved to get another one out from their depot and deliver it to me the next day (someone on the way home from work would drop it off). Fantastic service - I've spent a heck of a lot with Hughes over the years and they want to retain a relationship with a good customer. Ten out of ten for that. But I can tell you straight out, next time I need some electronics, I'm not shopping there by bike. I'm shopping online, and I'm getting stuff delivered.

I passionately believe in shopping with small retailers. I believe in shopping in places like Hughes where the guys working there really do know their stuff. But, flat out, I'm not riding with a trailer through extremely hostile traffic to a retailer who isn't offering me somewhere to safely lock up. Next time it'll be an online order, and lacking the personal service you get from a good local shop I'll probably go with the cheapest supplier.

The result of failing to make shopping by bike an appealing, sensible prospect is that future purchases will result in all the money disappearing from the local economy. It won't go to local shops, it won't support local jobs, it won't pay local business rates or wages. The local Councils who have so utterly failed to give me good routes to ride on and the shop that has failed to provide somewhere to lock up my bike have basically told me that they don't want my custom. So they won't get my money.

Ultimately, cycle route provision is a very simple financial choice. Good provision, you get more cyclists, who spend more money. Bad provision on hostile roads and you discourage us, we stay home and our money goes elsewhere. Guys, if you don't support us to shop by bike, if local authorities and retailers don't do more for us, then you are losing money. Its that simple.

As I've mentioned before, half of Cambridge rides a bike. We account for over a fifth of all trips. But practically no one shops by bike for bigger purchases, because while this is a town with a certain amount of cyclist provision, that provision is shockingly bad, ill joined up and unworkable.

Want my custom? Cater for my needs. Ain't rocket science.

1 comment:

  1. Just looked at the junction on google earth and there is clearly a give way triangle at the end of the left turn cycle lane - so lights don't apply - and why is it that some drivers think they have the right to enforce their 'own' rules (like stopping at lights that don't apply as in this case or cyclist *must* use cycle lanes)?